KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Perhaps nothing personified the camaraderie of the Platte County wrestling team more than what occurred during the consolation semifinals on the afternoon of Saturday, Feb. 10 at Winnetonka High School.
The Pirates already had six wrestlers qualify for state by reaching their respective weight class’ championship matches, but four of their teammates were on the consolation side of the bracket needing a win to move into a third-place match of Class 3 District 4 Tournament and an eventual spot at this week’s MSHSAA State Wrestling Championships.
Three of the four fighting on the back side picked up wins to help the Pirates qualify nine for state.
In each of the pivotal matches, the other Pirates wrestlers stood behind the two coaches, watching in anguish of the outcome of each match.
“All the kids competed and even the ones that didn’t make it gave a great effort,” Platte County coach Reggie Burress said. “It is a great team. They enjoy each other, they root for each other and are all one big family.
“Now we get to go to Columbia and see what we can get done.”
That nine qualifiers helped pave the way for the Pirates to bring home a second-place trophy from districts. The Pirates came in behind Kearney for the title — the same as in the Suburban Conference Blue Division race — but held off the rest of a talented group of teams in the field – including last year’s state runner-up Smithville and fourth-place finisher Grain Valley.
The 15-team field at Winnetonka High School featured eight of the top 15 teams in the Class 3 standings at state last year which provided for some tough matches and even a state-ranked wrestler which failed to move on to state.
Burress shook off the setback to Kearney at districts in the standings.
“The one next week counts, we’ve seen that before,” he said. “This is good preparation but the one at state really counts.”
The Pirates ended with a pair of district champs of the six that made the finals both of the team’s No. 1-ranked grapplers on the missouriwrestling.com rankings prevailed – Cody Phippen and Sage Smart.
Phippen won a battle of state-ranked foes at 126 against Marshall’s Dalton Landreth. Phiippen (46-3) dominated the showdown with the fourth-ranked Landreth — a state finalist in Class 2 in 2016 — with a quick takedown. In the second period, a near fall pushed the lead to 9-0 and Phippen led 13-1 in the third before pinning Landreth with 31 seconds left.
In a battle of No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the 220 finals, Smart broke through against Harrisonville’s Nick Kruse with a reversal early in the second period and that helped lead to a pin at the 2:58 mark.
Smart (46-5) won his other two matches by pins in 32 and 58 seconds, respectively after receiving a bye to the quarterfinals.
The other four finalists came up short — including two against Kearney grapplers in head-to-head match ups.
Blake Bills (120) had a rematch against Kearney’s Clayton Singh — the No. 1-ranked wrestler and three-time state champion — and lost 13-6.
Singh took a 5-2 lead over No. 3-ranked Bills (37-13) after the first period, but Bills got within a point in the second. A reversal in the third helped Bills come within 7-6 with 35 seconds left, but a takedown and near fall allowed Singh to pull away.
Austin Kincaid (132) was upset in the finals based on the rankings as the No. 2-ranked Pirate lost by a 7-6 decision to Kearney’s Devan Lewis, ranked No. 3.
Lewis held a 7-2 lead early in the second period before an escape and a caution point went to Kincaid. He added two more points in the third to pull within one but couldn’t get the go-ahead points
Unranked Nolan Saale (145) lost to No. 3 Trent LeGrotte of Grain Valley by a heartbreaking, 2-1, decision.
Saale (30-19) led 1-0 after two periods but a reversal from LeGrotte with 59 seconds left gave him the win over the Platte County junior.
Saale posted a 5-4 win against No. 5-ranked Ryan Hampton of Smithville in the semifinals.
In a small upset, Dakota Schmidt lost in the 182 title match against No. 4-ranked Sam East of Harrisonville by pin with 18 seconds left.
The match was tie at 3-3 after the second, but East went ahead early in the period and his takedown that made it 6-3 eventually led to the pin.
Schmidt won his other three matches by pin, the last against No. 6-ranked Jack Goin of Belton.
Nick Maddux entered districts with a losing record but ended on win over .500 after taking third place at 113. Maddux drew William Chrisman’s Kash Ocobock in the place match and posted a 6-1 victory to improve to 16-15 on the season. He went up 2-0 in the first and near fall points in the third made it 4-0.
Nick Filger (138) lost his first match of the tournament to returning state medalist Mitchell Alexander of Grain Valley but Maddux won his next three to reach the third-place match.
The junior then fell to Kearney’s Caden Green – ranked No. 2 – by a pin at the 2:04 mark.
Matthew Knopp also took fourth for the Pirates, dropping a 1-0 decision to Grain Valley’s Donovan McBride at 285.
Knopp lost to No. 5-ranked Tanner Karnes in the semifinals and bounced back with a 4-3 overtime against Kearney’s Daniel Piburn in the bubble match.
Next up is competition on Thursday in Columbia at 5 p.m.
“We are still going for that state title,” Phippen said. “We got a lot of kids on the verge if we wrestle the way we can we will have a chance if we can all be on. The way we have been, if they wrestle the best they have this year we will have a chance but we will have to be really on.
“This by far the toughest district in Class 3. To bring nine out is huge for us. A lot of these kids will place in the tournament.”