KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Park Hill qualified a school record 13 for the Class 4 Missouri State Wrestling Championships. The Trojans put nine in the finals of the Class 4 District 4 Tournament.
Still not enough to continue an impressive run of postseason success.
For the first time since 2007, Park Hill didn’t come away with a district title Saturday, Feb. 11 at Oak Park High School. The Trojans ended up with 256 points — just two back of Staley and its 13 state qualifiers — in what turned out to be a memorable showdown between the state’s top two teams.
Park Hill went just 3-for-9 in championship matches. Devin Winston, a sophomore, won his second straight district title, while sophomore Austin Kolvek dominated the 120-pound bracket for his first and freshman Johnny Wilson completed a memorable run at 220 to cap the day.
“I thought we wrestled a really great tournament and was really pleased with our effort and 13 state qualifiers is a record for us at Park Hill so I was really excited about that,” Park Hill coach Jeff Davis said. “There are a lot of things that could have gone different ways for us, but it is what it is.”
For the second time in a month, Park Hill finished second to Staley in a tournament.
The Trojans have won four straight Class 4 state championships and have been in the top three every year since 2007. Both streaks are in jeopardy after a recent turn of events. Having already went to districts without the only defending state champion in the lineup, two other returning state medalists no longer appear on the official state brackets posted to Track Wrestling.
Park Hill’s district placings remain intact, but juniors Weston DiBlasi (126) and Josh Steele (132) have been removed from the state field with the District 4 third- and fourth-place finishers at those weights shifted up in seeding.
The fourth-place spot is now listed as a “bye,” the same as at 120 where Blue Springs’ Isaiah McGee (third in District 4) gone from the bracket.
Going into the place matches at districts, Park Hill led Staley by just a half point in a race that only involved two teams.
Now a two-time state qualifier, Kolvek scored the first win of the round for the Trojans with an important 18-3 technical fall against Staley’s Brandon Borlinghaus in the 120 title match.
However, Park Hill then ended up with runner-up finishes at 126 (DiBlasi), 132 (Steele), 152 (senior Thomas Lisher) and 160 (sophomore Blake Hopson).
DiBlasi (34-4) — a 2016 state finalist at 126 pounds and two-time state medalist — lost a rematch of an earlier victory over Rockhurst senior Colin Valdiviez, who earned a 7-3 decision this time. A two-time state qualifier and medalist at 120 in 2016, Steele (29-8) scored an important pin of Staley sophomore Blake Berryman in a semifinal — his third first period pin of the tournament — but lost 6-0 in the 132 final to undefeated Rockhurst senior Cameron Valdiviez.
Lisher and Hopson also lost rematches in tight decisions.
In the 152 final, Oak Park’s Hunter Shelton avenged his only loss of the season with a 10-2 major decision over Lisher (34-6), who ended up drawing No. 1-ranked Alec Hagan of Eureka for a potential quarterfinal matchup at state that could be huge for Park Hill’s state title hopes.
Lisher previously beat Shelton in the finals of the Winnetonka Invitational, where the Trojans finished second to Staley.
Hopson (29-10) lost for the second time in three matchups against Blue Springs’ Brett Heil in the 160 final. The title match losses hurt seeding for next week but doesn’t change the individual state title hopes for those four along with freshman Trey Crawford (32-6), who lost a 12-0 major decision to top-ranked freshman Jeremiah Reno (40-0).
“We’re going to do the same things we’ve been doing: keep practices short, intense,” Davis said. “We’ve got some guys we’re going to work with on some things here and there and we’re going to keep doing that.”
Winston ended the run of losses in title matches with another big confidence boost.
Ranked No. 1 at 170 in the missouriwrestling.com rankings, Winston (39-1) rolled into the finals with a 12-3 major decision over Chase Schroeder of Truman and then won an 8-3 decision over Staley’s Jacob Williams in the title match. Winston goes into state as an overwhelming favorite after going 0-2 in his freshman debut last year.
“There’s a little bit of pressure because last year I choked,” said Winston, who was ranked No. 1 at 160 a year ago going into state before losing his next two matches. “This year, I’m going in just trying to be focused and not let anything get into my head. Don’t go in nervous, don’t go in thinking I don’t want to lose, just go out there and give it your all and good things will happen.”
Staley held a lead in the standings even after Winston’s head-to-head win, but Park Hill drew closer when senior TJ Hullaby (25-12) — a first-time state qualifier — won the third-place match at 182. He dropped into the consolation bracket after a 9-1 major decision loss against Staley’s Hunter Tessman in a key semifinal.
After Staley’s top-ranked defending state champion Zach Elam pinned Park Hill freshman Ashton Sharp (29-10) in the 195 final, the Trojans needed two big wins in their final two matches to catch the Falcons.
Wilson, a freshman who has split time at 220 with senior Nate Smith this season, pulled the biggest surprise of the tournament. Seeded third, Wilson advanced to the final with a 12-9 decision over Fort Osage senior Nick Wily, who entered ranked No. 3 according to missouriwrestling.com.
In the title match, Wilson (24-10) and Ruskin junior Ikenna Enechukwu were tied 6-6 at the end of regulation. Wilson scored the winning takedown in the 1-minute sudden death overtime period to take the decision over fifth-seeded Enechukwu, who upset top-seeded Cade Cox of Blue Springs in overtime of a semifinal matchup.
Wilson entered the tournament unranked in state.
“I was really excited for Johnny Wilson,” Davis said. “He’s a freshman, 15 years old, and wins a district like this, and it was just an outstanding effort by him.”
Park Hill senior Landen Brown (24-10) — now a two-time state qualifier — ended the day with a 4-2 overtime tiebreaker decision victory against Staley’s Dan Mangold, but the win wasn’t quite enough to overcome Staley’s lead at that point.
“Our boys put us in a pretty good position, and I think it’s going to be a dogfight (at state),” Davis said. “My hats off to them, and congratulations to Staley. It’s outstanding. I’m happy for them and that program, and I hope to beat them next week.”
In all, Park Hill had three champions, six runners-up, three third-place finishes and one fourth.
The Trojans started the final round at 0-2 when sophomore Trey Safford, taking the place of 2016 106 state champion and 2015 106 third-place state finisher Kelvin Eblen, lost the third-place match at 113.
Carter Goslee (22-14), a sophomore and one of eight returning state qualifiers, ended another two-match losing streak for Park Hill in the place matches with his victory in the third-place match at 145.
Park Hill South finished 10th out of 14 teams but did qualify one for state. Carter Thomas (16-9), a junior, makes a state return after placing fourth at 132. He reached the semifinals before losing to Cameron Valdiviez but came back with a pin of his own in the consolation semifinals to earn a second state berth — and first since his freshman season when he went 1-2 at 113.
Thomas was out for districts last year as a sophomore.
Park Hill South 57, Truman 18
The Panthers benefited from five open spots in their Suburban Conference Red Division finale Tuesday, Feb. 7 at Park Hill South High School in Riverside, Mo.
Park Hill South finished 3-2 in league duals with a dominant win, taking six of the eight head-to-head matchups. That included pins for Thomas (132), Andrew Mikuls (138) and Kevin Nollet (160).
In addition, Andre Anderson (145), Cameron Gillespie (170) and Xavier Jackson (195) won tight decisions for Park Hill South.