Platte County honors 6 seniors who recently signed to continue athletic careers in college

ROSS MARTIN/Citizen photo Front row, from left: Rachel Holden, Alexis Ray and Mallory Stoner and back row, from left: Matt Madill, Matthew Schmitt and Johnny Blankenship were honored at a signing ceremony held Thursday, Nov. 19 at Platte County High School. Each of them signed to play sports in college. Johnny Blankenship and Matthew Schmitt have wrestled together for a long time.

Two of Platte County’s three finalists in the summer of 2014 at the ASICS/Vaughan Junior/Cadet Nationals, they started drawing collegiate attention together, too. The pair signed national letters of intent to separate Division I schools during a ceremony Thursday, Nov. 19 at Platte County High School. Six seniors total were honored the week after national signing day, including two more softball players, a standout in basketball and a golfer breaking a long streak.

Schmitt officially pledged to West Virginia and coach Sammie Henson, who has deep ties to the state of Missouri. Blankenship will go to the University of Nebraska. Ethan Karsten, the third member of the senior trio to reach the finals two summers ago, will likely sign at a later date.

“Three kids from the same high school, we’ve all grown up together. That just doesn’t happen,” Blankenship said. “That was big.”

Schmitt will end his career this season as one of the most decorated wrestlers in Platte County history. Already a three-time state finalist, he carries a 141-12 career record into his senior year. He was a runner-up at 106 pounds in the Class 3 Missouri State Wrestling Championships as a freshman before winning his bracket at 106 as a sophomore and 126 last year.

Chase Verdoorn and Tyler St. Louis have been the Pirates’ only three-time champions with St. Louis the only four-time finalist. Schmitt wants to become the sixth undefeated champion in program history.

Using a solid all-around style, Blankenship carved out his successful career and has a chance to become a three-time finalist and four-time medalist. He placed fifth at 126 as a freshman before winning a state title at 145 as a sophomore despite finishing fourth the previous week in Class 3 District 4 competition.

Back in the finals last year at 160, Blankenship lost a 12-2 major decision to Neosho’s Sam Williams. Blankenship’s career record is 132-39 and enters the season with a chance to become the 10th two-time champion at Platte County.

“What coaches told me that they were most impressed with was my work ethic and my style of wrestling, grinding and just fighting through the whole match,” Blankenship said.

Alexis Ray and Mallory Stoner brought the number of signees from the 2014 Class 3 state runner-up Platte County team to five.

After three moved on to the college ranks after the 2014 season, Ray opted to play Division I at South Dakota State, while Stoner chose Nebraska-Kearney, a Division II member of the MIAA. Both were four-year starters for the Pirates.

Ray played outfield and ranked second this past season for the Pirates in on-base percentage (.459) and runs (23) while ranking third in hits (34). She originally committed to Missouri Southern and could have been an MIAA rival of Stoner, but Ray changed her mind after a coaching change and found her Division I opportunity.

“I opened my options back up, and South Dakota State came along,” she said. “I visited up there and really liked it.”

Stoner pitched all four years but found her most success in 2015 at the plate. She hit .367 with eight extra-base hits and 22 RBIs. The RBI total ranked second, as did her 36 hits.

In 2014, Stoner earned first-team Missouri High School Fastpitch Coaches Association all-state honors with a 19-6 record. She went 11-8 this season with a 2.36 ERA, helping Platte County to an 18-12 record and runner-up finish in Class 3 District 15.

Rachel Holden will also be going to a D-II school for basketball.

The first school to offer the 6-foot-2 senior a scholarship, Rockhurst won out on her services despite interest from schools at every level, including some from Division I programs. Holden said she believes Rockhurst will offer a great chance to stay focused on other interests in addition to furthering her basketball career.

“I’ve loved basketball my whole life,” said Holden, who led the Pirates at 12 points and nine rebounds per game last season. “I just wanted to play college. It’s just been a dream of mine for a while. It’s always been a dream, but it really became a reality junior year when everyone started recruiting.

“I always used to think it would be cool to go D-I, but looking into things, I kind of decided D-I wasn’t for me.”

Matt Madill inked a letter of intent to play golf at Culver-Stockton – an NAIA program located in Canton, Mo. He’s believed to be the first collegiate golfer on the boys side from Platte County since Barrett Martens chose the University of Kansas after winning a state title in 2002.

Already a three-year member of the Pirates' top-five rotation entering his final season, Madill won the team-voted rookie of the year as a freshman and qualified for the Class 3 Missouri State Golf Championships as a sophomore, finishing in a tie for 85th. He missed a return trip to state last year by just one stroke, but he finished fourth in the Suburban Conference Blue Division championships and ninth in Class 3 District 8 play.