High school wrestlers in four classes will meet at district tournament sites across Missouri today and Saturday. The top four finishers from each district advance to the 83rd Missouri State High School Activities Association Wrestling Championships, Feb. 14-16 at Mizzou Arena in Columbia.
1. Kearney opens its championship defense
The cream of the crop in Missouri Class 3, the Kearney Bulldogs, begin their quest for a second consecutive state championship as part of a loaded Class 3, District 4 tournament at Liberty High School. The Bulldogs have six wrestlers ranked among the top five athletes in their respective weight classes, and they have three gunning for two straight individual titles — Jaret Singh (113 pounds), Kevin Kinney (138) and Grant Leeth (145). But the battle for the district tournament won’t be easy. With Staley, Oak Park and Platte County also in the tournament, a case could be made that four of the best 10 teams in Class 3 will be in Liberty this weekend.
2. Blue Springs puts top talent on display
Nobody in the state possesses more top-ranked wrestlers than the Blue Springs Wildcats, who won the Class 4 state championship in 2012 and look to make it two straight over the course of the next week and a half. To return to the top of the podium, though, Blue Springs will need to develop a few surprise qualifiers at its Class 4, District 4 meet today at Lee’s Summit High School. The Wildcats have weapons in Daniel Lewis (138) and Derrick Lapaglia (145), both of whom won state a year ago. Add in Cain Salas (152) and Michael Pixley (182), and Blue Springs is a loaded group at the top. But when it comes to the state tournament, quantity often means just as much as quality. The Wildcats will be hoping to place a few more wrestlers in the top-four at Lee’s Summit.
3. Park Hill ready to pounce
If anyone is going to dethrone Blue Springs this season, look no further than one of its district competitors, Park Hill. Perhaps the favorite in Class 4, the Trojans possess the deepest lineup in Missouri, with at least eight of their 14 wrestlers expected to advance beyond Saturday. None of those eight, however, has ever won an individual title. Three finished in second place a year ago — Ke-Shawn Hayes (113), John Erneste (120) and Russell Coleman (145) — and should be in the mix for the championship this year. If they can land tournament victories Saturday, they will carry No. 1 seeds into next week’s state meet.
4. Oak Grove ready to defend its ranking
A year after finishing second in Class 2 to Kirksville, Oak Grove has held the No. 1 ranking the entire 2012-13 season. The Panthers have had a tremendous regular season, but none of that matters unless they can back it up in the playoffs. They travel to Excelsior Springs this weekend for the Class 3, District 4 meet, taking a lineup that includes top wrestlers such as Jake Best (120), Tyler Brown (126), and Anthony Barker (138). Some of Oak Grove’s toughest competition in the state will come from within its own district in the form of Smithville, which is led by Dalton Tipton (145) and Bailey Wilson (170).
5. The best of the rest
Two days ago, Center High School senior Maliek Collins signed to play football at Nebraska. He doesn’t have much time to switch gears — the top-ranked wrestler in the Class 2 heavyweight division, Collins will wrestle tonight in Excelsior Springs as part of the Class 2, District 4 tournament. Competing in the same district tournament, Odessa’s Dakota Miller (106) and Evan Young (152) are a pair of talented wrestlers to keep an eye on. In the Class 3, District 4 meet at Liberty High School, Oak Park’s Noah Teaney will begin the defense of the state title he earned a year ago. Teaney is ranked first in the 120-pound class. And in Class 4, District 4, Rockhurst’s Drew Daniels is considered the state’s best at 160 pounds.
| Sam McDowell, firstname.lastname@example.org