COLUMBIA, Mo. — Reggie Burress walked up the steps of Mizzou Arena with a trophy in his left hand.
The Platte County wrestling coach didn’t have the wording on the trophy he wanted, but it marked the 14th trophy for the Pirates since 1991.
When the final standings were announced Saturday, Feb. 17, the Pirates came in third place in Class 3 in the 88th Missouri State Wrestling Championships at Mizzou Arena.
The Pirates had lofty goals entering the state finals — winning the school’s eighth state championship and unseating Neosho. Platte County came up short on that goal, but conference rival Kearney did just that, winning the championship and ending Neosho’s six-year run as state champions.
“It’s not the one we wanted, but it was a great team effort,” Burress said of his squad, which had five medalists out of the nine qualifiers. “We wrestled tough. We had five placers and a lot of other kids contributed. We are very happy.”
The Pirates had a pair of state champions in Cody Phippen and Sage Smart, while two other wrestlers made the semifinals with a shot of reaching the finals.
The wins by Phippen — his third straight title — and Smart helped the Pirates pull away from future conference foe Smithville. Last year’s runners-up were only 5½ points behind the Pirates heading into the finals, but Platte County finished with 110½ points, while Smithville had 102 to finish fourth.
Kearney had 161 points, winning by 2½ against Neosho, ranked No. 1 throughout the season on MissouriWrestling.com.
Dakota Schmidt (182 pounds) and Austin Kincaid (132) placed fourth for Platte County, while Blake Bills (120) took fifth in his first and only trip to state.
Schmidt went 4-0 against wrestlers not named Joey Williams in this tournament and moved one spot higher on the podium after taking fifth last winter.
The senior opened the tournament with a pin against Fort Zumwalt South’s Alex Drmac in 51 seconds. In the quarterfinals, Schmidt ran into Williams, who won 6-1.
Schmidt won his next three to stave off elimination and guarantee a medal. He pinned David Clark of Union in 25 seconds and fended off Rockwood Summit’s Karthik Mogallapu in the bubble match which secured a medal.
He followed with a 5-3 win against Marshfield’s Clay Wilson to earn a spot in the third-place match, where he faced Williams — a third-place finisher last year.
Schmidt was tied 2-2 with Williams after a takedown, but Williams scored the next three points to take command and secure a 5-3 victory.
“I felt like I wrestled well after not wrestling well at districts,” said Schmidt, who was 48-11 on the season. “I feel like I wrestled for the team and were trying to win a team title, but it didn’t work out.
“I ended up seeing (Joey) in the quarters and I didn’t wrestle great, but I built on it in wrestlebacks. I had to fight through the backside, not only for myself, but for my team. I knew this was my last shot to get on the podium and I had to do it. I believed in myself. The coaches believed in me and they kept the faith in me.”
Kincaid, another senior, added his second state medal at state by going 3-2.
The Missouri Valley signee won his first two matches by pins — against Helias Catholic’s Zack Carr and returning state runner-up Dylan Owens of Hillsboro — to reach the semifinals. There, the No. 2-ranked Kincaid fell 10-5 to Republic’s Jonathan O’Connell, the eventual runner-up. Kincaid led 2-0 after the first period, but fell behind in the second period and couldn’t recover in Friday’s semifinals.
On Saturday, Kincaid beat Carr for a second time — by a 6-2 decision — and saw a familiar face in the third-place match in Kearney’s Devan Lewis.
The two district and conference foes had faced off three times this year and the fourth meeting was won by Lewis with a pin in the third period. At the time, Kincaid trailed 8-4 — after pulling within 6-4 earlier in the frame.
“I had to go for something, I had nothing to lose,” Kincaid said. “It really sucks to give up the fall. But it is what it is, I had to go for it.”
Lewis won three of the four but the matches were decided by a total of five points.
Kincaid finished the year with a 34-19 record.
“It was better than last year, considering last year I came up short on what I wanted,” said Kincaid, who went 1-2 at state after taking sixth as a sophomore. “I battled hard and I had a good season. You got to take the good stuff and the bad stuff.”
The final medalist was Bills, another senior, but a first-time qualifier.
Bills went 3-2 in the tournament and picked up two wins against Helias Catholic’s Evan Winder. The first came in the quarterfinals, with Bills winning 3-2 in overtime on a tiebreaker. In the third-place match, Bills got an escape in the third period to break a scoreless match and hung on for a 1-0 victory over the returning state medalist.
In between, Bills lost in the semifinals to Grain Valley’s Trent Starr, who won by a fall and then dropped a decision, 8-5, to returning medalist Jakob Gerow of McDonald County.
“It is definitely good to place at state, it is better than not being here … it is a blessing,” said Bills, who finished 40-15.
He credits the Pirates tough schedule for preparing him and his teammates for the state competition.
“If this was a test, coach gave us a great study guide. We are constantly wrestling hard wrestlers. We came in and we knew what to expect. There wouldn’t be any free wins given to us.”
Nolan Saale (145), Nick Filger (138) and Nick Maddux (113) each picked up wins at the state tournament, valuable learning experience in Burress’ eyes.
Maddux reached the consolation third round — the bubble round — but lost to Fort Zumwalt South’s Nick Lindley. They were tied at 2 after the first period, but Lindley pulled away for an 11-4 loss.
Maddux, a junior, went 2-2 in his debut at state and his losses came to medalist. Maddux drew state champion Oscar Ortiz of McDonald County in the first round, losing by a 17-0 technical fall. In between the losses, Maddux beat Rockwood Summit’s Dezmond McSellers and Wentzville Liberty’s Cameron Steinhoff, a fifth-place finisher at 106 last year.
Filger, a junior that went 29-23, lost to now two-time state champion Sam Frankwoski of Rockwood Summit in his first match but won by a tech fall over Hannibal’s Gavin Morawitz in wrestlebacks. Filger advanced to Day 2 of the event, but lost 3-2 in an ultimate tiebreaker against Grain Valley’s Mitchell Alexander — a returning state medalist — in the second round.
Saale opened with a pin against Eric Pettibone of Webster Groves but then ran into No. 1-ranked Alex Garrett in the quarterfinals. The Platte County junior (31-21) was tied with Garrett, a returning medalist, at 2-2 after three period but lost 4-2 in a sudden death victory.
Saale led portions of his next match against Grant Pauli of Windsor Imperial, up 5-4 after a takedown in the first, but fell behind in the next two periods. Saale pulled within 9-6 with 25 seconds left, but gave up a takedown and near fall in a 13-6 loss.
Senior Matthew Knopp (285) went 0-2 in the tournament and drew Neosho’s Adrian Hitchcock in the first round. Hitchcock, a Lindenwood signee, won his second straight state championship.
“We will miss all of those seniors for sure,” said Burress, who was thankful for the large amount of Platte County supports in Columbia. “We got some new faces and some good young kids coming to build on the tradition of this program.
“The underclassmen, Filger, Maddux and Saale all won matches and all are getting close. Next year, they will get on the stand.”