RAYTOWN, Mo. — Platte County went into the place matches of the Class 3 District 4 tournament needing to approach perfection.
In the end, the Pirates relinquished a two-year hold on the team title Saturday, Feb. 11 at Raytown South High School. Their eight qualifiers for the Class 3 Missouri State Wrestling Championships won just 2 of 8 matches in the final round — district championship victories for junior Cody Phippen (113 pounds) and senior Casey Jumps (220 pounds) — and wound up comfortably in third with 160 points but well back of champion Smithville (179) and runner-up Kearney (178½).
Platte County finished as district champion and then second at state in Class 3 each of the past two years, but the goals don’t change for this weekend at Mizzou Arena when the Pirates hope to compete for the eighth state title in program history.
“We’re going to go down and give it all we got and bring back some hardware,” said Platte County coach Reggie Burress, who also had Blake Bills (120), Jaron Hoegler (145) and Ahmad Holt (182) one win away from qualifying.
All five of Platte County’s returning state qualifiers reached the district finals, while sophomores Nolan Saale (fourth, 132 pounds) and Nick Filger (fourth, 138 pounds) and junior Matthew Knopp (fourth, 285) earned their first state berths.
Phippen turned in one of the tournament’s most dominant runs on the way to a second district title.
A potential matchup of defending state champions at 106 didn’t materialize after Smithville’s Blake Ackerman, the 2016 Class 2 champion, lost to Kearney’s Caden Green in the semifinals. Phippen — the 2016 Class 3 champion in his first season at Platte County — dominated Grain Valley’s Caleb Benshoof for an 8-0 major decision in the semifinals.
Against Green, Phippen controlled start to finish in a 12-1 major decision, allowing the only point after receiving a third false start caution.
“I think we’ll do a lot better (at state) than people think we will,” said Phippen (42-3), who has not lost to a Missouri opponent this season. “We got some pretty good competition (at districts). Besides Neosho, we had the other top teams that are going to be at state, so we got a feel for how we’re going to do.”
Jumps also won a second straight district title and earned his third career state berth.
After a dominating run to the 220 final, Jumps went into overtime tied with Belton’s Malik Clayborn at 2-2. Jumps scored a winning takedown in the 1-minute sudden death overtime to secure a 4-2 decision in his second matchup of the year with Belton’s athletic big man.
Jumps (43-4) won the previous matchup 10-2.
“(Clayborn) wrestled me good today. It was a lot different match,” said Jumps, the lone senior headed to state with Hoegler and Holt coming up just short of continuing their careers. “I still got it done, and I like where I’m at.”
Jumps boasts the most state experience in a Platte County singlet and enters this year’s tournament as the likely favorite after 2016 state runner-up Adrian Hitchcock of Neosho moved up to 285. Jumps was ranked No. 2 inmissouriwrestling.com rankings at 220 behind Hitchcock and owns wins against most of the others in the current top six.
After losing three state champions from last year’s state runner-up team, Platte County needs Jumps to produce big state points, but he won’t let the ranking and expectation change his approach. He qualified for state at 220 as a sophomore and placed fifth at 220 last year.
“I just try to get to my stuff,” Jumps said. “I like what I do. I feel confident in it. It’s exciting, but you’ve just got to take it one step at a time. You get ahead of yourself, that’s when bad things happen.
“I’ve got to take care of myself. first of all, but any little thing I can do to help the team I’m going to do that, too.”
Dakota Schmidt (170), Sage Smart (195) and Austin Kincaid (126) — all juniors — were district runner-ups to book their second state berth each.
Smart went 2-2 last year in his debut after placing third at districts. He faced Grandview’s Marshaun Swift in the semifinals this year — a rematch of last year’s 195 third-place match — and Smart needed an overtime takedown to win 6-4, overcoming an early 2-0 deficit.
In the final, Smart lost 6-4 to Smithville’s Jake Boyd, nationally ranked and a defending Class 2 state champion. Smart (34-12) enters state ranked No. 4 and could face a quarterfinal matchup with No. 2-ranked Christian Smart of Willard.
