The Missouri wrestling state championships will take place Thursday through Saturday at Mizzou Arena in Columbia. Here are five things to watch over the course of the three-day tournament:
1. Two-time champs
A once-promising Park Hill wrestling season has been ravaged by a slew of injuries, but the Trojans will head into the state meet as healthy as they have been all season.
Canten Marriott is back to full health after a separated shoulder cost him the first half of the season, and he’s unbeaten at 152 pounds. Ke-Shawn Hayes is unbeaten at 138 pounds and ranked fourth in the nation. Colston DiBlasi has lost only twice at 170 pounds. And Park Hill welcomed back two-time defending champion Sean Hosford last weekend after he missed most of his junior year with a leg injury.
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Hayes and DiBlasi are trying to close out their high school careers with three individual state titles — a feat that could help Park Hill claim its third straight team title. Hayes has signed with Ohio State, and DiBlasi has signed with Iowa State.
2. Class 3 contenders
While Neosho figures to be the favorite in Missouri Class 3, a couple of local schools could disrupt those plans.
Platte County won the Class 3, District 4 tournament on Saturday and qualified 10 wrestlers for the state meet. Three juniors — Matthew Schmitt, Ethan Karsten and Johnny Blankenship — are defending state champions, and all three won district titles.
Kearney qualified nine wrestlers for the state tournament, and Clayton Singh (106), Andrew Borden (138) and Andrew Buckley (170) earned top seeds by winning district championships.
3. Wide open in Class 2
If the Missouri Class 2, District 4 tournament was any indication, the battle for the Class 2 state title could come down to the wire. Cameron won the tournament, but Smithville, Oak Grove and Odessa weren’t far behind.
Oak Grove sophomore Connor Brown will try to repeat as the 106-pound champion in Class 2. He is 45-0 this season. The Panthers qualified nine wrestlers for the state tournament.
Odessa equaled that number, and it crowned two district champions. Dakota Miller (120 pounds) has lost only twice this year. He won a state title as a freshman before falling in the semifinals last season.
Smithville’s Luke Sachs is defending his title at 182 pounds, and he is one of eight Warriors who qualified for state.
4. More title defenses
Staley senior Jayden Bears earned redemption last February when he captured the Missouri Class 3 160-pound title — a victory that came one year after he lost his finals bout.
The next challenge? Repeating the task in a new classification. Staley bumped up to Missouri Class 4 this season. Bears is 47-2.
After winning the Class 4 132-pound state championship last year, Lee’s Summit West senior Austin Eveler’s title defense has progressed rather smoothly — at least so far. Eveler is 42-1 while wrestling at 145 pounds.
Harrisonville’s Ty Cochran won the Class 2 126-pound title, but Harrisonville has moved up to Class 3, and Cochran finished in second place in the 132-pound bracket at the Class 3, District 4 tournament.
5. The unbeaten
Blue Springs South senior Christian Boyles is 39-0 after cruising to the Class 4 District 4 title Saturday. He pinned all four opponents in the district tournament.
He isn’t the only undefeated Jaguars wrestler, either.
South’s Sam Hampton improved to 48-0 when he won the 132-pound district title. Hampton settled for fourth place at state last season.
Fort Osage juniors Jesse Jeffries (145 pounds) and Jesse Reser (160 pounds) are also undefeated in Class 4 after claiming district championships on Saturday.