That’s a wrap: Class 4 state wrap-up

Josh Saunders didn’t immediately know CBC sealed a second straight Class 4 Missouri State Wrestling Championships team title. The senior had just dominated the 152-pound championship match with a 10-3 decision to win his third straight individual title.

When informed the three Kansas City teams chasing CBC were mathematically eliminated from the team chase?

“Aw, yeah,” Saunders said with a big grin.

CBC came into the season with questions after graduating Malik Johnson, DJ Shannon and Cevion Severado, who combined for 11 state medals, nine state finals appearances and eight state championships.

The cupboard didn’t sit bare. Saunders became a three-time state champion, and the Cadets showed off more depth than their previous top heavy run to the championship. They had eight total medalists, but the big points again came thanks to four finalists.

CBC won four straight individual titles from 132 to 152, allowing the Cadets to maintain the slim lead they held entering the championship matches. They totaled 169½ points to beat out nationally ranked Liberty (159½) and Park Hill (146½) and Staley (131) in what very early on became a four-team race for the four state trophies.

Also, a very impressive stat for the CBC Cadets, led by head coach Cornell Robinson, the 2019 wrestling team had a cumulative GPA of 3.63. The Cadets got it done on the mats as well in the classroom.

“Since we lost literally our three best guys, we had to rely on guys that weren’t going to win state, kids that weren’t supposed to place that placed,” Saunders said. “I feel really happy for coach Robinson. He’s been through so many hard times in his life, and just having these two straight state titles and me being with him for as long as I can remember, it’s really an amazing feeling.”

Vincent Zerban, a sophomore, started the championship run at 132 in his second straight finals appearance. A runnerup in 2018, Zerban pinned Park Hill junior Trey Crawford in an important head-to-head semifinal matchup and then won a technical fall (17-2) in 5 minutes, 9 seconds over Jaylen Carsen of Lafayette (Wildwood).

Wyatt Henson, a sophomore out-of-state transfer, continued CBC’s success with a 3-2 decision in the 138 final over Parkway South senior Garrett Kloeppel, who finished his career as a three-time state runnerup.

At 145, CBC senior Kyle Prewitt finished his career as a state champion with a pin in the second period of the final against Staley freshman David Brooks. Saunders then finished the run and the team competition.

CBC’s other medalists included sophomore Alex Flerlage (fourth, 113), senior Will Edgar (fifth, 160), sophomore Lucas White (fourth, 170) and freshman Jack Darrah (fifth, 182).

Also included in the wrap-up

  • Liberty makes history
  • Winston wins again for Park Hill
  • Staley stalls late
  • Orine flashes 3rd state title for Seckman
  • Schrader passes Class 4 test at Carthage
  • Peterson finally prevails for DeSmet
  • Howell’s Skillington scores heavyweight title

Liberty makes history

Liberty entered the tournament as the favorites to earn the first state title in school history. Instead, the Blue Jays settled for a school record eight medals and the program-best runnerup finish — just the third top-four showing for the program.

With 11 qualifiers, Liberty put 10 in the quarterfinals and eight in the semifinals, but the Bluejays went 3-for-8 in that round and lost control of the team race. The results were still impressive with freshman Ayden Dolt unable to compete due to an injury suffered in the third-place match of the Class 4 District 4 tournament the week before.

“I feel very proud of the team,” Liberty junior Jeremiah Reno said. “Last year, we qualified six and got seventh. … This year, we got second.”

Liberty opened the championship round with back-to-back wins at 106 and 113 from freshman Easton Hilton and Reno, who became a three-time undefeated state champion. Hilton knocked off DeSmet sophomore Colton King in the semifinals in the most anticipated matchup of the bracket and then topped Nixa freshman Peyton Moore in a 10-0 major decision in the finals. Reno wasn’t challenged and tech falled Lindbergh sophomore James Homfeld 20-5 in the 113 title match.

Greyden Penner, a junior and third-time finalist, kept the bonus points coming for Liberty with a 25-10 technical fall in the 170 final. He became a second-time state champion, but by then, CBC had wrapped up the title.

