KANSAS CITY, Kan. — With a knee probably throbbing more than he would let on, Matthew Schmitt looked as comfortable as ever.
Platte County’s senior three-time state champion and four-time finalist confidently bounced on the balls of his feet after each successive takedown in his 126-pound match Tuesday, March 8 in the 24th Metro Classic dual. His 17-7 major decision against Blue Valley Northwest’s Sam Elliott gave Missouri the lead for good in the annual dual matching up top seniors from the Kansas City metro area on either side of the state line.
Missouri went on to a 40-17 win on the campus of Kansas City Kansas Community College — the fourth straight victory for the Show-Me State, increasing its lead in the all-time series to 16-8.
“You know what? I knew we were going to win this dual,” said Schmitt, one of only three four-time finalists and one of four three-time champions in Platte County history of his win that put Missouri up 7-3. “I had confidence in this team. I just wanted to go out and score as many points as I could. I felt like I did so.
“Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get the pin, but I scored 17 points. That’s good in my book.”
Five wrestlers from Platte County and Park Hill were in the lineup with a combined 19 state medals and 12 state championships.
Platte County’s Ethan Karsten and Johnny Blankenship scored two of the three pins in 15 matches wrestled, and Park Hill’s Sean Hosford and Canten Marriott added decisive decisions. In all, Platte County and Park Hill accounted for five of Missouri’s 10 wins, and all came during a stretch of eight wins in nine matches that left Kansas with an insurmountable deficit.
The run started with Schmitt in the third match, the team score tied 3-3.
Wrestling with a taped left knee stemming from an injury suffered in the Class 3 District 4 championship last month, Schmitt ended up with eight takedowns in the first two periods, while all seven of Elliott’s points came via escape. Elliott, a 2014 Class 6A state champion and three-time medalist, controlled from the top position for much of the third period but never posed much of a threat.
“I don’t think about (the knee),” Schmitt said of his injury which will require further evaluation with the wrestling season completed. “I’m not going to use it as an excuse. I think some rest would do it good, but when I go out there, I don’t care if my arm’s broken. I’m going to go out and wrestle like I always do.”
Karsten’s victory in the first of two 145 matches ended up much more adventurous.
Like Schmitt a three-time state champion, Karsten raced to a 12-3 lead in the first period behind a couple of throws that put St. Mary’s Corey Tyler to his back twice. Karsten came out animated and playing to an increasingly animated crowd but ended up expending a lot of energy with his early theatrics.
In the second period, Tyler nearly ended up with a pin during a scramble, and a visibly winded Karsten took some injury time to catch his breath. With his lead down to 15-9, Karsten caught Tyler, who went undefeated on his way to a second Class 3-2-1A state title this season, in one more headlock and squeezed long enough and hard enough to get a second period pin.
“It’s always the goal to entertain,” Karsten said. “I wanted to put on a show — not the way I did — but I got the job done, got six for the team, got to be happy.”
Kansas’ crowd in a mostly packed gymnasium lustily booed Karsten throughout the match. He cut his celebration short and ended up spending ample recovery time before reflecting on a match that resembled more of a WWE audition than folkstyle wrestling.
“I haven’t ever done that, but I didn’t prepare at all for this,” Karsten said. “I took my opponent really, really lightly, and I shouldn’t have done that. He deserved more respect than I gave him.”
Hosford followed in the second 145 match.
A late addition to the lineup, Hosford scored two points in each period of a 6-2 decision against Tyler Hensley of St. James Academy — a takedown in each of the first two periods and a reversal in the third. The three-time state champion’s technically sound win quited down the crowd and extended Missouri’s lead to 19-7.
“It was pretty fun to watch, though, for sure,” Hosford said of following Karsten’s pin. “I should’ve put way more points on the board. I should’ve been more offensive and kept putting points on the board instead of just sitting back. I enjoyed it, and I’m glad I got invited.
“I’m not a fan of Kansas people so I liked beating them.”
Blankenship ended up with the next bonus-point win.
A two-time state champion and three-time finalist, Blankenship led Shawnee Mission North’s Cesar Salgado 3-1 early in the second period of the 160 match. Blankenship then pounced on a mistake at the edge of the mat, locking in a cradle that he turned into a pin, getting the fall slightly faster than Karsten and doing so without injury timeouts.
Platte County’s three wins in the first nine matches accounted for 15 points in Missouri’s 28-7 lead.
“I just had to make sure mine was quicker than Ethan’s. Had to get at least that over him,” Blankenship said with a laugh. “It was great to go out on top with Matthew and Ethan. We’ve been doing this our whole life. It was great, bittersweet.”
Marriott followed with a 7-3 decision at 170, giving Missouri what ended up its largest lead of the night at 31-7. Kansas won the next three matches to close within 14 but lost the final two, including Ali’i Loyola of Lee’s Summit’s pin at 220.
Missouri ended up with a 23-point win, tied for the fourth largest in the series’ history and the largest for either team since Missouri won 50-7 in 2004.
“We’ve been training for two weeks for this,” said Marriott, a four-time state medalist and 2015 state champion who finished third in Class 4 at 170 this season. “We definitely came together as a team first practice, and the coaches sat us down, told us what our goals were as a team. I think we just won our sixth out of the past seven.”