The victory lap started early for Kearney, earlier than the final point total would indicate.
While the margin was still razor-thin ahead of second-place Neosho, Bulldogs coach Jake Hill knew the Missouri Class 3 state wrestling team championship would be theirs after senior Clayton Singh’s historic victory in the 120-pound final.
After Neosho’s Trenton Young won the 132-pound title on a decision, Kearney and its large throng of loud fans could begin the celebration inside Mizzou Arena. The Bulldogs won their fourth team championship Feb. 17 with 161 points with Neosho finishing a mere 2 1/2 points back at 158.5.
“The last half of the round we essentially knew and we were just hanging on to make sure,” Hill said. “It was a total team effort. Take nine guys down and nine guys medal. That’s the only way it happens by 2 1/2 points.”
Singh was the only one of Kearney’s nine wrestlers to win an individual championship, though two other Bulldogs reach the title match, and he made history in the process.
When Singh pinned Grain Valley’s Trent Starr in 58 seconds for his crown, he became the 27th wrestler in Missouri history to win four state titles and the first of five to notch their fourth state title that night.
It also gave Kearney a more comfortable margin in the team race. Going into the final day, the Bulldog owned a half-point advantage on the defending champs from Neosho, the 2017 winner and co-champion with Kearney in 2013.
“For him to come out and do both those things in one night is unbelievable,” Hill said. “The other guys came out and competed. We just got outwrestled in both matches.”
The Bulldogs’ other two finalists — Coby Aebersold and Brett Mordecai — lost close matches with Smithville’s two finalists. Aebersold lost a 6-2 decision against Trentin Hampton in the 145 final, while Mordecai lost a 4-2 decision against Brian Boyd for the 195 crown.
But Kearney’s depth was impressive led by Devan Lewis (132) and Ethan Locke (160), who both placed third, Garrett Deason (106), James Freitag (113) and Matthew Witthar (170) took fourth and Caden Green (138) wrestled to fifth.
The Bulldogs’ 161 points mark the most in program history during a state tournament.
The future also looks bright with everyone except Singh and Locke returning, so Hill’s already hoping for a repeat performance next season.
“We’ll be right back competing for another trophy for sure next year,” he said.
Pirates snag two titles
Platte County also brought home a Class 3 team trophy after placing third with 110.5 points.
Senior Cody Phippen ended his Pirates career as a three-time state champion, beating Grain Valley’s Caleb Benshoof in the 126 final on a 9-1 major decision.
Platte County got another championship from Sage Smart, who pinned Harrisonville’s Nick Kruse for the 220 crown.
Trojans wind up as runners-up
Park Hill finished second to Christian Brothers College from St. Louis in the Class 4 team standings.
CBC scored 155.5 points in edging the Trojans, who totaled 142 points, for the title.
Josh Steele won a title at 145 and Devin Winston placed second at 182 for Park Hill.
Staley, last year’s Class 4 team champion, finished third with 118 points.
Zach Elam capped a perfect season with a pin in the 220 final, finishing 53-0 overall, while Khyler Brewer (113) and Blake Berryman (138) both finished second.