Despite finishing second, Liberty enjoyed the ride during the greatest season — so far — in school history.

“I think it’s more fun, everyone has more fun because we have a lot of people that are winning and having a good time while they’re doing it,” Hilton said. “We support each other and make each other better in the practice room.”

Winston wins again for Park Hill

Park Hill kept its name in the title hunt right up until the end of the third- and fifth-place matches. The Trojans again finished in the top four but were relegated to third after placing second in 2018.

The highlight for Park Hill came with senior Devin Winston making the finals for a third straight year and coming away with a second individual title. His accomplished career started with a shocking 0-2 showing at state as a freshman before winning a title as a sophomore and losing in a much-discussed battle with CBC’s Shannon last year at 170.

Winston won the 195 bracket to return to the top of the heap thanks to a 3-1 decision over Northwest (Cedar Hill)’s Chase Stegall in the final.

“It’s been an emotional rollercoaster. I think it’s helped build me as a man and the person I am today,” Winston said. “It motivated me. It made me hungry. It taught me my first heartbreak — my freshman year when I went two and out and I was ranked No. 1 in the state and last year again when I lost my finals to DJ. It feels great getting my last one.

“Just do what you have to do to get it done.”

Park Hill had seven medalists and four were finalists. However, sophomore Ethen Miller — now a two-time finalist — finished second at 126, and Blake Hopson lost again to Liberty’s Penner in the 170 final. Hopson ended his career as a three-time medalist and two-time finalist.

Ashton Sharp, a junior, made the finals for the first time in his Park Hill career but placed second at 220 after placing third at state each of the past two seasons.

Crawford came back to place third at 132 with a fourth win of the season over Liberty senior and former Park Hill teammate Austin Kolvek in the third-place match. Kal Miller, a freshman, was fourth at 120 and sophomore Grayston DiBlasi was first-time medalist (fourth at 145) to round out Park Hill’s medalists.

Park Hill won a state title in 2015 when the current seniors were freshmen before adding three more state trophies but none were another coveted championship during the next three years.

“I’m so proud of all of my teammates. This is probably my favorite group of guys we’ve had so far — no disrespect to all the guys that have come before them,” Winston said. “I think this year it was just a test to see how tough we were and how hard we were willing to fight.”

Staley stalls late

Despite pushing three into the finals, Staley ended up relegated to the fourth spot by midway through Saturday’s action. Overall, the Falcons — the 2017 state champion — had six state medalists and were a clear cut above fifth-place DeSmet.

Still, Staley enjoyed some big moments.

Rocky Elam, a junior, won his first state title and took home a second straight state medal. However, he needed a 4-2 win in tiebreakers over Colton Hawks of Holt in the 182 final to ensure the Falcons weren’t shut out in the championship round.

Brooks reached the finals and finished as a state runnerup in his freshman year, and junior Khyler Brewer recovered from a third-place Class 4 District 4 finish to reach the finals for a second straight year. However, Brewer suffered an injury in the championship match, allowing Blue Springs sophomore Korbin Shepherd — also a second-time finalist — to win the title by forfeit.

Shepherd upset Brewer in the district semifinals, as well.

Perhaps the most uplifting result came from junior Aidan Johnson. He was a state qualifier at Park Hill as a freshman but bounced between the varsity and junior varsity lineups before transferring to Staley.

Johnson won a 2-1 decision over Francis Howell’s Corey Wait in the semifinal to ensure his first state medal would be top two.

“I want to thank my coaches,” Johnson said, “all of these guys that have taken me in, and they just treat me like family every day and we get better. I also want to thank coach (Jeff) Davis, my old coach at Park Hill. He helped me be where I am today.

“I’ve always had my dad in my corner, telling me I’m right there, helping me believe even when I couldn’t — when I was just done.”

Orine flashes 3rd state title for Seckman

Seckman senior Kai Orine couldn’t be fazed by the moment, not at this point in his career.

Lining up ahead of the 126 pound state final, Park Hill’s Ethen Miller toed the line and eyed his calm foe in eager anticipation. Orine then went and out and won an 8-0 major decision to capture his third straight state title.

