The hosts took home the trophy after going 5-0, winning the Black Division before beating Mill Valley (Kan.) in the semifinals as the top seed out of Pool A. Smithville, the runner-up in Pool A after a narrow 36-31 loss to Park Hill, defeated Pool B top seed Waukee (Iowa) in the semifinals.
A handshake gave the Warriors a second-place guarantee and an opportunity to wrestle Waukee, which ended up third due to losses against Smithville and then the Trojans.
Park Hill’s win against the Warriors featured an upset of sorts that pulled the final result into question. Smithville junior Austin Purtle — a fourth-place finisher in the Missouri Class 2 State Wrestling Championships last year as a sophomore — put Park Hill senior Sean Hosford on his back and scored three critical near-fall points in an eventual 7-4 decision win at 152 pounds. The Warriors closed within 24-10 before a pair of pins from Park Hill freshman Devin Winston (160) and senior Canten Marriott (170) sealed the result.
Smithville then won the final four matches to close the gap but mathematically were unable to catch the Trojans.
Park Hill’s five wins included a rare shutout, a 75-0 win against Lewis Central (Iowa) in the morning’s pool competition of the bracket. The Trojans enter the season as the three-time defending Class 4 team state champion with Hosford and Marriott both owning individual titles and showed off their depth in the season-opening event.
“I said in the locker room, ‘I can’t even remember being part of a team that completely blanked the other team,’” Marriott said. “We’ve gotten close but I don’t think we’ve ever done that. It was cool.”
Four wrestlers went undefeated for Park Hill.
Marriott, sophomore Weston DiBlasi (126) and freshmen Austin Kolvek (120) and Blake Hopson (145) each went 5-0. Kolvek defeated Waukee’s Jakob Allison — a senior and two-time state finalist at 106 in Iowa’s Class 3A.
Park Hill has six returning state qualifiers, including Lucky Brockman currently on the junior varsity squad, along with a promising freshman class along with junior transfer Thomas Lisher — a state champion in Kansas Class 4A a year ago expected out with an injury until after the holidays.
“Those guys are all solid,” Davis said. “They came through our youth club and have been in our system for a while. I’d like to take credit for that, but I can’t. They’re good kids. They’ve worked their tails off, and they’re only going to get better and better.”
Hosford finished the day 4-1 and recovered to win his final three matches after the tough loss to Purtle. The tournament was Hosford’s first full-strength action since coming back from a broken leg that cost him most of his junior season.
A state champion each of his first two seasons, Hosford wrestled 160 at districts last year and qualified for state but went 1-2 and did not medal. Purtle represented his first big test in a high school match since fully recovering from the injury.
“Sean he got caught. He was forcing the action because he was trying to do something extra for the team,” Davis said. “That’s the kind of kid he is. He’s a team guy. He got a little rambunctious and forced something he shouldn’t have forced. He knew it when he did it. He rebounded and beat a couple of solid kids to end the day. That’s the kind of kid he is. He’ll rebound from this, and when it’s all said and done, he’ll be atop of the podium in February (at state).”
Park Hill sophomore Spencer Eastwood also scored a remarkable victory in the dual with Waukee. In the varsity lineup for his first significant action, Eastwood trailed Dan Blocker 14-0 in their 132 match before reversing Blocker to his back and pinning him with 31 seconds left.
Park Hill went on to win the dual 51-12.
“I was just trying to get some points on the board, and I ended up pinning him,” Eastwood said. “It gives me a lot of confidence. You just have to fight the whole match.”
In the Red Division, Park Hill South placed fifth, one spot behind Park Hill’s JV.
The two teams faced off head-to-head with Park Hill’s JV winning four of the 10 contested matches. However, Park Hill South’s four open slots cost the Panthers the dual.
Park Hill’s JV ultimately lost to Blue Springs South 48-30 in the third-place match of the Red Division, while Park Hill South won the fifth-place match 39-27 against Excelsior Springs.
Park Hill South senior Ring Deng (195) went 5-0 in his matches, while freshman Jakob LeBar (160) went 3-0 but did not wrestle in the final two duals after apparently suffering an injury.
Park Hill’s JV had three undefeated wrestlers, including David Ambriz (220), Tucker Eastwood (170) and Brockman (160).