Park Hill might have received the motivation needed to start the stretch run in search of a fifth straight Class 4 Missouri State Wrestling Championships team title.
In the highly competitive Winnetonka Invitational over the weekend, the Trojans finished second to chief rival Staley — by just six points. Each team put five in the finals, while Park Hill ended up with two individual champions (junior Weston DiBlasi and sophomore Devin Winston) to Staley’s one in what became a two-team race very early on Friday, Jan. 20.
Park Hill made it close straight to the finish despite its only returning state champion remaining out of the lineup, an injury to junior Josh Steele and a bizarre scenario at 220 pounds.
The Winnetonka Invitational annually brings in teams from across the state, often creating a small Class 4 state preview with many of the chief challengers in the field. Park Hill picked up some impressive individual victories, and despite finishing second, the Trojans showed again what still makes them the state favorite.
Park Hill ended up with eight total medalists — nine if you count junior varsity wrestlers.
Winston backed up his No. 1 ranking at 170 in understated fashion, pinning Staley’s Jacob Williams in the third period of their semifinal before meeting North Kansas City’s John Joe Sanchez in the final. Sanchez, unranked, made the final with No. 2-ranked Austin Stofer of Lafayette (Wildwood) dropping down to 160, and Winston controlled a 10-2 major decision for the title.
DiBlasi pinned his way into the 126 final to set up a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup.
Down 4-2 in the second period, DiBlasi came back to take an 8-6 lead on Rockhurst senior Cameron Valdiviez, a returning undefeated state champion at 120 and three-time Class 4 state medalist. The bizarre ending saw Valdiviez hit for a penalty point for leaving the mat to grab a water bottle from the stands.
DiBlasi, a state finalist at 126 as a sophomore losing to Collin Valdiviez in the title match, went on to win 11-6, improving his record to 24-3.
Thomas Lisher (152), Ashton Sharp (195) and Landen Brown (285) also reached the finals for Park Hill. Sharp, a freshman ranked No. 5, lost for the second time in little more than a week against No. 1 Zach Elam of Staley in the final, while No. 2 Zane Shaddox of Liberty pinned Brown in the first period of the 285 match.
With one of the upsets of the tournament, Lisher scored valuable team points with his semifinal victory.
Oak Park senior Hunter Shelton, a three-time Class 3 state finalist ranked No. 1 in Class 4 at 152 this year, held a 4-1 lead after the first period against Lisher, who was on the defensive for much of the match. With about a minute left in regulation, Lisher ripped Shelton to his back for a five-point move to take a 7-5 lead.
Shelton narrowly avoided the fall and then escaped with 32 seconds left but could not find a winning takedown in a 7-6 loss by decision.
Lisher went on to lose a 9-0 major decision to Eureka’s Alec Hagan, No. 2 at 152, in the final.
Park Hill didn’t have No. 2-ranked Kelvin Eblen again at 113. The junior returning state champion at 106 has not wrestled since before Christmas with Trey Safford (seventh at Winnetonka) filling his spot in the lineup. Overall, 12 of 14 wrestlers finished in the top six for Park Hill — a group that included Steele, who defaulted to sixth after suffering an injury in a 132 semifinal loss to Staley’s David Berryman.
Trey Crawford (106) and Austin Kolvek (120) each finished third for Park Hill, while sophomore Blake Hopson wound up fourth at 160 after a semifinal loss to No. 6 Brett Heil of Blue Springs and a 4-2 loss to Stofer in the third-place match. Hopson beat Heil earlier in the week in overtime of a dual match.
In another reversal from a previous result, Crawford lost a pool matchup to Staley’s Khyler Brewer. Crawford moved to No. 3 in the most recent rankings after upsetting Brewer in a dual between the state’s top two ranked teams, but Brewer won the rematch 7-5.
Crawford then lost to No. 1 Jeremiah Reno of Liberty in the semifinals (7-2 decision) before coming back to beat Seckman’s Jack Wrocklage for the second time in the tournament in the third-place match. Kolvek’s lone loss came to No. 2 Cameron Fusco of Seckman in a 120 semifinal.
Park Hill ended up with nine medals after freshman Johnny Wilson battled into the third-place match after finishing second in his pool. Competing for the Trojans’ junior varsity, Wilson beat senior teammate Nate Smith 5-3 in double overtime along the way.
Wilson lost his first bracket match before beating Eureka’s Alec Acinelle (fall) and Staley’s Tyler Miller (3-1 decision) to make the third-place match, which he lost to Nixa’s Oswaldo Garcia. Smith ended up ninth.
Park Hill South brought just seven wrestlers and wound up 14th in the field of 24 teams.
Three placed in the top seven individually with Carter Thomas — a 2015 Class 4 state qualifier — benefiting from Steele’s injury. A medical forfeit put Thomas in the fourth place match at 132, which he lost by fall in the third period against Lafayette’s Cameron Wegener.
Thomas is just 4-3 on the season.
Andrew Mikuls (15-11) was sixth at 138 with losses to Nixa’s Jordan Eli, Staley’s Blake Berryman and Park Hill’s Aidan Johnson, who won the fifth-place match 10-4. Gage Baska, a freshman for Park Hill South, was seventh with a win against Staley’s Brandon Borlinghaus in their final match of the tournament.
Parker Rotterman won Mid-Buchanan’s only individual title and helped the Dragons tie for fourth in the final team standings Saturday, Jan. 21 in Lathrop, Mo.
A senior at North Platte, Rotterman breezed through his 152 pool with two pins in matches lasting a combined 1 minute, 23 seconds and a medical forfeit. In the final, Rotterman (25-7) won a 23-8 technical fall over Lathrop’s Peyton Wolfe, finishing the match in the final minute of the third period.
Mid-Buchanan scored 158 points to match Stanberry.