“I’m not upset with any of our draws. Some guys have some tough ones, but if you want to win a state title, you have to beat everyone anyway,” Burress said.
Schmidt (42-11) reached the district final for a second straight year and again matched up with Raytown South’s Ottis Peeler, a senior and state runner-up at the same weight last year.
Schmidt dropped to 0-3 in matchups with the Cardinals’ senior but lost 7-5 this time around, even scoring a late takedown.
Peeler won each of the previous two matchups 9-4, including last year’s district final and a dual matchup nine days ahead of this year’s district tournament.
Kincaid, who finished sixth in Class 3 at 120 last year with a surprise state run, reached the final of a tournament for the first time in his career. Having drawn the No. 1 seed in a deep 126 bracket, Kincaid ended up in a rematch with Grain Valley sophomore Mitchell Alexander in the District 4 championship match.
Having won an early season matchup 2-0, Kincaid couldn’t pull the repeat, losing a 6-0 decision.
“I think it’s really going to help me,” said Kincaid, ranked No. 6 in Class 3 with a potential quarterfinal matchup with No. 2 Tristan Barr of Rolla potentially looming at state on Friday morning. “I was a little bit nervous going out there, but when I got out there, it kind of went away. Just being on a bigger stage than last year, I think is going to help me at state.”
The three first-time qualifiers took very different routes to their state berths.
Knopp, who missed out by one match as a sophomore despite battling a knee injury at districts, made the semifinals at 285 before losing by fall to eventual champion Austin Campbell of Harrisonville. Knopp came back with an 8-2 win in tiebreaker against William Chrisman’s Dominic Toese to lock up his state spot, but Knopp lost the third-place match in tiebreaker to Raytown South’s Emanuel Childs, who won a second tight matchup between the two in two weeks.
After staying tied at 1-1 after the sudden-death overtime period, Childs held Knopp down for 30 seconds in the first tiebreaker round then escaped with about 12 seconds left in the second tiebreaker round for a 2-1 win. Knopp (30-19) faces DeSoto’s Landon Porter in the first round on Thursday, Feb. 16.
Saale also made the semifinals with a 5-3 decision against Belton’s Andrew Richmond in the quarterfinals before losing a 4-0 decision to Kearney freshman — and eventual district champion — Devan Lewis. Saale enters state at 28-22 after losing 3-2 in tiebreaker to Grain Valley’s Trenton LeGrotte in the third-place match.
LeGrotte scored a reversal in his 30-second period of the tiebreaker, while Saale only managed an escape.
Filger took the most adventurous route in a 138 bracket that featured the state’s top three ranked wrestlers at that weight. A 9-6 win against Kearney freshman Coby Aebersold made the path easier for Filger, like Saale competing at districts for the first time.
After a semifinal loss to top-ranked and unbeaten Wolfgang Clapper of Grain Valley, Filger needed just one more win to earn his spot.
Filger matched up with senior Jacob Burch of Van Horn in the consolation semifinals with the state berth on the line. Both wrestlers went to their back on multiple occasions, but Filger scored a late takedown and two back points to close out a wild 17-14 decision.
“I knew once I won (against Aebersold), I knew I just needed one more win to get to state,” Filger said. “I just knew I had to fight when I was down and not get pinned.”
Platte County’s five returning qualifiers will be expected to lead the way at state in search of a third straight state trophy. The addition of Smithville made the district and state brackets tougher for the Pirates, but the top teams appear bunched this year in Class 3.
Phippen, a transfer from Basehor-Linwood (Kan.) after reaching the state final there as a freshman at 106, understands the challenge a little better this time around. He’s taking on more of a leadership role, knowing his status as the favorite at 113 makes him an important part of a potential championship run.
“Our team, we did really good this weekend,” Phippen said. “We’re all supporting each other. Our whole team is coming together, more like a family. Everyone’s wrestling a lot better at this time than they were earlier in the year.”