After scoring a pin in the third period of the Class 3 126-pound championship match, the Platte County junior pointed up to the large contingent of Pirates fans and urged a few extra cheers out of them. He then stuck out his tongue with the referee holding his arm aloft on the mat at Mizzou Arena after winning his third straight individual title at Missouri State Wrestling Championships.
“This one ended the way I wanted it to,” Schmitt said. “I got him on his back and finished him off, so just the emotions from that alone is awesome. And then you’ve got our team doing great out here this weekend; we’re going to come in second, and this second title feels pretty good.”
Indeed, Platte County did finish second in the final team standings, winning the program’s first Class 3 trophy to add another distinction for an already distinguished program.
Neosho won its fifth title in six years after placing 10 in the quarterfinals, nine in the semifinals and six in the finals, taking the intrigue away early on the Pirates’ potential chase for an eighth team championship. Neosho scored 229 points — fifth-best all time in a state tournament.
Platte County’s weekend played out a lot like 2014.
For the second straight year, the Pirates claimed five medals, and they accrued more than 100 team points for the third year running. This time, the 112½ — just 2 more than last season — were good enough for a trophy after coming in fifth in 2013 and 2014.
“Just because we didn’t get first isn’t the end of the world,” Schmitt said. “This is our first trophy since 2010 (Class 2 state championship), first one ever in Class 3. Starting out with a second? That’s not bad.”
Schmitt, Ethan Karsten (145) and Johnny Blankenship (160) — all juniors and defending champions — predictably led the way for Platte County. All three reached the finals with Schmitt and Karsten collecting their second straight titles with a chance next year to become the third and fourth three-time state champions in Pirates history.
The biggest surprise came with senior Caleb Crabtree ousted after only three matches.
A two-time medalist, Crabtree lost a 2-1 decision to Neosho’s Isaac Townsend in the opening round. He came back to win his first match in wrestlebacks but lost a 5-3 decision to Chaminade’s Norman Conley on Friday morning. Crabtree finished at 42-13 this season after placing third at 132 in 2013 and finishing as runner-up at 138 last year.
Overall, nine of Platte County’s 10 qualifiers won at least one match, but only the three finalists reached the semifinals, helping Neosho cruise to the title.
“I’m glad our whole team stayed fighting,” said Platte County senior Adam Muehlebach, who finished fifth at 195. “I know some people got knocked out early who weren’t supposed to, but they stayed fighting the whole time. Everyone did a good job. I’m glad we did this.”
Platte County didn’t even need the titles to assure second.
Now a three-time finalist, Schmitt topped second-ranked Tyler Lawson of Webster Groves in the semifinals with a 15-7 major decision and looked even better in the championship. Up against Rolla sophomore Tristan Barr, Schmitt took a big lead and then found the opening late to stack up his opponent for the pin with just 4 seconds left — his 37th consecutive victory to finish the year at 48-2.
With losses to three nationally ranked foes this season, Karsten (52-3) experienced more trouble.
While the crowd gave a standing ovation to Father Tolton Catholic senior and Missouri’s second four-time undefeated state champion after his win on an adjacent mat, Karsten managed to build a 4-3 lead in his 145 final against Braden Danner, a freshman for Harrisonville who put him to his back during a Class 3 District 4 semifinal the previous week.
Danner scored a reversal in the third period to go up one, but Karsten answered with a reversal of his own in the final 30 seconds to score a 6-5 win. He calmly walked off the mat, clearly relieved to avoid the scare and in stark contrast to his jubilant outburst after knocking off three-time state champion Noah Teaney 4-2 in overtime of the 132 final last season.
“Crowd loved it, so whatever,” Karsten said of his flair for the dramatic while flashing a wry smile before seriously addressing the situation after the match. “I’ve got a lot of kids looking up to me on our team, and it puts a lot of pressure on my shoulders, you know? It’s hard; it’s really hard, but that’s what leaders do.
“You’ve got to get the job done.”
Blankenship (50-7) didn’t join the repeat club minutes later.
In a rematch with Neosho senior Sam Williams, Blankenship fell behind early and never truly recovered. He closed within 9-2 with a takedown in the third period before giving up an escape and another takedown in a 12-2 major decision loss. Williams won the previous matchup with Blankenship in overtime during the fifth-place match at the Kansas City Stampede back in December.
Blankenship, Karsten and Schmitt all became three time medalists. Muehlebach won his second straight, while fellow senior Louden Bredeson took home his first — also becoming the first of three brothers to finish top six at state for Platte County.
Trey Dockery (132), Tyler Blankenship (182) and Casey Jumps (220)reached the consolation third round and wound up one win shy of a medal. After a 5-4 loss in to eventual runner-up Christian Robertson of Branson in their quarterfinal, Jumps came the closest, going to ultimate tiebreaker to defeat Kearney’s Cale Garrett in his first wrestleback match. Clearly drained from the lengthy bout, Jumps gave up a late stalling call that tied his match later the same night against Farmington’s Devin Savage, who scored the winning takedown in the closing seconds for a 6-4 decision.
A second-time qualifier, Bredeson went 3-3, including a pair of 3-2 decisions in wrestlebacks to assure his spot on the medal stand. He finished the season 29-24.
Muehlebach, sixth at 182 last year, endured an 8-5 first round loss to Warrenton’s Jacob Manion but came back to win three straight and reach the medal rounds. After a loss to Neosho’s Christopher Hailey, Muehlebach scored a pin in the final match of his career.
That victory pushed Platte County past the important 100-point mark and all but assured the team trophy, a historic event this year’s group can always claim as its own.
“It’s always good to be there. I won’t ever forget this — definitely a life-changing experience,” Muehlebach said.