KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Blake Hopson drew the important assignment for leadoff in a dual between nationally ranked foes.
Unfazed, Park Hill’s junior two-time Class 4 Missouri State Wrestling Championships qualifier used takedowns late in the first and second periods and a reversal early in the third to take a 7-1 decision at 170 pounds. The win over Bryce Mattioda of Broken Arrow (Okla.) proved pivotal in Park Hill’s 33-27 win in front of an overflow crowd inside a boisterous upper gymnasium at Park Hill High School.
Hopson’s decision followed with a pin for junior Devin Winston at 182 and sophomore Ashton Sharp’s tiebreaker decision at 195 put Park Hill up 12-0.
“I was pretty comfortable going into it,” said Hopson, a state medalist last year at 160. “I knew I was starting off my team so I knew I had to start off well and get it rolling. I knew I had some good guys behind me so I wanted to take the lead and keep it strong so they could keep the momentum.”
With No. 26-ranked Broken Arrow traveling through the area for a weekend tournament, No. 11-ranked Park Hill found room on the schedule for a unique inter-state clash.
Broken Arrow quickly came back to take a 15-12 lead with consecutive wins against Park Hill’s first-year starters at 220, 285 and 106, but the Trojans took five of the next six matches to secure the win after senior Josh Steele’s dominant 15-0 technical fall in 2 minutes, 57 seconds in the 145 match.
After finishing a disappointing third at state last year, Park Hill showed off its early potential with freshmen Ethen Miller (120) and Grayston DiBlasi (138) making their debuts with impressive victories.
“I thought they did great, but I knew they were going to do great,” said Steele, a three-time state qualifier and 2016 state medalist. “The way that they practice in the wrestling room is unmatched. They are two of the hardest workers in the room.”
Hopson frustrated Mattioda, who ended up being hit with a stalling penalty point in the third period. Winston — a 2017 state champion at 170 — then used his unique style to funk his way to a first period pin to give Park Hill a 9-0 advantage.
Sharp, a state medalist at 195 as a freshman, then came up with the biggest victory. He exchanged escapes with the 2017 Class 6A Oklahoma state champion ending regulation with 1-1 score not telling of the action in the first six minutes.
After receiving treatment for an apparent calf cramp late in regulation, Sharp stayed in the match during a scoreless sudden-death overtime period. Potter scored an escape in the first of two 30-second tiebreaker periods, but Sharp responded with a quick reversal in the second half then held on for the 3-2 win.
“The kid’s a returning state champ, and it’s a huge test,” Park Hill coach Jeff Davis said. “I thought (Sharp) wrestled real well and did a great job.”
With sophomore Johnny Wilson not in the lineup due to a preseason foot injury, Park Hill lost the three straight matchups in an inexperienced part of the lineup.
Trey Crawford — a sophomore and one of seven returning state qualifiers in the lineup to start the season — turned the fortunes again at 113. He blitzed Broken Arrow’s Blazik Perez from the start with a pair of takedowns, turning the second into a fall at the 1-minute mark.
Park Hill led 18-15 and wouldn’t trail again.
“Trey’s preparation leading into this was phenomenal,” Davis said. “I’m talking about managing his weight, taking care of business off the mat, getting extra workouts in and being in position where he has good energy at this weight to go compete. I thought he looked big and strong and dominant.”
Miller followed with a sound 5-2 win at 120 for Park Hill, and senior Weston DiBlasi allowed just one penalty point in a tight 2-1 decision over Blake Gonzalez to reestablish the nine-point lead. Grayston DiBlasi’s 11-0 major decision and Steele’s technical fall featured both Trojans going to the cradle to score big near fall points in their wins.
Going into the match, Steele knew the dual could end with a victory, and he turned Dylan McCleary four times in less than three minutes for the 15-0 win.
“I pretty much knew,” Steele said. “I knew I was going to come in and dominate. I’ve been working on that; it’s a mindset. We as a team have been working on that mindset.”
Broken Arrow won the final two matches to close the final score to within six. While Park Hill lost six matches, junior Cameron Woodard (285), junior Austin Kolvek (132) and junior Phoenix Thomas (152) all battled to decisions, avoiding bonus points in critical spots.
Another returning state medalist, Kolvek held an early lead and turned Broken Arrow’s Reece Witcraft to his back in the first period. Witcraft came back for a 13-7 win but couldn’t get a late takedown while looking for a major decision and an extra team point.
Park Hill Duals
The Trojans stayed undefeated and went 5-0 to win their home tournament title Saturday, Dec. 2 at Park Hill High School in Kansas City, Mo.
Miller capped the day with a 6-1 decision over Kearney’s Clay Singh — a senior and three-time state champion — in a 120 match in the final dual. Weston DiBlasi followed with a pin at 126 to give the Trojans a 42-13 win and a 5-0 record.
Kearney went 3-2.
Waukee (Iowa) ended up 4-1 but lost to Park Hill 48-14 in the second round of pool wrestling. The Trojans led 5-3 after Waukee’s Kyle Biscoglia, nationally ranked, won a 2-1 decision over Miller at 120.
Park Hill then won 10 straight, including pins for Kolvek (132), Grayston DiBlasi (138), Winston (182) and Sharp (195). The Trojans lost just four matches total in pool wins over Lewis Central (Iowa) (51-12) and Blue Springs South (78-3).
In the semifinal bracket match, Park Hill met up with Class 4 Missouri rival Waynesville. Weston DiBlasi opened with a pin at 126, while Kolvek (132 vs. Gavin Sax) and Josh Steele (145 vs. Michael Cassidy) won decisions over ranked wrestlers.
Park Hill never trailed and went ahead 43-6 after Woodard’s win by decision at 285. Waynesville won just three matches total. Eight wrestlers went unbeaten for the Trojans in five duals — Crawford (113), Weston DiBlasi (126), Kolvek (132), Steele (145), Carter Goslee (160), Hopson (170), Winston (182) and Sharp (195).
While Park Hill won the Black Division for the top eight teams, Park Hill’s junior varsity went 4-1 and finished second in the Red Division. The second set of Trojans lost 36-33 to eventual champion Harrisonville in their pool but came back to beat Park Hill South 45-24 and Excelsior Springs 54-18 to claim second.
In the matchup with Park Hill South, Park Hill’s Trey Safford — a returning state qualifier out of the top lineup this year — won a 2-1 decision over senior Andrew Mikuls for a key three points. Camron Stucker defeated Park Hill South sophomore Gage Baska 15-6 in another top matchup.
Park Hill South won five head-to-head matchups but also gave up two opens to just one open for Park Hill’s JV. The Panthers went 3-2 and finished third with the other loss to Harrisonville 45-35 with early wins for Mikuls (pin at 138), Max Rosario (pin at 152) and Scott Storey (tech fall at 160) giving them an early 17-3 lead.
Harrisonville won the next six to take control before Park Hill South took three forfeits from 120-132 to close the dual.