COLUMBIA, Mo. — A perfect Friday morning had Park Hill positioned pretty well in a quest for another state championship.
The Trojans had seven wrestlers reach the quarterfinals after Day 1 of the 88th Annual MSHSAA State High School Wrestling Championships and all seven of them posted wins to move into the semifinals.
Park Hill went 3-4 in that round, but still hung around at the top of the Class 4 standings until the very end.
The Trojans were down by 2½ points to Christian Brothers College of St. Louis heading into the finals, but the Cadets had more in the finalist that won championships to secure the Class 4 crown with 155½ points, while Park Hill came in second with 142 points and 2017 state champion Staley was third with 118 points.
It marked the first time since 1998 that a team outside of the Kansas City metro area claimed a championship.
The Trojans finished with seven medalists and Josh Steele won the state championship in his first and only appearance in the finals.
Two other Park Hill wrestlers took second, while four wrestled their way to a third-place finish.
Blake Hopson (170 pounds) and Devin Winston (182) joined Steele in the finals Saturday night, Feb. 17, at Mizzou Arena.
Hopson went up against Missouri signee Jeremiah Kent from Columbia Hickman and the hometown wrestler won 14-8 against Hopson, who finished the year 43-10.
The No. 3-ranked Hopson trailed 6-3 after the first period and the deficit grew to five after two periods.
Hopson reached the finals by pinning No. 6-ranked Xavier Doolin of North Kansas City in the third period. The match was tied at 4 in the third period, but Hopson — who took third last year at 160 — was up 6-5 at the time of the pin with 23 seconds left.
Winston, a defending state champion, faced off against another defending state champion in CBC’s DJ Shannon in the 182 title. Winston saw his undefeated season end with a 3-2 loss to Shannon, a West Virginia signee who is listed as being from Belleville, Ill. on the Mountaineers announcement. The win gave Shannon his third state title.
Winston (44-1) was tied at 1 with Shannon, but gave up a takedown with 56 seconds left in the second period and he never could get the tying or go-ahead points.
Winston’s road to the finals included a 15-12 decision against Eureka’s Kyle Dickhaus, the reigning 182 champion, in the semifinals.
Freshman Ethen Miller (120), senior Weston DiBlasi (126), junior Austin Kolvek (138) and sophomore Ashton Sharp (195) all took third for the Trojans, ranked No. 2 by MissouriWrestling.com in Class 4 — behind CBC — and No. 23 in the nation according to InterMatWrestling.com rankings.
Miller (39-9) lost to eventual state champion Vinnie Zerban of CBC in the semifinals, 11-5, but won his next two matches. The No. 3-ranked Miller topped No. 4-ranked Jaylen Carson of Lafayette Wildwood, 4-2, in the third-place match.
“It is pretty good to end with a win,” said Miller, who beat two returning state medalists in Carson and Marquette’s Jack Lenox. “I thought I could’ve finished first just things happens sometimes. You have to work and through it and not get down.”
The final win for Miller provided a bit of revenge after falling to Carson, 5-2, in the semifinals of the Winnetonka Tournament last month.
DiBlasi lost to runner-up Cameron Fusco of Seckman in the semifinals, 5-2, but beat Fox’s Dylan Looney in 46 seconds and then posted 1-0 win against Liberty’s Kage Lenger in the third-place match to finish with a 46-3 mark on the year.
“The end is weird,” said DiBlasi, who recently de-committed from Iowa State. “I have been at high school state for as long as I can remember, I think I was 3, the first time I came. It is weird those were my final minutes on a high school mat.”
Austin Kolvek ended with a win last year to take fifth and ended with a win this year, taking third to move up on the podium. Kolvek won his first two matches before losing to Parkway South’s Garret Kloeppel, 9-4, in the semifinals.
Down 5-0 after the second period, the No. 3-ranked Kolvek pulled within 6-4 in the third period.
Kolvek (48-7) won by a 19-4 tech fall against Ray-Pec’s Garrett LaBelle and then won 6-5 against No. 4-ranked Caleb Conedera of Wentzville Timberland.
Sharp (21-3) won two close matches, but dropped a third in the semifinals on the way to his third-place finish. The sophomore, now a two-time third-place finisher, led 2-1 against Jack Flynn of Francis Howell in the semifinals, but gave up a reversal in the final seconds to lose 3-2. He came back by beating two familiar foes — Austin Wegener of Lafayette Wildwood for the second time in the tournament and then dispatched Nixa’s Donovan Benetti in overtime, 5-2, for his second win. Benetti entered with a 48-0 record but lost to Sharp in the quarterfinals, 3-2.
“I know in my heart, I could’ve done better,” Sharp said. “I was right there with the state champ (Flynn) and the last few seconds he got a reversal. I can’t say he is lucky, he got it and he scored. If I would’ve done everything I could’ve, the match wouldn’t have been close.”
A year prior, a 3-2 score kept Sharp from getting a state title as he lost to Jude Barrett of Columbia Hickman in the quarterfinals. Sharp wrestled his way back to take third and finish 30-11.
“This was a building block for not just next year, but for the whole career,” Sharp said of the loss to Flynn, who finished a perfect 47-0. “It was a big learning experience. I was that close and I didn’t get it done. I could’ve been a three-time (champ) and now I’m stuck with two third-place medals.
“That is part of the learning experience. If I would’ve won, I wouldn’t have learned anything. I take more from losing that match than if I would’ve won it. I learned a lot about myself and me, as a wrestler.”
Sharp intends to stay at 195 next year and challenge for the state crown again.