Area schools gear up for district meets

The win-or-go home time of the season is present for the schools in Platte County as this weekend marks the start of competition in the MSHSAA wrestling postseason.

Step one in the two-tier format is to be one of the top four wrestlers in each weight class and then, you earn a much coveted berth in the MSHSAA State Wrestling Championships.

 CODY THORN/Citizen photo Platte County’s Matthew Knopp, right, battles Warrensburg’s Tanner Karnes in the 285-pound title match at the Platte County Pirates Invitational earlier this year. Knopp is one of seven Pirates with experience at the state level.

CODY THORN/Citizen photo
Platte County’s Matthew Knopp, right, battles Warrensburg’s Tanner Karnes in the 285-pound title match at the Platte County Pirates Invitational earlier this year. Knopp is one of seven Pirates with experience at the state level.

Platte County is in a loaded field in Class 3 District 4, which will be hosted at Winnetonka High School. Competition starts at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 9 with the first four rounds and then resumes at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 10.

The 15-team field will be a tough one as usual and the Pirates are well aware if they can prove they belong in this district, they will have a legitimate chance at bringing home a trophy the following weekend in Columbia.

Last year’s Class 3 team standings at state were dotted by teams from C3D4 — with Smithville taking second, Kearney finishing third and Grain Valley taking the final team trophy in fourth. Platte County took fifth, followed by Belton. Add in Raytown South and Warrensburg, seven of the 15 teams in the districts were also seven of the top 15 teams in the state standings.

“This is probably the toughest district in Class 3,” Platte County junior Nolan Saale said. “At least four of the top five teams from this district, year in and year out, are from here. That says a lot to come out of this district.”

In the 2016 state finals, seven of the top 13 teams were from this district and year prior five of the top 15 were from the district.

Based on the team rankings on MissouriWrestling.com, this district has four of the top five teams. Defending state champion Neosho is one, followed by Kearney, Platte County, Belton and Smithville.

Cody Phippen is the lone returning district champion for the Pirates, who have five wrestlers in the top six individual rankings on MissouriWrestling.com. Of the 14 wrestlers that will compete in districts, seven have been to state before.

The only change for the Pirates in the lineup the past few weeks will be Nick Maddux  returning at 113.

After a loss to Kearney, Platte County closed the year winning five straight duals.

“I feel like we are ready to go and we have improved on things the past month,” Platte County coach Reggie Burress said. “We will carry them over to district. We are excited for district week. Now is the time to prove yourself. No one cares about your record or your accolades. They will want to beat you like you want to beat them.”

According to the MissouriWrestling.com’s Class 3 rankings, all 14 weight classes at districts will have at least one wrestler in the top six. The 126, 132, 145, 182 and 195 pound weight classes features four of the top six wrestlers in the state ranking battling for one of four spots to go to state finals.

On top of that, 120, 138, 170 and 285 will have three state-ranked foes in the field.

“Our competition in this district is really hard,” said Platte County junior Nick Filger, who will wrestle at 145.

Class 4 District 4

Just how good is the Class 4 District 4 field?

It is a very good bet that one team from the 15-school grouping will claim a state championship.

On paper — or a computer screen — the district has the No. 1-ranked team in the state in Park Hill according to MissouriWrestling.com, while Staley and Liberty are tied for No. 5 in the rankings.

The Trojans are ranked No. 23 in the latest InterMat High School rankings. The only other Missouri team in the top 50 is Christian Brothers College from St. Louis, which is 29.

Staley is the defending state champion, while Park Hill was the runner-up after winning the previous four Class 4 crowns.

Overall, this district has had the state champions in it all the way back to 2003, when Park Hill won the crown.

Since then, Oak Park (2004-2008), Park Hill (2009-10) and Blue Springs (2011-12) also won state champions. In 2008, the top three teams in the state hailed from this district.

The toughness in individual weight classes will be no different. In the state rankings, the district has at least one wrestler ranked in 13 of the 14 classes. No. 1-ranked wrestlers includes Blue Springs’ Korbin Shepherd (106), Liberty’s Jeremiah Reno (113), Liberty’s Grayden Penner (160), Park Hill’s Devin Winston (182) and Staley’s Zach Elam (220).

Park Hill has eight wrestlers ranked heading into districts.

Competition starts at 5:30 p.m. on Friday and resumes at 10 a.m. on Saturday.

Class 1 District 4

West Platte and Mid-Buchanan — with two North Platte wrestlers — will compete in the district tournament in Plattsburg.

The field features No. 6-ranked Lawson and No. 10 Lathrop.