Kansas City area high school wrestlers are gearing up for tournaments this week — districts in Missouri and Sunflower League and Eastern Kansas League events in Kansas — which conclude on Saturday. Here are five things to watch at the tournaments.
1. BEGINNINGS OF A THREE-PEAT?
Park Hill has won back-to-back Missouri Class 4 state championships, and the Trojans are in the mix for a third.
Ke-Shawn Hayes, ranked fourth in the nation at 138 pounds, and fellow senior Colston DiBlasi are two-time state champions already. Hayes is unbeaten this season.
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But as the Trojans have found out during the past two seasons, the key to bringing home team titles is depth. That means Park Hill will use this weekend’s Missouri Class 4 District 4 tournament at Blue Springs High School to qualify as many wrestlers as possible for the state tournament, which takes place next weekend in Columbia.
In addition to Hayes and DiBlasi, Kelvin Eblen, Ethan Koan, Weston DiBlasi, Hunter Roberts, Lucky Brockman, Canten Marriott and Anthony Enriquez have also totaled at least 25 wins this season for the Trojans.
2. STATE CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW
Oak Grove won the Missouri Class 2 state title last February — the 15th team state championship in school history.
The Panthers’ biggest rival might stand in the way of No. 16.
Odessa defeated Oak Grove in a dual match last month, setting the tone for an intriguing postseason battle — the first stage of which will take place this weekend at the Missouri Class 2 District 4 meet at Excelsior Springs High School.
Oak Grove sophomore Connor Brown is unbeaten this season after winning the 106-pound state title last year. Senior Dalton Brinegar has lost only once, and Landon Cairer has lost just twice.
Odessa junior Dakota Miller is 45-2. He won the state championship as a freshman before falling in the state semifinals last season.
3. TOUGH ROAD IN MISSOURI CLASS 3
It’s widely believed the path to the Missouri Class 3 state championship runs through Neosho, the only school from the state that appears in the national rankings on FloWrestling.com.
Neosho is expected to qualify most of its 14-man lineup for the state tournament next weekend. So if a Kansas City area school — most notably Platte County or Kearney — is going to compete with Neosho next weekend, it needs a tremendous showing on Saturday at the Class 3 District 4 meet at Oak Park High School.
Platte County has three wrestlers who are defending state champions: Matthew Schmitt, Ethan Karsten and Johnny Blankenship.
4. WATCH HUSKIES, TRAILBLAZERS IN EKL
The hottest race on the Kansas side this weekend will be at the Eastern Kansas League meet, where two top-10 teams will be battling for the team title.
A year ago, the Blue Valley Northwest wrestling team took home its first Kansas Class 6A trophy with a third-place finish. They return two state champions from that team — Max Tierney and Sam Elliott.
The Huskies are currently ranked seventh in the Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association Class 6A poll. The only other EKL ranked team is Gardner Edgerton, ranked ninth, entering the EKL tournament on Saturday at Blue Valley Southwest.
Gardner Edgerton’s Seth Pesek is the defending state champion at 195 pounds.
5. OLATHE NORTH SECOND IN 6A
Not only is the Olathe North wrestling team one of the best in the Sunflower League, but the Eagles might very well be one of the best squads in the state.
The Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association has Olathe North ranked second in Kansas Class 6A with top-five wrestlers in nine of the 14 weight classes entering the Sunflower League tournament on Saturday at Leavenworth.
Isaac Dulgarian, who won the Kansas Class 5A 160-pound class with St. Thomas Aquinas last year but transferred to Olathe North, is currently the top-ranked wrestler in the 170-pound class. Tyler Moulden (145), Jadon McGaha (220), Emilio Fowler (182) and Chase Miller (heavyweight) are each ranked second in their respective classes.