When the final standings were announced Saturday and it came time for the Park Hill wrestling team to accept its first-place trophy, junior Anthony Wussow was the first to get his hands on it.
By SAM MCDOWELL
The Kansas City Star
Two weeks ago, he was holding a junior varsity trophy in his hands. On this day, he tightly clutched the Class 4, District 4 prize. And he did his part to help the Trojans earn it.
In a tournament that offered only a few surprises Saturday at Lee’s Summit High School, Wussow gave the Trojans a pretty good one. He put together back-to-back upsets to place third in the 220-pound weight class — giving the Trojans 11 qualifiers to send to next week’s Missouri Class 4 state wrestling meet at Mizzou Arena.
The state’s top-ranked team, Park Hill won Saturday’s 14-team district tournament with 236.5 points, followed by Blue Springs (183.5) and Park Hill South (170.5).
The team scores, however, took a back seat to the more important task at hand — sending as many wrestlers as possible to the state tournament.
And that’s where Wussow came into play. A day after losing to Rockhurst junior Jake Cussen 18-3 in the opening round, Wussow returned the favor with a 6-5 victory against Cussen in a consolation semifinal match that qualified him for next week’s festivities.
“I thought that I was going to come in here and get pinned by everybody,” Wussow admitted. “My teammates were believing in me though, giving me lots of support, everyone telling me I could do it. They made me believe I could actually win that match.”
A coach’s risk instilled confidence. Park Hill coach Bill Erneste reshuffled his lineup for the district tournament, sending his regular 220-pounder, sophomore Anthony Enriquez up to heavyweight to make room for Wussow. It paid off — both wrestlers qualified for the state tournament by placing in the top four.
It was far from the only good news for the Trojans on Saturday. Considered the team to beat in Class 4, Park Hill had five champions: Sean Hosford (106 pounds), Ke-Shawn Hayes (113), John Erneste (120), Hunter Roberts (126) and Malik Colding (170).
“There’s not a coach that comes into this day not nervous,” Bill Erneste said. “I was nervous. You want to get as many as you can to the state tournament, and that went very well. Now we just have to perform up to those standards at the state tournament.”
Second-place Blue Springs was also up for the task. The Wildcats qualified eight wrestlers — three shy of the mark set by Park Hill — but they led all teams with six champions.
Daniel Lewis (138), Darick Lapaglia (145), Cain Salas (152), Michael Pixley (182), Jamie Foutz (195) and Austin Reyes (220) hoisted first-place medals. While the first four on that list are all the favorites at the state tournament, the latter two came as slight surprises.
Foutz entered the day with a 22-19 record.
“Here’s the thing about that — I’m an underdog for sure because I have a (crummy) record,” Foutz said. “But that doesn’t mean anything in this tournament. We wrestle a lot tougher competition than everybody else, and it shows up here.”
Blue Springs and Park Hill combined to win 11 of the 14 weight classes Saturday.
Other champions were Park Hill South’s Jimmy Carpenter (132), Blue Springs South’s Austin Eads (160) and Lee’s Summit’s Logan Drake (285).
Park Hill, which finished third, qualified nine wrestlers for the state meet.