When he jogged onto the Mizzou Arena floor for warmups on Thursday, Staley junior Zach Elam abandoned his pre-tournament plan.
Heading into the Missouri Class 4 wrestling state meet, it was Elam’s objective to forget about the past — to “leave the emotions out of it,” as he put it — but only seconds after returning to Columbia, he thought back to his state championship win last season.
And then he started the march toward another.
Elam opened his title defense with a first-period pin in the Class 4 195-pound division.
“I don’t like to admit it, but there were some nerves,” Elam said. “I do what I can to control them, but I have to do whatever it takes to get back to where I was last year.”
His teammates followed. Staley qualified 13 wrestlers for the state tournament, and 10 of them won their first-round bouts on Thursday.
Grain Valley’s Clapper moving on
The past two trips to Mizzou Arena have concluded in the same agonizing fashion for Grain Valley senior Wolfgang Clapper.
As a freshman, a one-point loss in the championship halted his state-title hopes. Two years later, it was a one-point loss in a semifinal.
The approach to his last opportunity, in that case, is relatively simple.
“Don’t let it happen again,” Clapper said. “I have to leave it all on the mat this time. No more playing around.”
He’s off to a smooth start. Clapper pinned his first-round opponent, Pacific’s Ben Courtney, in the Class 3 138-pound division on Thursday. Clapper, 41-0, is looking to become only the second champion in Grain Valley history.
Smithville’s Boyd on track
After winning the first state championship in program history last season, Smithville won’t have a chance to defend its Class 2 title — the Warriors have moved up to Class 3 this season.
It hasn’t affected senior Jacob Boyd.
Boyd improved to 49-2 with a technical fall in the 195-pound division.
“It’s the same grind all year long regardless (of class),” Boyd said. “We moved up a class, but it’s the same tournament. Maybe better competition, but if we do our thing, good things will happen.”
Oak Grove leads Class 2
In search of a record-breaking 17th state championship, Oak Grove grabbed the first-day lead atop the Class 2 standings.
The Panthers won six first-round matches and got bonus points in all of them, with pins from Tucker MacWilliam (113), Connor Brown (120), Tanner Pavlica (126), Jacob Pavlica (160), Tyler Curd (220) and Austin Kemp (285). Oak Grove totaled 29 1/2 points. Mexico was in second with 29.
All eight defending champions from Kansas City survived their first-round matchups Thursday.
That list features Oak Grove senior Connor Brown, Kearney junior Clayton Singh, Smithville sophomore Blake Ackerman, Smithville senior Jacob Boyd, Platte County junior Cody Phippen, Staley junior Zach Elam, Rockhurst senior Cameron Valdiviez and Rockhurst senior Colin Valdiviez.