Blue Springs High School wrestling coach Mike Hagerty knows his team will be an underdog in its attempt to defend its Missouri Class 4 state championship when the tournament begins Thursday at Mizzou Arena in Columbia.
By SAM McDOWELL
The Kansas City Star
But the Wildcats sent a clear message to Park Hill, the consensus favorite in Class 4: They plan on making some noise.
Blue Springs qualified eight wrestlers for state, compared to 11 for Park Hill, but six of the Wildcats’ eight qualifiers won their respective District 4 brackets, setting them up with top seeds for the state meet.
Among those champions, four have been downright dominant this season. Daniel Lewis (138 pounds), Darick Lapaglia (145), Cain Salas (152) and Michael Pixley (182) have combined to lose only one match all season.
“I want to dominate,” Lapaglia said. “I just want to win. I don’t care if it’s ugly or if it’s pretty. I just want to win.”
A couple of his teammates used similar mind-sets to make it through the district tournament unscathed.
Entering last Saturday with a 22-19 record, Jamie Foutz won the 195-pound bracket, and fellow senior Austin Reyes upset Liberty’s Keyen Braughton to win the 220-pound division.
Together, the two wrestlers provided the Wildcats with some pleasant surprises and perhaps a better outlook for the state tournament.
“Usually you walk away from districts with a lot of what-ifs, but we’re taking eight (wrestlers) with six champions,” Hagerty said. “I don’t know what that correlates to (for the state tournament), but I know it gives us an opportunity to at least keep it interesting.”
State next, despite injury
Perhaps a knee injury — one that nearly ended Austin Eads’ wrestling career at Blue Springs South — will be the best thing to kickstart his senior season.
Only time will tell.
Before the start of this season, Eads tore his meniscus (cartilage between bones in a joint) while training for wrestling. He feared his season and his high school career might be over.
Instead, doctors told him he would miss 11 weeks. He took the diagnosis as good news. After all, it meant he would be back just in time for the Missouri Class 4, District 4 tournament last Saturday at Lee’s Summit High School.
He also used the injury as motivation, and it’s beginning to pay off. Entering the district tournament with only three matches under his belt, Eads won the 160-pound bracket. He was the Jaguars’ only champion, compiling a 4-0 record to more than double his win total for the season.
“My knee wasn’t really a challenge at all,” Eads said Saturday. “But wrestling through a few third periods and having to grind it out, that’s the challenge. It felt good to get my breath under me. You can’t simulate that in practice.”
Physically prepared or not, Eads did just fine. His tournament victory Saturday marked his first district championship in his four-year career. He finished second each of the previous three years.
He’s hoping the first-place showing will provide an omen for the Class 4 state wrestling championships that start Thursday at Mizzou Arena in Columbia.
Eads, who is headed to wrestle at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., in the fall, has finished among the top-four wrestlers three times at the state tournament, but he is still searching for that elusive state title.
“I’ll have a different perspective going into state this year because I’ll have the confidence knowing I did win a district title,” Eads said. “And I’m not coming off a loss going into the state tournament; I’m coming off a win. That will be big.”
It didn’t take long for Lee’s Summit senior Logan Drake to turn the seemingly wide open 285-pound heavyweight bracket in the Class 4, District 4 wrestling meet into a laugher.
After a first-round bye, he finished off a second-round victory over Brandon Sanford of North Kansas City with a pin before the first period expired.
It was a sign of things to come. Drake recorded another pin in the semifinals and one more in the championship match against Ruskin’s Jamal Karriem to win.
Drake, who was seeded second for the district tournament, has shown steady improvement throughout his high school career.
He qualified for the state meet as a sophomore season but failed to record a win there. Last season, he earned his first state victory but was eliminated in the second round of the consolation bracket.
He will finish off his high school career by taking one of four No. 1 seeds into the state meet that starts Thursday at Mizzou Arena in Columbia.