The dual against Kearney didn’t go as expected Friday, Jan. 8 at Park Hill High School but thanks to a pair of wins against returning state finalists, Park Hill beat the Bulldogs 40-24. At 113 pounds, Josh Steele scored a key 8-2 decision early against Kearney’s Clayton Singh, a Class 3 state champion at 106 a year ago, and Jacob Sobbing’s 3-1 win at 195 against 2015 state finalist Zac Courtouise provided the final margin.
Park Hill won the final three matches after Kearney closed within one point.
“I felt like they were kind of just trying to stay in some matches, and they did a good job of that,” Park Hill coach Jeff Davis said. “Josh has worked his tail off; he’s continued to get better. I can’t say enough good things about what he’s been doing lately. Jake is another kid. He’s put a lot of time in. He’s due.”
Park Hill fell behind 9-3 after three matches.
Landon Brown controlled the 285 match to win a 5-0 decision for the Trojans, but that win came sandwiched around a pin for Kearney’s Clayton Mordecai and a 3-2 decision for James Freitag over Park Hill’s Garrett Raynor at 106. Raynor filled in for sophomore returning state medalist Kelvin Eblen, who sat out due to illness.
That brought the dual to Steele, a sophomore and state qualifier at 113 a year ago.
Singh took a 2-0 lead with a takedown in the first period, and he then chose the down position to start the second. Steele turned Singh and the match with a cradle to earn three near-fall points and take a 3-2 lead. In the third period, Steele scored a reversal and then cradled Singh again, holding him on his back until the final whistle of the 8-2 win.
“I knew going in that he was a state champ, and I just needed to give it my all if I wanted to help my team win,” Steele said. “Right when I got the cradle locked up toward the end of the match, I knew I had it locked up. It was a great victory. Beating a state champ — any state champ — is a great victory.”
Park Hill won the next three matches, including a pin for Weston DiBlasi at 126. Spencer Eastwood, a sophomore, added three key points scoring a takedown in a wild late scramble to beat Cody Harding 9-8 at 132 pounds.
Suddenly up 21-9, Kearney won three of the next four to close within 25-24.
Injured to start the season, Lisher — a 2015 state champion in Kansas’ Class 4A for team champion Baldwin — debuted against Dylan Lewis at 160, up a weight from his projected spot in the lineup. Sean Hosford, a two-time state champion wearing a protective mask due to a recently broken nose, went to 152 for Park Hill and beat Chopper Mordecai in a 15-3 major decision.
Lisher and Lewis were tied 2-2 in the second period when Lisher was tumbled off the mat and onto the gym floor to complete a scramble. A few moments later, Lisher returned Lewis to the mat with one of his arms pinned, resulting in an illegal slam and a shoulder injury for Lewis.
Due to the slam, Lewis accepted a forfeit, and Lisher started his season at 0-1.
“I think he’s a little frustrated. The kid’s backing up the entire time, and you know how that goes,” Davis said.
With the lead down to 25-24, Park Hill freshman Devin Winston pinned Matthew Whitthar literally at the third period buzzer to increase the advantage to seven, and Trojans senior Canten Marriott made quick work of fill-in Micah Manser at 182 to seal the win. Due to injury, Kearney’s Andrew Buckley didn’t wrestle at 182, canceling a potential third meeting between state finalists.
Sobbing, who missed qualifying for state last season, scored perhaps the best win of his career, scoring an escape and takedown during the second period against Courtouise for all of his points. Courtouise managed an escape in the third period but couldn’t find a tying takedown late, allowing Park Hill to close out the dual in impressive fashion.
“Especially with a couple of what I’d call frustrations, it was a good way to bounce back,” Marriott said.
Park Hill improved to 9-3 on the season with all three losses to out of state competition at The Clash, held in Minnesota the previous week.
Despite Hosford, Eblen and freshman Blake Hopson missing time due to illness, the Trojans have survived the toughest portion of their schedule, although a big week looms. They host Platte County on Thursday, Jan. 14 in a matchup of nationally ranked teams and neighboring school districts before traveling to the Capital City Invitational this weekend for a first look of the season against Jefferson City, ranked No. 1 in Class 4 according to missouriwrestling.com.
Ranked No. 3 according to missouriwrestling.com, Park Hill — three-time defending state champions — started the week with a dual against Liberty North on Tuesday, Dec. 12, but the result was not available at The Citizen’s deadline.
“We’ve learned what we need to work on,” said Marriott, a Class 4 state champion at 160 last season with just one loss so far this season. “We have a big week coming up, and we’ll make adjustments after that one, too.
“We can be a pretty terrifying team if it all falls into place.”