Only a few moments after breezing to another wrestling victory Thursday, Oak Park senior Noah Teaney ducked into a private tunnel underneath the Mizzou Arena stands, casually packed his things into a backpack and walked slowly toward a recognizable locker room.
In a new year, little has changed. The post-match routine has become familiar, if not a bit boring, Teaney says. He’s never lost here at Mizzou Arena — unbeaten in three previous trips to the Missouri State High School Activities Association Wrestling Championships.
“I know what to expect and I know the surroundings, so it’s just like an everyday tournament basically,” Teaney said. “I don’t even think about it anymore.”
A three-time Missouri Class 3 state champion, Teaney could become the 22nd wrestler in state history to win four titles. Blue Springs senior Daniel Lewis, who won his first-round match by pin Thursday, is gunning for the same feat as the three-day tournament continues Friday.
Teaney cruised to a 13-0 decision against Neosho’s Isaac Townsend, a rather spiritless match that Teaney says he has become accustomed to this season.
“Everybody tries to slow (the match) down and just make it as close as they can so they can say they only got beat by so much,” Teaney said.
Wrestling against a similar heavy favorite Thursday, Platte County sophomore Johnny Blankenship implemented a more assertive strategy.
It worked. Blankenship pulled off arguably the first day’s biggest upset when he upended previously-unbeaten Cole Hamai of Washington 5-3 in overtime in the Class 3 145-pound bracket.
In the overtime period, Blankenship was the aggressor, and it paid off with a match-clinching takedown with 10 seconds remaining.
“I didn’t care if he was undefeated — I didn’t even think about that,” Blankenship said. “I knew if I listened to the game plan, I’d be able to get a win out there. I got behind in the second (period), but I stuck with it and pulled it out.”
Tight battles in team standings
Staley senior Bailey Sutko already owns an individual wrestling state championship. He secured that last season.
His sights are set even higher this season.
“I want to get a pin in every single match,” Sutko said. “I want to pin my way through the tournament.”
He’s off to a good start after pinning Chaminade’s Luke Rone only 55 seconds into the first period of their heavyweight match.
Staley sits in second place in the Class 3 team standings with 39.5 points. Neosho has 44.5
Neosho and Kearney tied for the title last season. Kearney was a perfect 9-0 in its first-round matches. Senior Grant Leeth, who is trying for a third state championship, recorded a first-period pin against Rolla wrestler John Sprow at 152 pounds, improving his season record to 51-1.
“We liked our matchups real well, but you have to compete. This is the state tournament — you don’t know what’s going to happen down here,” Kearney coach Chad Hopkins said. “We’re sitting nice, but I’m not shocked by the fact we’re 9-0.”
In Class 4, defending state champion Park Hill sits in seventh place after winning six first-round matches, though only defending champion Ke-Shawn Hayes (126 pounds) and Ethan Koan (113) tallied bonus points. Hayes improved to 44-0. He is the No. 1-ranked wrestler in the nation in his weight class.
Rockhurst is in sixth place in Class 4.
Smithville grabbed the first-day lead in Class 2, sending nine of its 11 state qualifiers into the second round. Oak Grove, the defending champions in Class 2, won eight of nine first-round bouts.
“We’ve been wrestling pretty tough as of late, so we felt like we could be in the hunt for a trophy,” Smithville coach Taylor Middleton said. “We’re right where we expected to be.”
The Lawson Cardinals jumped out front in Class 1 with seven wins in the opening round, including a pin from defending state champion Austen Eskew at 220 pounds. Tyler Hachman (106), Corbin Menke (126), Dakota Smidt (145) and Adrean Eskew (170) also won by fall for the Cardinals.