By Michael Smith
The Grain Valley wrestling team is inching closer to being at full strength, as it continues to get competitors back from injury or illness.
The lastest return of heavyweight Donovan McBride, who is a three-time state qualifier and a state medalist, provided a big boost for the Eagles.
He won his weight class at the Winnetonka Varsity Invitational Tournament Saturday, putting the exclamation point on Grain Valley taking first place with 301 points. Harrisonville was second with 232 and Lone Jack was third with 160. Van Horn took seventh with 105.
“It’s huge. It’s great to get all of these guys back,” Grain Valley coach Jeff Bowman said. “Not only do they wrestle well, they are very compatible with the team. Everybody loves them and everyone is cheering for them.”
Wrestler Interviews (more story after interviews below)
McBride was the latest return after Hunter Newsom (195) and three others came back after missing time last Tuesday. The senior heavyweight has missed most of the season due to a lateral collateral ligament tear during football season.
“It felt great (to be wrestling again), but my conditioning was a little rusty,” McBride said.
“I still have a month of training to get ready for districts. State is the main goal.”
On Saturday, McBride made his season debut by winning all five of his matches, four of which came by fall.
“It was kind of iffy there for awhile because we didn’t have very many people in the lineup,” Newsom said. “We’re getting the team back together as we get closer to the postseason, and it’s really exciting.”
After returning last Tuesday, Newsom has gone on a tear to start the season. He improved to 9-0 after defeating Van Horn’s Keanu Sua and Harrisonville’s Trevor Campbell, who is ranked No. 1 in his weight class in Class 2 according to the MissouriWrestling.com poll, by fall.
“I wanted to see a challenge, a measuring stick is what I called it,” the Class 3, No. 2- ranked Newsom said of his match with Campbell. “I felt pretty good about it. He was a tough opponent.”
While top wrestlers like Newsom and McBride winning their weight divisions weren’t surprising, the Eagles had one wrestler who pulled off a stunning upset. O.T. Frederick (182) who came into the tournament with a 5-15 record, went 2-1, tying with Lone Jack’s Triston Barrett and Park Hill South’s Ashton Kuhn. He ended up winning the tiebreaker and took first.
“It was exciting to win and do it for my team,” Frederick said. “I think my throws were decent. I got a few wins with those.”
Added Bowman” “O.T. has been with me since he was a freshman. But he’s one of those guys that’s loveable because of the growth he’s shown. Going from J.V. tournaments where he wins a few matches, to out here competing with varsity guys is awesome.”
Anthony Greco (152) wrestled in his first tournament of the season for the Eagles, and he did not disappoint. The freshman went 5-0 and capped his day with a pin in 44 seconds to take the first-place medal in his weight class.
“Coach Bowman told us to come out here and get on and off the mat,” said Greco, who won all his matches by pin. “That’s what I was thinking going into my matches. I wanted to win as fast as I could.”
So did fellow freshman teammate Gavin Parks (106), who rolled through his weight division with three pins. His final match of the day ended in just 13 seconds.
“I thought I did pretty good,” said Parks, who improved to 24-2. “I just need to be more comfortable on my feet and get more shots.”’
Like Parks, Tanner Barker (138) continued his strong season for the Eagles. The No. 3- ranked sophomore improved to 21-3 after finishing 5-0, capping off his day with a hard-fought 4-1 decision against Jackson Leath of Lone Jack.
“I wrestled him earlier in the season,” the No. 3- ranked Barker said of Leath. “I knew what I needed to do and wrestled my match instead of his.
“I am looking to a state championship. That is my big goal.”
Other Grain Valley competitors to place in the top three included Tyler Groves (113, second), Brock Smith (120, second), Justin Deweese (132, third) and Andrew Czeschin (220, third).
Below is a summary of the other weight division winners:
113: A tough 10-9 ultimate tiebreaker victory against Groves highlighted a strong day for Harrisonville’s Chris Sullivan, who went 5-0 and won his weight class.
“I feel good about my season so far, there are still some future matches I am looking forward to,” Sullivan said.
120: Ethan Moses (120) was the lone Falcon to win his weight class. He won all three of his matches, including a 4-0 decision against Smith.
“We’ve been trading matches back and forth,” Moses said of Smith.”I’ve beat him and he beat me earlier this year. I just knew I came out on the mat wanting to win it more.It showed, he didn’t even score.”
126: Rockhurst junior Eli Franklin had one of the best days of his season, going 4-0 and taking first in his weight class. He won all of his matches by fall.
“I really focused on my takedowns and riding them,” Franklin said. “That’s what my main focus was today. My go-to is a sweep and an ankle pick.”
132: Raytown senior J.T. Westervelt didn’t end the day the way he wanted it to. He didn’t get to wrestle in the championship match as Park Hill South’s Kale Slater bowed out via injury forfeit, giving Westervelt first place.
“I have a lot I need to improve on,” said Westervelt, who won three matches by fall and one by tech fall. “I need to work on my inside shots instead of always going to the outside.”
145: Harrisonville senior Brayden Talley didn’t spend much time on the mat as he got three first-period pins to take first.
:”I feel like I did well today, but still have some stuff to work on,” Talley said. “I definitely need to work on some stuff in neutral and get some takedowns in. Other than that, it was a great day.”
160: Harrisonville sophomore Kale Weber won all three of his pool matches by pin before winning a tough 5-2 decision in the semifinals. He then finished his day with a first-period pin and managed to avoid two takedown attempts from Van Horn’s Chandler Seavers.
“I was blessed with long arms,” Weber said of avoiding near takedowns in his final match. “That’s how I have wrestled most of my life, using my length to my advantage.”
170: Lone Jack junior Ben Janssen finished his day 5-0, winning in the semifinals by forfeit and earning a 11-2 decision against Park Hill South’s Roger Guillory in the finals, to take his weight division.
“It was really tough to work all the way through (the tournament,” Janssen said. “But I was set up nice, and I had fun.
“I felt like I was good on my feet and had good shots. I could have been a little better on top.”
220: There was very little suspense on who would win this weight class, as No. 1 ranked Xavier Doolin of North Kansas City made it look easy taking first. He started his day with a tech fall before getting pins in 31 and 9 seconds, respectively.
“That was one of the quickest pins I’ve had,” Doolin said of his 9-second victory in his final match of the day. That wasn’t the plan. I was planning on putting up points. But it was there and I just ended it.”