For three years, Winnetonka seniors Casey Bryan and Anthony Flores have butted heads.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
The two are best friends, mind you, but they are also training partners on the Griffons’ wrestling team.
Last Saturday at the Missouri Class 3, District 4 wrestling championships at Liberty North, the two became champions together, too.
Bryan defeated Warrensburg senior Brett Marr 5-2 in the 170-pound division, and Flores scored a 16-1 technical fall against Belton freshman John Hiltner in the 182 final.
Both are now heading to the Class 3 state championships that begin Thursday at Mizzou Arena in Columbia.
“Honestly, yes, I expected to be a district champion, because I was determined and willing to go my hardest for first place,” Flores said. “Watching Casey win right before me, that got me pumped and motivated. Seeing my best friend win, that made me want to win, too.”
Flores finished fourth at state as a junior. He aims to reach the final this time.
Bryan, who failed to win a medal at state as a junior, hopes to cap his career by placing at state for the first time.
“I had a disappointing state tournament last year,” Bryan said. “I was projected to finish high, but I dropped a couple of matches I should have won and lost in the bubble match at state. But I’m ready this year.
“It’s all I think about – coming up short. That’s my main motivation. Coming back to win state is all I want.”
He won’t face that challenge alone.
“I’m definitely hoping to make the state final,” Flores said. “I’ve worked my (tail) off all year to get there – blood, sweat and tears. I’m just determined to get there. Hopefully, me and Casey can both finish atop the podium. We have the same drive and unwillingness to give up.”
Oak Park’s Low going out in style
Before he set foot on the match at the Missouri Class 3, District 4 wrestling tournament last Saturday, Oak Park senior Jaeger Low already had lost. He was seeded third after a coin flip for the second seed with Platte County junior Jesse Eggers.
It was the only defeat Low would suffer, though, en route to the district championship at 170 pounds.
“I’m so happy right now,” Low said. “This is my third year wrestling, and I’ve never even been to state before.”
He earned it this time.
While Eggers got the first-round bye, Low had to wrestle Raytown sophomore Brandon White – a match he won by fall in the first period.
Low and Eggers both won quarterfinal bouts before Low claimed a 7-0 decision in the semifinals against Eggers. Then, Low backed up that win by stunning Staley senior Daltan Sweet 5-2 in the district final.
“My coaches thought I could be a champion, and I trust them, but I really wasn’t sure,” Low said. “I’ve never felt anything like that. I’ve never even been to the finals in a tournament this year, so it was amazing. It makes the last three years absolutely worthwhile.”
Perkins stays perfect
At the same Class 3, District 4 wrestling meet, Oak Park senior Brad Perkins (126 pounds) stayed perfect in his career with a 5-1 decision over Kearney senior Joe Disciacca in the title bout.
Perkins, 9-0, returned to action in mid-January after undergoing shoulder surgery last November.
He missed his entire sophomore season and has had the labrum (a ring of cartilage about the edge of a joint of a bone) repaired in his left shoulder twice, but a it was his right shoulder that needed repair after a training injury in late October.
“I hadn’t wrestled any tournaments, so I was a bit nervous,” said Perkins, who has an 87-0 record in his high school career. “But we all come in nervous. I know I’m healthy and ready, but subconsciously I still have to make my mind believe it.”
Sluder sticks it out to become champ
Platte County senior Trent Sluder quit wrestling once, but last Saturday he was glad he gave the sport a second chance after winning the 220-pound championship in the Missouri Class 3, District 4 meet at Liberty North.
“I wrestled in fourth grade, but I quit because I thought it was too hard,” he said. “I decided to try again as a freshman and spent two years on JV. Junior year, I made varsity, and it was starting to get more fun, but I dislocated my elbow.”
Sluder didn’t quit this time, opting instead to take one last crack at a state-tourney dream.
“I came back determined to give it my all, but everything still seems surreal to me right now,” Sluder said. “It’s so awesome. I wanted to go to state so bad in football, but we lost to Harrisonville in the quarterfinals. This was my last chance, so it means so much.”
The state championships begin Thursday at Mizzou Arena in Columbia.
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.