Staley senior Zach Elam held a football trophy above his head inside Memorial Stadium in Columbia, moments after a championship that he played a major role in securing. He was the first two-way starter in Staley program history and an all-state player at multiple positions.
How did he celebrate? By turning his attention to his preferred sport. To his best sport.
Elam was on the wrestling mat only four days later, and within a few more days, he was competing in his first matches of the season. He completed those bouts in the same manner he did all of his senior-season matches.
With a win.
Elam finished off an unbeaten senior season — 54-0 — and won the Missouri Class 4 state championship at 220 pounds. He is The Star’s All-Metro wrestler of the year.
“I gave myself a couple days off, but then I was ready to start training again,” Elam said in a phone interview this week. “It took about a week to re-adjust myself (to wrestling), but after that first weekend, my focus was back. It was all wrestling from there on.”
And all wins. The state title was the third for Elam, who has signed to wrestle at Missouri next season, bypassing opportunities to continue his football career into college.
Elam is ranked fourth nationally in his weight class — because he doesn’t just win, he does so in convincing fashion. He was the only Missouri Class 4 wrestler this year to pin his way through the state-championship bracket.
“That was something I really wanted to do my junior year, but I wasn’t able to, so I had that as my goal this year,” Elam said. “That was a good way to end the year.”
Missouri girls swimmer
Paige Riekhof, Park Hill South, senior
While she was just short of winning her first gold medal, Riekhof stepped to the podium four times at the Missouri Class 2 state meet. She was second in the 200-yard freestyle and the 100 butterfly, and she was part of Park Hill South relay teams that placed third and fifth.
“I’m just so happy with the way it finished,” Riekhof told The Star after the meet. “I worked so hard, and I am glad I can see the awards.”
Riekhof finished her career with 16 total medals, the most possible under state rules. She has signed with Kansas.
Kansas boys swimmer
Lex Hernandez-Nietling, Bishop Miege, junior
He was not beaten in a single race at the Kansas Class 5-1A state meet. He captured gold medals in the 100-yard freestyle and 100 breaststroke after winning the preliminary races in both events, too.
Sound familiar? It did to his twin brother, who just as easily could have taken home The All-Metro honor. Max also won two individual events, the 50 freestyle and 100 butterfly.
“It’s just amazing to have someone who can share the same accomplishment,” Lex told The Star at the state meet.