After the match, Seckman coaches tossed Orine one of their ostentatious, sparkly gold suit jackets. He put the flashy accessory on and walked off the mat for the final time.

“It wasn’t even planned, just going out in style. That’s a good word for it,” said Orine, who dropped one of his coaches with a Stone Cold Stunner in celebration of his title as a junior. “Threw me the jacket, and I was like, ‘Hell yeah.’”

Orine went 50-1 in his senior season with his lone loss in the finals of the nationally elite Walsh Jesuit Ironman in December. He was a four-time state medalist as one of, if not the best, in Seckman’s history.

“This has been my most difficult schedule-wise,” said Orine, third at 106 as a freshman. “I’ve got little brothers coming through the same program, hopefully. I’ve got an entire little league that looks up to me right now. To make a name and put my name on the wall for them kids to look up to … it means a lot and hopefully keeps the sport alive in my area.”

Schrader passes Class 4 test at Carthage

Kale Schrader knew the challenge would be different, but he sure made the path to his first state title look easy. Don’t be fooled. The Carthage junior earned a perfect unbeaten season and pinned Park Hill’s Sharp in the 220 final on Saturday night.

However, the accomplishment looks even more impressive when considering Schrader was a two-time state qualifier, placing second last year, while wrestling for Class 1 Seneca.

“Coming in, I knew it was going to be a tough tournament,” Schrader said. “There’s a lot of good wrestlers in this tournament, and I ran into them my quarters, my semis and my finals — all three very well rounded wrestlers. It just took discipline.

“I’ve had amazing experiences with my team, and it all wrapped up perfect. I couldn’t ask for anything to go different.”

At state, Schrader pinned Staley’s Jared Neel in the third period of an otherwise close match. The semifinal was even tighter with Schrader needing tiebreakers to win 2-1 over Eureka senior Matt Gentry —

Schrader’s season concluded against a two-time state medalist making his state finals debut. Up 5-2 in the third period, Schrader counted an attempted throw from Sharp at the edge of the mat and earned the fall on the edge of the mat at the 5:31 mark.

“I was just waiting for when he sank through to go to throw it, and I dropped my hips,” Schrader said. “And he went straight to his back, and I just kind of laid there and got her done.

“To finish it with a pin is just amazing.”

Peterson finally prevails for DeSmet

Down to the final seconds of his career, DeSmet senior Cory Peterson came up with the takedown of his dreams. He scored two points in the closing seconds of the 160 final to take the state title from Belton senior Andrew Gamble — a two-time state champion who didn’t compete as a sophomore due to injury.

“I went inside trip, threw a leg in, got two and held on for 5 seconds,” Peterson said.

Peterson was fourth as a freshman and a state runnerup as a sophomore. He fell back to fifth as a junior, leaving him just one last shot to earn the state title.

“I worked my butt off for this,” Peterson said. “I just knew I could do it, thanks to my coaches giving me the confidence, getting me ready, prepared. Props to them; props to my family; props to God.”

The road was difficult with three unbeaten wrestlers in the 160 bracket to start the weekend.

That included Gamble, who won his two titles in Class 3 before Belton moved up to Class 4 this season. He led 3-2 and appeared ready to become the first Class 4 state champion in program history before Peterson’s late heroics.

Belton had a tough tournament in Class 4 with two-time state champion and three-time finalist Robert Weber finishing his career with a third-place finish. He lost to Liberty’s Penner in the 170 semifinals.

Brayden Bradley, a state champion as a sophomore for Belton, went without a medal for a second straight year.

Howell’s Skillington scores heavyweight title

There were no favorites in a wide-open 285 bracket. At the end, Francis Howell junior Ryan Skillington ended up with the title. He was a second-time qualifier and first-time medalist.

In the final, Skillington won 3-2 in ultimate tiebreaker over DeSmet sophomore and first time state qualifier Jacobi Jackson, who was the second finalist for fifth-place team finisher.

Staley senior Preston Wiss came back from a semifinal loss to finish third, while Park Hill senior Simon Tesfamarian — a two-time qualifier — lost in the first round and ended up out of the top six.

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