Platte County wrestling finishes 2nd at state with 4 individual champions

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Platte County coach Reggie Burress sought out the balance between success and disappointment.

ROSS MARTIN/Citizen photo Platte County senior Matthew Schmitt flexes toward the Pirates crowd after winning the Class 3 132-pound championship in the Missouri State Wrestling Championships on Saturday, Feb. 20 at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Mo.

ROSS MARTIN/Citizen photo
Platte County senior Matthew Schmitt flexes toward the Pirates crowd after winning the Class 3 132-pound championship in the Missouri State Wrestling Championships on Saturday, Feb. 20 at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Mo.

Neosho ended up with 167½ points to win a fourth straight Class 3 title, while Burress’ Pirates ended up second for a second consecutive year, 16 behind the Wildcats. This time the result remained much closer, and despite third state championships for seniors Matthew Schmitt and Ethan Karsten, the second for senior Johnny Blankenship and first for sophomore Cody Phippen, a record-setting season ended with consolation.

Platte County became the first team to win four individual state titles without also winning the team championship since Brookfield in 2009.

“Any other year, 150 points is going to win you a state title for the most part,” Burress said. “It was a great year — four champions, three other placers. Half our team placed at the state tournament, and four of them won state titles — won state titles, I’m going to say, fairly easy.

“This team really put us back in the forefront of state wrestling and let people know we have some pretty dang good kids here, that’s for sure.”

Mathematically eliminated from the team chase during wrestlebacks, Platte County went out and created a memorable final round.

ROSS MARTIN/Citizen photo Platte County senior Matthew Schmitt, front, comes through to complete a takedown against Mavrick Alexander of Grain Valley in the Class 3 Missouri State Wrestling Championships’ 132-pound final Saturday, Feb. 20 at Mizzoui Arena in Columbia, Mo.

ROSS MARTIN/Citizen photo
Platte County senior Matthew Schmitt, front, comes through to complete a takedown against Mavrick Alexander of Grain Valley in the Class 3 Missouri State Wrestling Championships’ 132-pound final Saturday, Feb. 20 at Mizzoui Arena in Columbia, Mo.

Schmitt finished his career with a 194-12 record, beating Grain Valley’s Mavrick Alexander 7-2 in the 132-pound championship. He became the third four-time finalist in program history, joining Zach Sherman and Tyler St. Louis, while finishing off an unbeaten 53-0 season — one of the best in Platte County’s illustrious history.

In a matchup of defending state champions, Schmitt dominated Alexander for a second straight week, using an early takedown to establish a lead. Platte County’s most decorated senior then added a late takedown for the final margin before letting out a little uncharacteristic flair with his celebration — flexing to the crowd and then flashing three fingers to honor his achievement.

Signed to wrestle at West Virginia, Schmitt exits as the program’s all-time leader in wins, having helped the Pirates grow from fifth-place Class 3 finishes at state in 2013 and 2014 to the past two runner-up showings. He still ended his career a bit frustrated, which speaks to his to desire to always be the best.

“You know what, I didn’t get four state titles, but I got three, which is second best,” Schmitt said. “It’s time to move on and see what I can do in college.”

Karsten joined Schmitt as a three-time champion, doubling Platte County’s previous total of two (Chase Verdoorn and St. Louis).

After viciously quick first-period pins in the first two rounds, Karsten (51-1) stuck No. 2 ranked Josh Franek of Pacific during the third period of a 145 semifinal and then dominated the final against overmatched Markkel Moore of Carthage, pinning him in the second period.

Karsten’s lone loss this season came to a fellow nationally ranked foe, and his run that started with a 2014 state final upset of three-time state champion Noah Teaney of Oak Park came to a fitting conclusion. Yet, the inability for his four decisive pins to help land the Pirates a title stuck with him.

ROSS MARTIN/Citizen photo Platte County senior Johnny Blankenship uses a cradle to win a 160-pound first round match against DeSoto’s Michael Manning on Thursday, Feb. 18.

ROSS MARTIN/Citizen photo
Platte County senior Johnny Blankenship uses a cradle to win a 160-pound first round match against DeSoto’s Michael Manning on Thursday, Feb. 18.

“Bonus points,” said Karsten, second only to Schmitt in career wins at Platte County. “We’ve got a saying, ‘I would do anything for a team point. I’d kill somebody for half a team point.’ We’ve been saying that all year, and it’s true. We’d do anything for our team, and I believe anybody in our lineup would die for me.”

