In the moments before he stepped onto the wrestling mat, as the lights faded to black inside Mizzou Arena, Park Hill senior Ke-Shawn Hayes realized the finality of his high school career was in front of him.
After a four-year run that included state championships, a national ranking and a bevy of tournament trophies, only one match remained.
He made a point to make it count.
Hayes claimed the third state title of his career when he won the Missouri Class 4 138-pound championship Saturday. He finished the season 38-0.
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“I don’t think of myself as an emotional person, but we were over there in the tunnel, and I started tearing up a bit,” Hayes said before smiling. “But the other kid was over there, so I had to cut that out real quick.”
Hayes helped Park Hill win its third straight team championship, a cause aided by state titles from Canten Marriott at 152 pounds and the third straight from Colston DiBlasi at 170 pounds.
Oak Grove repeats
The past three months have been something of a whirlwind for Oak Grove junior Landon Cairer and senior Dalton Brinegar.
An awfully enjoyable one.
A three-month spell that started with a football state championship last November concluded Saturday with wrestling state championships.
Cairer came from behind and beat O’Hara senior Maverick Griffin in the Class 2 160-pound division. One match later, Brinegar (170) clinched the Panthers’ 16th state championship in school history — tying a state record.
“Best three months of my life,” Cairer said. “It seemed like we were just in St. Louis winning a football championship. And now this. Best three months of my life.”
Connor Brown repeated as the 106-pound champion, completing an undefeated season. He tied the school record with 39 falls in a single season.
Shawn Kavadas (126) also won for Oak Grove.
Platte County coach Reggie Burress has a mantra when it comes to watching 145-pound Ethan Karsten.
The motto came in handy Saturday, when Karsten fell behind in the third period but came back and beat Harrisonville freshman Braden Danner. It was Karsten’s second straight state title.
“I waited a little longer than I wanted to,” Karsten said. “He frustrated me a little bit. But I got the job done.”
As did his teammate. Matthew Schmitt won his second straight title at 126 pounds with a pin.
Kearney wins two
The final whistle sounded, and a series of previous matches raced through the mind of Kearney junior Andrew Buckley — all of them losses. Suddenly, he said, they all had a purpose.
Buckley won the Class 3 170-pound bracket on Saturday.
“All those tears were from when I lost, from when I wasn’t able to make it,” Buckley said. “I've been working so hard. It finally paid off.”
Kearney finished in the top-four in the Class 3 team standings for the eighth consecutive season.
Bulldogs freshman Clayton Singh recorded a second-period pin in winning the Class 3 106-pound bracket.
“You come to high school hoping for a state title,” Singh said. “To get one that first year, it’s just crazy.”
Smithville wrestler Alex Rivera may be a freshman, but the way he sees it, a spot in the Class 2 113-pound finals was nine years in the making. He started youth wrestling when he was only 5 years old, and soon thereafter, he started thinking of a high school state title.
Dream became reality Saturday, when he defeated Oak Grove junior Jet Tryon in the championship match.
“I wanted to do it here in high school, where it really matters,” said Rivera, who won multiple state titles in youth wrestling.
Rivera shared the glory with teammate Luke Sachs, who won his second straight state championship at 182 pounds.
Odessa junior Dakota Miller won the second state championship of his high school career — though he took an unconventional route.
Miller won as a freshman before losing in the semifinals last season. He returned to the top of the podium Saturday, when he won the Class 2 120-pound division.
One year after failing to place at state, Grain Valley junior Mavrick Alexander won the Class 3 132-pound bracket.
“As a qualifier last year, that lit a fire under (me) to keep pushing and become a state champion,” Alexander said.
Fort Osage junior Jesse Jeffries completed an undefeated season when he upended defending state champion Austin Eveler of Lee’s Summit West 5-3 in the Class 4 145-pound final.
After settling for second place in 2014, Pleasant Hill junior Olen Brattin was crowned the Class 2 152-pound champion.
Oak Park sophomore Hunter Shelton needed overtime but pulled out a a 2-1 win in the Class 3 152-pound division.