After most of the Mizzou Arena crowd had departed Friday night, including nearly the entire Kearney wrestling team, the Bulldogs earned perhaps their most important victory of the day.
By SAM McDOWELL
The Kansas City Star
Even if they weren’t wrestling in the match.
In the final bout of the second day of the MSHSAA Wrestling Championships, Staley heavyweight Bailey Sutko topped Neosho’s Aaron Clardy. Funny enough, his victory kept a district rival on top of the Class 3 standings for another day.
After trailing by more than 30 points early Friday afternoon, Kearney leads the Class 3 tournament with 118.5 points, 2.5 ahead of second-place Neosho.
"We still have a long way to go, but we’re sitting pretty good right now," Kearney coach Chad Hopkins said. "Whatever happens, we can’t ask for much more than that."
It’s a pleasing position for the defending-champion Bulldogs, who trailed Neosho the entire evening before running off a series of wins in semifinal matches. Jaret Singh (113 pounds), Blake Clevenger (132), Kevin Kinney (138) and Grant Leeth (145) won semifinal bouts and will wrestle for championship matches today, the final day of the three-day event.
Park Hill leads the Class 4 division, while Oak Grove has a comfortable edge in Class 2.
A quick glance at the scoreboard prompted an unusually-timed display of emotion from Park Hill sophomore Colston DiBlasi.
With only 10 seconds remaining in a semifinal match against rival Adam Weatherly of Park Hill South, the typically-reserved DiBlasi looked toward the movable scoreboard and shook his head as he smiled.
"Figures," he later said. "I didn’t know who was going to win that match, but I knew it was going to be a heck of a fight out there."
Indeed. And DiBlasi was fortunate enough to win the fight for the third time in four tries this season.
He held Weatherly down for the final 10 seconds to win in a decision, and he’s one of three Park Hill Trojans who will wrestle for state championships today. Sean Hosford (106) and Ke-Shawn Hayes (113) are also in title bouts.
Together, the trio helped stake Park Hill to a sizable lead entering the final day of the Class 4 wrestling tournament. Seeking its sixth state championship over the last 16 years, Park Hill has totaled 116 points.
Blue Springs sits in second with 95.5 points. The Wildcats lost one of their top wrestlers Friday. Previously unbeaten, Darick Lapalia was upset by Holt’s Clayton Ream in the semifinals. Blue Springs will still have three wrestlers appear in today’s championship round: Daniel Lewis (138), Cain Salas (152) and Michael Pixley (182).
Lewis, battling bronchitis, held on late for a 7-5 win against Francis’ Connor Flynn.
"I always like to turn it up here because I feel like it’s my best tournament," said Lewis, who is trying to repeat as a state champion. "But I was gassed in that third period."
Before Oak Grove senior Anthony Barker even made it to the mat for his semifinal match in the 138-pound bracket, he already gained an advantage.
Over the previous half hour, he watched three teammates — Brock Mercer (106 pounds), Jacob Best (120) and Tyler Brown (126) — win their semifinal bouts and advance to today’s championship round.
"Whenever you see all the lighter guys winning, it just gets you fired up in the tunnel," Barker said. "You don’t want to be the guy to end the streak, so you wrestle a little harder."
Barker continued the streak with a major decision win against Jake Bartow of Odessa. And it didn’t stop there. Logan Cairer (145) and Taylor Brinegar (160) will also wrestle for Class 2 championships today, while the Panthers look to close out their stranglehold on the Class 2 leaderboard.
First-place Oak Grove has 143.5 team points, with Fulton (92.5 points) a distant second. The Panthers are seeking their second state championship in three seasons.
Odessa will still be represented in the finals by Dakota Miller (106), Evan Young (152) and Levi Turley (170).
Miller, a freshman, improved his season record to 50-1. His only loss this year came by disqualification.
"My goal is to win state all four years," Miller said. "That starts Saturday."