Blankenship returned to the finals for a third straight year and sandwiched a pair of titles around last year’s loss.

Back in the title bout at 160, Blankenship beat Belton’s Jacob Benson for a third time and second time in two weeks in a championship scenario. This matchup turned out more like the first with Blankenship’s early takedown holding up in a dominant if uneventful 3-0 decision victory for the Nebraska University signee.

Blankenship scored pins in the first two rounds before a key 8-2 decision against Neosho’s Isaac Townsend in the semifinals. The team chase remained on the minds for all the seniors throughout and showed in the results for three state finalists in the group.

Platte County’s three state champions earned a total of eight in their career, the second most for any class in Pirates history (2002, 10).

“We really wanted the team state title,” said Blankenship (45-8), who finishes fifth in Platte County history for career wins. “Coming in second to Neosho for the second year in a row stinks but they earned it. They beat us. It was great being able to end my career out on top along with Matthew and Ethan. 

“The only thing that could have made it better was if we could’ve got that team title, but my teammates mean the world to me. It’s been an honor to wrestle with them.”

A transfer from Basehor-Linwood (Kan.), Phippen staked a claim to Missouri’s top 106-pounder this season and started Platte County’s finals run.

ROSS MARTIN/Citizen photo Platte County sophomore Cody Phippen, top, works to turn Grain Valley freshman Caleb Benshoof in a the 106-pound final.

ROSS MARTIN/Citizen photo
Platte County sophomore Cody Phippen, top, works to turn Grain Valley freshman Caleb Benshoof in a the 106-pound final.

The semifinals and final at state ended up being rematches from the previous week’s District 4 tournament, and Phippen again dominated his way through. He increased margin of victory against Helias’ Evan Winder to 9-1 before meeting up in a District 3 championship rematch with Grain Valley’s Caleb Benshoof.

Phippen built a 10-0 lead in the state title matchup within a minute and won a 15-0 technical fall early in the second period, starting out the Pirates’ parade of individual title wins — the lone consolation left after losing out in the team chase.

“Tech? I guess it’ll do,” said Phippen (49-2), whose lone losses were to Class 4 state champion Kelvin Eblen of Park Hill and an out-of-state nationally ranked foe. “Our goal was to just go out and get the job done. Whether we were going for first (as a team) or not going for first, we wanted the same outcome.”

In addition to matching 2014’s total of four finalists, Platte County upped its medal total from five last year to seven this year but still didn’t have enough wins to keep pace with Neosho’s four finalists and four consolation medalists (two thirds, one fourth and one sixth).

All 10 qualifiers for Platte County won at least one match, including senior Tyler Blankenship (24-17) at 182 pounds going 1-2 in his second state tournament and sophomores Sage Smart (2-2 at 195) and Dakota Schmidt (1-2 at 170). The Pirates put eight in the quarterfinals and then five in the semifinals to guarantee medals.

Trey Dockery, one of five senior qualifiers, ended up sixth at 126 for his first medal after reaching the semifinals. A third time state qualifier, he lost an 11-5 decision to Neosho’s Johnathan Williams but went 0-2 from there to finish his season at 17-19.

Casey Jumps (44-9), a junior in his second state tournament, drew No. 3-ranked Adrian Hitchcock of Neosho in the 220 quarterfinals and lost 7-3 to end up in wrestlebacks. Hitchcock went on to score big points with a trip to the title match, while Jumps — ranked No. 4 — came back to place fifth.

“A couple of opportunities we let slip by us, and in a tight race, you have to have those wins,” Burress said.

Austin Kincaid (120) rounded out the first-time medalists.

A sophomore, Kincaid (21-17) entered at 18-15 but came back from a quarterfinal loss to reach the medal rounds. First, he pinned St. Charles’ Jordan Kestner in the sudden-death overtime period of a second round wrestleback match and then guaranteed a top-six spot, rallying with four points late to beat Dylan Owens of Hillsboro.

Kincaid lost his last two but earned nine team points, learning a valuable lesson from this special group’s quest for an unprecedented Class 3 state title.

“Being in this atmosphere with the team that we’ve got just means everything to me,” Kincaid said. “(The team title) never became not a focus. It was always there — always talking about our next match — not going ahead but talking about the next match.”