Raymore-Peculiar has a problem many high school wrestling teams face: a wealth of talent and experience in the upper weights, a dearth of both in the lower weights.
That distinction was on full display as the Panthers traveled Jan. 16 to Lee’s Summit North for a Suburban Gold Conference dual.
Ray-Pec beat the Broncos 42-27, and did so by winning five of the seven matches from the 152-pound weight class on up.
It’s not a problem that’s kept the Panthers from having a successful season — Ray-Pec, coming off a fourth-place finish in the always tough Capital City Invitational the weekend before in Jefferson City, improved to 7-2 in duals with the win — but it’s still a concern as the postseason draws closer.
“We’ve still got some things to come through in our lower weights and we made some mistakes up top,” Panthers coach Brett Barbarick said after the win over the Broncos. “Overall, it was great effort by the team and it’s been that way all year.”
Ray-Pec’s greatest strength lies in the 160- to 195-pound range, which features returning state-tournament qualifiers in Mason Pratt, Shane Martin and Joey Stalone along with Cody Morgan and Clint Herrick.
Morgan, Pratt and Stalone are seniors, while Martin and Herrick are juniors.
“Those are guys who have been with me for four years and know the technique,” Barbarick said. “What they’re able to do is feel it when it’s coming and know what’s happening to them and they’re able to react quicker. The underclassmen at the lighter weights are still developing that feel.”
Morgan started the Panthers’ late surge to victory with a 4-1 decision against Lee’s Summit North’s Lane Overton at 152 pounds.
Pratt lost a 6-4 decision to former state qualifier Adrian Castaneda at 160 and Stalone gave up a reversal with four seconds left during a 2-1 loss to Logan Thornton at 195, but Herrick (182), Martin (220) and freshman heavyweight Tyson King all recorded pins.
Junior Wyatt Quest also picked up a win for Ray-Pec on a 3-0 decision at 170 pounds.
The Panthers needed that streak to overcome losing three of the first four matches by pins.
Sophomore Garrett LaBelle, who was also a state qualifier last season, pinned David Spiller at 132 pounds to get the Panther their first victory.
“He’s having a good season,” Barbarick said of LaBelle. “Three of the first four matches went the other way and he came in right away and cut some of the bleeding off right there.”
Injuries and illness left North without opponents for state-qualifier Colton Cahill at 120 pounds and Charlie Adams at 145.
Barbarick expects the lightweights to gain more seasoning before district tournaments get under way Feb. 9. He knows they’ll need to if the Panthers want to get seven wrestlers to the Class 4 state tournament like they did last season.
“Our district’s absolutely stacked,” Barbarick said. “All we can do is prepare one day at a time. If we put a good day together, we’ll get a lot through. If we don’t, we won’t.”