Platte County won’t boast the flashiest lineup but expect the Pirates to compete again for hardware in Class 3.
Aside from senior two-time state champion Cody Phippen, Platte County’s returners have put in a lot of work to reach this point. Call them a little bit blue collar, but with seven returning qualifiers from a fifth-place team at the Class 3 Missouri State Wrestling Championships, coach Reggie Burress likes what he sees.
Platte County’s history includes seven state titles and 14 top-four finishes, and the current group hopes to push back up the standings to chase five-team defending state champion Neosho.
“I feel like if everyone comes in and performs to their capabilities, we’ll give ourselves a chance to do some good things,” said Burress, who led Platte County to runner-up finishes behind Neosho in 2015 and 2016.
The returning talent starts with a pair of 2017 state finalists.
Phippen won a second straight state title (106 in 2016 and 113 in 2017) for Platte County after transferring in from Basehor Linwood (Kan.) where he was a 2015 state finalist at 106. He went 46-3 as a junior with no losses to in-state competition, dominating Kearney freshman Cody Green for a 15-3 major decision in the state final.
Sage Smart, another senior, compiled a 37-13 record and reached the 195 state final with help from a dramatic quarterfinal win at state. A second-time qualifier, his first medal ended up being second place after losing to Smithville three-time state champion Jacob Boyd in the championship bout.
In all, Platte County returns seven state qualifiers, three medalists, two finalists and one champion from last year’s fifth-place team.
“We should be pretty dominant this year,” Phippen said. “We’ve got a solid team. You should watch out for Platte County because we’re comin’ in hot this year.”
Platte County nearly sent three to the finals a year ago.
Dakota Schmidt, a senior, earned his first state medal in his second straight appearance in the 170 bracket. He reached the 170 semifinal before losing a controversial match in overtime — he led late in regulation before a penalty point aided a comeback for Warrenton’s Drake Meine — to end up in wrestlebacks.
Ultimately, Schmidt placed fifth but will be a part of Platte County’s top trio expected to lead the way.
“Sage and Dakota have taken that step; Cody’s Cody,” Burress said. “We need some of the other guys to take that next step.”
In actuality, Platte County returns four total state medalists with senior Austin Kincaid included.
A two-time qualifier, Kincaid placed sixth at 120 as a sophomore but went 1-2 a year ago in a disappointing finish. The Pirates also bring back juniors Nolan Saale (1-2 at 132) and Nick Filger (0-2 at 138) and senior Matthew Knopp (0-2 at 285) after they made state debuts.
Platte County will need increased production from them and competition from returners and newcomers to fill out the lineup. The Pirates totaled 92 points with the four teams behind Neosho in the team standings all coming from District 4 — Smithville, Kearney, Grain Valley and Platte County.
“I need to step up more than I did last year,” Kincaid said. “We’re going to have some new guys to the lineup that need to step up, too.”
Platte County lost just three seniors, including 220 state champion and two-time state medalist Casey Jumps plus Ahmaad Holt and Jaron Hoegler — both missed state qualification by one match.
Burress expects seniors Jackson Phan and Colton Davis to provide options at 160 and 170 with Schmidt (182), Smart (195) and Knopp (285) entrenched at the top of Platte County’s lineup. Grant Stathopoulos (freshman) and Vinny Cesaro (sophomore) will compete for the 106 spot, while sophomore Trey Phan, junior Nick Maddux and senior Blake Bils will try and fit in around Phippen, Kincaid, Filger and Saale in the lower weights.
Once the lineup shakes out, Platte County plans to compete for another state trophy, and even if not as naturally talented overall as some recent teams, those in the lineup will work hard to continue the program’s legacy.