Like any wrestling coach, Belton’s Cody Newman wants to get every wrestler he can to the state tournament.
Newman hoped to get as many as possible through from the Class 3, District 4 tournament Feb. 9-10 at Winnetonka High School, but he knew that would be a tall order.
After five Pirates placed in the top four in their weight classes, earning the chance to compete at state, Newman believes that will be enough to place high in the team standings again.
“When we took fourth (in 2016) we had five guys, so I think we’re in a good spot,” Newman said. “We’ve wrestled a tough schedule and we’ve wrestled tough competition so that we’re prepared when we go there.”
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Four of the five Belton wrestlers in the Class 3 tournament, which takes place Feb. 15-17 at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, head to state as district finalists.
That group includes two district champions — juniors Andrew Gamble, who won the 160-pound weight class, and Robert Weber, who claimed the 170-poud title.
Gamble was the Class 3 champ at 120 as a freshman, but a knee injury derailed his sophomore season.
That made his 6-4 victory against Kearney’s Ethan Locke even more special. Gamble trailed going into the third period and scored a late takedown for the victory.
“He’s been working hard all season in the wrestling room and worked hard in the weight room,” Newman said. “He wrestled well throughout the match and put himself in a position in the third period to win.”
Weber, the reigning Class 3 champ at 152 pounds, boasts a 40-5 record entering state after pinning Harrisonville’s Braden Danner during the second period of the final.
Danner (45-4) is a returning state qualifier, who placed fourth at 160 last season.
Among the district runners-up, Braden Bradley won the Class 3 title at 106 last year when he beat Kearney’s James Freitag in the state final.
During a rematch for the district title at 113 on Saturday, Bradley controlled most of the match before giving up back points in the closing seconds of a 5-1 loss.
Finally, Joe Biondo, who finished sixth in Class 3 at 145 last year, lost 4-3 versus Smithville’s Nick Bollinger in the 152 final.
Jack Goin, who finished third at 182, also advanced to state for the Pirates, who placed fifth in the team standings with 123 points.
“I was pleased with how we wrestled,” Newman said. “We lost two matches in the finals that were real close against good kids. We competed well, but we just had some things that didn’t go our way.”
Harrisonville, which placed sixth with 89 points, had two other qualifiers to go along with Danner.
Junior Sam East won the 182-pound championship when he pinned Platte County’s Dakota Schmidt in the final and senior Nick Kruse placed second at 220 after getting pinned by Platte County’s Sage Smart.
It’s the first time at state for Kruse and East, who lost in a consolation semifinal “bubble matches” last season.
“For Sam, it’s been 365 days to get back to this point and be successful,” Harrisonville coach Eric DeVenney said. “He continues to work, he continues to grind and put people in bad situations. He had a great day.”
Five Panthers advance
Raymore-Peculiar had three finalists among its five state qualifiers from the Class 4, District 3 tournament at Drury University in Springfield.
The Panthers got second-place finishes from Garrett LaBelle at 132 pounds, Mason Pratt at 160 and Clint Herrick at 182.
Joey Stalone took third at 195 and Shane Martin also qualified by finishing fourth at 220 for Ray-Pec, which finished fifth as a team with 111 points.
Pleasant Hill qualifies five
Chance Sullivan won a district title as Pleasant Hill advanced five from the Class 2, District 3 tournament at Clinton.
Sullivan, a state quarterfinalist at 126 pounds last season, won the district title at 138 with an overtime against Monett’s Gunnar Bradley in the final.
The Roosters’ other qualifiers — Chase Thompson (160), Nolan Miller (170), Garrett Schick (182) and Ryan Edenburn (195) — all finished fourth.