A dramatic victory for sophomore Devin Winston gave Park Hill a stunning upset and set the Trojans up to win the title of The Clash XV over the weekend.
Park Hill kept its undefeated season alive with a 34-31 win against No. 2-ranked Buchanan (Calif.) in the opener of the first place round robin Saturday, Dec. 31. In an even more stunning turn of events, Park Hill lost its final duals to No. 3 St. Edward (Ohio) and No. 4 Lake Highland Prep (Fla.), and Buchanan rallied to repeat as champion with two wins.
Buchanan and St. Edward finished tied at 2-1 with Buchanan taking first on the tiebreaker. Park Hill and Lake Highland were both 1-2 with Lake Highland’s head-to-head win leaving Park Hill in first place despite its win over the tournament champion.
Park Hill went 4-2 overall in the tournament facing four nationally ranked teams.
“I believed in our kids from the start of it,” Park Hill coach Jeff Davis said to trackwrestling.com, “but I knew it was going to be a tough task for us.”
Park Hill, which entered ranked No. 24 in the nation according to InterMat Wrestle, advanced to the first place round robin by topping Bracket D with a win against No. 21 Oak Park River Forest (Ill.) on Friday night.
In the round robin opposite the three tournament favorites, Park Hill quickly made a statement against Buchanan. The Trojans trailed 12-6 after three matches when Landen Brown started a run of three straight big victories with a pin in the 285 match.
Trey Crawford, a freshman, followed with a 12-4 major decision at 106 for Park Hill, and Trey Safford, filling in for junior defending Missouri state champion Kelvin Eblen, pinned Buchanan’s Josh Poore in the second period to put the Trojans ahead 22-12.
Buchanan won five of the next six matches, the lone exception Josh Steele’s 3-0 decision at 132 pounds. The Bears were up 31-25 with two matches left when Park Hill’s Blake Hopson won a 5-0 decision at 160 pounds.
Park Hill needed at least a decision from Winston at 170 to force a tiebreaker scenario. He trailed 2-0 late in the first period when he reversed Buchanan’s Jake Levatino to his back in the final seconds, nearly scoring the winning pin.
Instead, Winston held a 7-2 lead late in the third period with the dual apparently headed for a tiebreaker.
Winston again turned Levatino to his back and this time recorded the fall at 5:31 to give the Trojans the upset. A Missouri State Wrestling Championships qualifier as a freshman who finished without a medal, Winston went 6-0 over the two days of The Clash.
“Devin’s that kind of kid,” Davis told trackwrestling.com. “He’s usually going to rise up. He had a rough state tournament last year, and I think this was a huge breakthrough for him.
“It was an emotional high. It was incredible.”
The second dual didn’t go the same way.
St. Edward, ranked No. 3, won eight decisions — four of them by one or two points — and opened with a 41-0 lead. Park Hill had already lost the dual by the time Thomas Lisher won a major decision at 152 with Winston scoring a pin two matches later for the Trojans’ final points.
Going into the final dual, Park Hill not only needed to beat Lake Highland but also run up a huge margin of victory to have a chance at winning the team tiebreaker.
“Those guys (for St. Edward) are tough,” Davis told trackwrestling.com. “They are very solid and very basic. We were coming off that win against Buchanan, had that high and had a little bit of a letdown.”
With Brown injured in his 285 match against St. Edward, Davis shuffled his lineup.
Johnny Wilson, a freshman, bumped to 285 and won a 7-5 decision, and Crawford followed with a pin at 106 to put Park Hill up 9-6. The Trojans wouldn’t lead again but were briefly tied after Weston DiBlasi’s pin in 40 seconds at 126.
Carter Goslee (6-1 decision at 145), Lisher (pin at 152) and Winston (15-1 major decision at 170) closed the gap to 29-28 with two matches to go. Lake Highland’s Bryce Rogers, ranked No. 6 in the nation at 170, was headed toward a technical fall against TJ Hullaby in the 182 match when he scored the pin with 1:05 left in the third period to secure the dual win and third place for the Highlanders.
Shortly after, Buchanan finished off its big win over St. Edward to clinch the team title.
In the 32-team field, Park Hill was the top No. 2 seed in the four brackets on Friday. The Trojans scored big wins over Pewaukee (Wisc.) (54-16) and Albert Lea (Minn.) (42-15) in the first two rounds, never trailing in either dual after building big early leads.
In the Bracket D title match, Winston opened with an 8-4 decision against Oak Park River Forest’s Drew Matticks, and the No. 24 Trojans and the No. 21-ranked Huskies split the first four decisions. Hullaby lost in an ultimate tiebreaker at 182 before Sharp won 5-2 in the sudden death tiebreaker period at 195.
Brown (fall at 285) and Crawford (2-1 decision at 106) put Park Hill back ahead for good, and Steele (decision at 138), Goslee (decision at 145) and Lisher (pin at 152) won three straight to put the dual away.