Well, mostly full strength.
With all of the projected starters finally together, the Trojans showed their potential during a runaway to the team title Saturday, Feb. 14 at Blue Springs High School. They qualified a program-record 11 for the Class 4 Missouri State Championships with six individual district titles, a group that includes three two-time defending state champions hoping to secure a third straight state team title.
“Eleven is great,” said Park Hill senior Colston DiBlasi, who won the 170-pound bracket. “Any time you get double digits is a good looking state tournament. Districts is not a whole big tournament as long as you get top four. It doesn’t matter where you fall in the bracket because you have to beat everyone to win. We just have to wrestle.”
Park Hill’s state-bound bunch includes junior Sean Hosford, who returned to the mat this weekend after more than two months out with a broken leg. A state champion at 106 as a freshman and 120 last year, he incurred the injury in December during the Ironman Classic — one of the nation’s top high school season tournaments.
Wrestling at 160 because he was unable to certify at 145 prior to the injury, Hosford went 2-2, losing a 7-2 decision in a semifinal against Raytown’s Josh Drake and placing fourth after defaulting out of the third-place match.
“It felt good,” Hosford said. “It felt good that I could help the team out. I felt good that I made it to state; that was the main goal, just to make it. It was a pretty long road. I broke it on Dec. 12 and I just started practicing last Saturday.
“I need to get my lungs in shape. I’m not really in shape yet but I’ve got another week to work on it.”
Overall, Park Hill placed 13 in the semifinals, and all 14 were alive entering the consolation semifinal round, needing just one win to earn a state berth.
Kelvin Eblen (106), Ethan Koan (120) Weston DiBlasi (126), Ke-Shawn Hayes (138) and Canten Marriott (152) joined Colston DiBlasi as district champions, while Hunter Roberts lost the 132 final by default. Down 5-0 to Blue Springs South’s Sam Hampton (48-0), Roberts became visibly sick and eventually could not continue.
Marriott and Hayes enter state unbeaten, but both missed the Ironman due to injury.
A junior, Marriott was the only upperclassmen to win his first district title, and he enters the state at 30-0. He earned a third-place medal as a freshman at 132 and a fourth-place medal last season at 145 and now also seeks his first state finals appearance and championship this season.
“It’s the first time I’ve done it at the district level,” Marriott said. “It’s nice to get over that hump. I was just more confident in my abilities. I need to keep believing in myself, staying confident, just believing in what I can do.”
Hayes and Colston DiBlasi (two-time state champions and three-time medalists) and Koan, Marriott and Roberts (two-time medalists) provide championship experience, while Eblen and Weston DiBlasi are freshmen with potential to earn medals in their first try.
Last season, Park Hill bested Rock Bridge by just six points. The Trojans collected six medals — three titles, a runner-up and two fourth-place finishes — and only John Erneste (second at 126) was lost to graduation.
“I think it’s outstanding for us (to have 11 guys going),” Park Hill coach Jeff Davis said. “We’ve got guys who are going to score points, obviously. If we get all 11 scoring points, it’s going to be a good situation for our boys at the state tournament. All we have to do is get them scoring points.”
Josh Steele (fourth at 113), Lucky Brockman (third at 145) and Hosford gave Park Hill a perfect start to the consolation semifinal round.
Emmerson Gardener — a state qualifier last year who finished 1 match short of the medals — gave Park Hill its 11th and final qualifier at 220 pounds. Trojans senior Anthony Enriquez, a two-time state qualifier, two tight decisions to miss out on a third straight trip — one in the semifinals to St. Joseph Central’s Jacob Olson and the other to Ruskin’s Jamal Karriem in the consolation semifinals.
Park Hill South finished 11th out of 15 teams but managed to qualify a pair for state despite a mostly down season.
Now a two-time state qualifier, Dylen Propes lost another close decision to Zach Elam of Staley in the 170 semifinals but came back to reach the third-place match with an 8-1 decision against Fort Osage’s Elias Vaoifi (36-6). Propes ended up fourth after Raytown’s Braden Best pinned him in the second period.
Carter Thomas earned his first state bid with a third-place finish at 113.
After losing to Rockhurst’s Colin Valdiviez in the semifinals, Thomas won two straight on the consolation side, including a 3-1 overtime win with a sudden-victory takedown against Steele. Thomas enters state with a 21-16 record.