A separated shoulder turned Park Hill junior Canten Marriott into a spectator for the first half of his junior wrestling season. His return last month was mere background noise for a team that already features three two-time state champions.
But five days before the Missouri Class 4 state meet, Marriott took an opportunity to generate some buzz of his own. He captured the Class 4, District 4 championship at 152 pounds Saturday at Blue Springs High School, improving his season record to 30-0.
“When you have three returning state champions, the attention and pressure isn’t necessarily on me, and I don’t mind that,” Marriott said. “I can sneak up on some people.”
That, of course, will be a harder task now that he owns a district championship — along with the unbeaten record — heading into the state tournament, which takes place Thursday through Saturday at Mizzou Arena in Columbia.
He will be joined on Missouri’s campus by some familiar faces. Park Hill, the two-time defending team champion, qualified 11 wrestlers for the state meet. The top four in each weight class Saturday earned a berth for state.
Park Hill was well-represented atop the podium. Six wrestlers won their weight classes — Marriott, Kelvin Eblen (106), Ethan Koan (120), Weston DiBlasi (120), Ke-Shawn Hayes (138) and Colston DiBlasi (170).
That led to a convincing team victory for Park Hill, which totaled 243 team points. Staley (152), Fort Osage (142.5), Blue Springs South (130) and Blue Springs (104) completed the top five at the 15-team district tournament.
Blue Springs South won three weight divisions. Defending state champion Christian Boyles won at 220 pounds, following finals wins by Trey Storey at 182 pounds and Sam Hampton at 132.
Boyles and Hampton will take undefeated marks into the state tournament next week.
“Being undefeated, it doesn’t mean anything if you don’t win a state title,” Hampton said. “I mean, it’s nice, but the goal has always been to win state. This will set me up nicely for next week — maybe give me a bit smoother ride — but there’s nobody that’s easy (to beat) at state.”
That’s a lesson Fort Osage junior Jesse Jeffries learned the hard way last season, when his state-championship hopes were squashed with a semifinal loss in which he blew a third-period lead.
Jeffries hasn’t dropped a high school match in the ensuing 11 months, and he’s 46-0 mark this season. He won the 145-pound division Saturday with a hard-fought 5-0 finals victory over Staley senior Jordan Steward.
“Losing last year just made me work that much harder and that much smarter this year,” Jeffries said. “This is when it finally pays off.”
Jeffries is one of two unbeaten Fort Osage wrestlers. Jesse Reser won the 160-pound district title and improved to 45-0.
The district championship for Blue Springs sophomore Gage Harmon came as more of a surprise. Harmon scored a takedown and back points in the final seconds and upended Rockhurst sophomore Coin Valdiviez, who had defeated Harmon twice this season.
Staley senior Jayden Bears won the 195-pound class. Bears captured the Class 3 state title last season but will wrestle for the Class 4 title next week.
William Chrisman senior Tomasi Tuione finished off the tournament with a pin in winning the heavyweight bracket.
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