During the Kansas City Stampede this past weekend, sophomore Cody Phippen and seniors Matthew Schmitt and Ethan Karsten scored head-to-head wins for Platte County on the way to individual championships at Hale Arena. The Pirates ended up fourth in the final team standings on the strength of those titles, finishing one spot in front of Park Hill.
Platte County earned its first team trophy in the prestigious event which attracted 39 teams from across the country this year.
“I’m happy that our kids came and battled and fought,” Platte County coach Reggie Burress said. “But it’s a big positive thing for our kids and for the program as we move forward. I’m proud of every one of them that came here and contributed to the point total. I think every single person got bonus points somewhere along the line to help this team out.”
Phippen, a transfer from Basehor-Linwood (Kan.), scored the last of the big victories against Park Hill.
In the 106-pound final, Phippen scored a takedown in the first period of his matchup with Park Hill sophomore Kelvin Eblen, who placed third in Class 4 at 106 as a freshman. Eblen’s lone point came on a stalling call as time expired against Phippen, a Class 4A runner-up at 106 as a freshman. Phippen pinned his way into the final, cradling up Cale Johnson of Tuttle (Okla.) for a first-period fall in the semifinal.
Platte County came into the 10th annual Stampede with two previous individual champions, and Phippen started the process of doubling that total. Schmitt was the last to win a Stampede bracket (106 in 2013), and became the first two-time champion in program history.
Schmitt held on late to beat Park Hill sophomore Weston DiBlasi 6-5 in a 126 quarterfinal. A two-time Class 3 state champion and three-time finalist, Schmitt didn’t give up another point winning his semifinal with a 9-0 major decision against Conner Ward of Mill Valley (Kan.) and shutting out Mike Brown of Holt in the championship in a 4-0 decision.
Last year, Schmitt lost in the quarterfinals and ended up fifth at Stampede.
“That kind of left a rotten taste in my heart,” Schmitt said. “Coming into this tournament, I was really motivated, just go out there and keep pressure on. This tournament, even though I might not have killed everybody, I felt like I was constantly moving and constantly trying to attack so that was one of my main goals in this tournament was not just win but impose my will on people.
“Overall, I’d say I did a good job.”
Karsten became the fifth Stampede champion for Platte County, winning the 145 bracket after being a runner-up last year at the same weight.
To reach the final, Karsten needed late points in his quarterfinal to top Park Hill senior Sean Hosford, a two-time Class 4 state champion who missed most of last season with a broken leg and didn’t win his third. Karsten won 3-1 against Juwan Robinson of Allen (Texas) in a semifinal thanks to an early takedown, and the championship match ended up being brief.
After avoiding a takedown with a tricky scramble in the first period, Karsten won 5 seconds into the second period when Chris Diaz of Archer (Ga.), team champion at Stampede each of the past two years and second place behind Tuttle this past weekend, couldn’t continue due to a hamstring issue. He first came up lame at the end of the first period before unsuccessfully trying to continue.
“I wrestled well. I didn’t wrestle great; I didn’t wrestle to my ability,” said Karsten, like Schmitt a two-time state champion. “I felt like I was wrestling well in the finals. I felt like I was going to win. I kind of felt him fade. I don’t know. I guess I’m happy I got first. I’d have liked the finals match to be different, though.”
In addition to the champions, Platte County senior Johnny Blankenship (160), junior Casey Jumps (220) and sophomore Dakota Schmidt (170) also medaled (top eight in the Gold Division).
Blankenship recorded his best Stampede finish and just missed a spot in the finals. In a semifinal against Dayton Garrett of Tuttle, Blankenship led 3-2 late when he went into a scramble trying to avoid a takedown. Originally, the referee awarded no points but after a protest from Tuttle’s coach, the call was reversed and Garrett given a takedown with 15 seconds to go.
Garrett held on for the 4-3 win, and Blankenship came back to beat Staley’s Charlie Genioso with a 4-2 decision in the third place match. Blankenship needed a late escape to beat Charlie Bahl of Stillwater (Okla.) in the quarterfinals.
Jumps was Platte County’s fifth quarterfinalist, losing in that round to eventual champion Blake Berryhill of Tuttle. Jumps came back to go 2-1 in his final three matches, the first a pin that guaranteed a medal and the last a pin in the first period that claimed the seventh-place match against Kearney’s Clayton Mordecai.
A part-time varsity wrestler a year ago, Schmidt lost in the round of 16 but won two straight to earn a medal. He lost his final two matches and ended up eighth.
Platte County’s six medalists helped the Pirates compile 239½ team points, 26½ better than fifth-place Park Hill for the top finisher from Missouri. The Pirates also received a first-look at Neosho, the three-time defending state champions in Class 3. The Wildcats were sixth with seven medalists.
Last year, Platte County finished a distant second at state to Neosho, but the Pirates have hopes of closing the gap this season.
“We’ve got those hammers who all want to get that much better, and we feed off of each other,” Karsten said, “because if Schmitt gets better, I have to get better. If I get better, Johnny’s got to get better.
“As a team, my confidence is through the roof. I’ve never been a part of something like this.”
Park Hill also won six medals but advanced just two wrestlers past the quarterfinals.
Canten Marriott reached the 170 final with a 5-3 overtime win against Clay Shiltz of Creston (Iowa) in the semifinal. Marriott then lost his first match since the 2014 Class 4 Missouri State Wrestling championships in a 7-0 decision for Archer’s Daniel Bullard.
A first-time state champion last season, Marriott went undefeated last season but did not compete at Stampede due to injury.
DiBlasi won the remainder of his matches after the loss to Schmitt and took fifth at 126. Hosford also reached the fifth-place match but lost a 5-4 decision to Baylor’s Michael Murphy.
Austin Kolvek (120) and Devin Winston (160) — two members of Park Hill’s standout freshman class — ended up seventh.
Battle of Lexington
Justin Rhodes won an individual title at this tournament for a fourth straight year, taking the 152 bracket Saturday, Dec. 19 in Lexington, Mo.
Improving to 11-0 on the season, Rhodes won four of his seven matches by decision, starting with a 5-3 victory against Gallatin’s Caleb Michael in pool wrestling. Rhodes also beat Mid-Buchanan’s Parker Rotterman 6-0 in the first round of the championship bracket and Andrew Martin of Holden 4-2 in the semifinal.
The championship match against Andrew Edgar of Marceline ended with a 1-0 decision for Rhodes. Edgar is a two-time Class 1 state medalist who finished third at 145 last year, while Rhodes is a two-time Class 1 state finalist.
West Platte ended up 25th out of 37 teams with 109 points.
Only seven wrestlers were in the lineup for the Bluejays, and Mitch Moppin (182) and Dalton Larison (220) both ended up 11th. Both lost three matches.
Lee’s Summit Holiday Invitational
Park Hill South only had seven wrestlers and finished 24th out of 24 teams Saturday, Dec. 19 in Lee’s Summit, Mo. The Panthers only had one wrestler finish in the top eight, and Travis Fisher (195) defaulted to eighth after going 4-1 in his pool.
Platte County 81, Winnetonka 0
The Pirates nearly scored the maximum for points in their Suburban Conference Blue Division opener Wednesday, Dec. 16 at Platte County High School.
Matthew Knopp’s 3-2 overtime victory against Cody Carter in the 285 match represented the only win not by forfeit or fall for Platte County. Knopp scored the tying and winning points on stall warnings after he fell behind 2-0 in the first period.
Only five matches total were wrestled with the four pins evenly split between first and second period wins.