KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Platte County knows what to expect from its five Class 3 District 4 individual champions.
That’s not what made the final round performance for the Pirates so impressive Saturday, Feb. 13 at Oak Park High School. They won 9 of their final 10 matches, including four victories in third-place matches, to assure no No. 4 seeds for this week’s Class 3 Missouri State Wrestling Championships.
Platte County will rely on sophomore Cody Phippen junior Casey Jumps and seniors Matthew Schmitt, Ethan Karsten and Johnny Blankenship — the hammers — but the rest of the six qualifiers avoiding overwhelming opening round matchups should help the chase for a team title.
“It’s really huge getting a better seed because we could be drawing that one seed; we could be drawing that hammer first match,” said Karsten, a three-time state medalist and two-time defending state champion. “It’s great to fight through and shows the perseverance of our team to not put our heads down. Once they get to the backside, they get down and dirty — get the job done.
“It’s not always that they’re fighting for themselves. They’re fighting for the team.”
A two-time champion and three-time finalist, Schmitt (49-0) collected his fourth straight district championship with a methodical but dominant 5-3 decision in the 132-pound final against Grain Valley’s Mavrick Alexander. Karsten (47-1) pinned his way through the 145 field without much trouble for his second straight district title, and Blankenship — a 2014 state champion and two-time finalist — also collected his second in a row, maintaining his status as a state favorite at 160.
Those results were expected.
Jumps (220), and Phippen (106), a state finalist transfer from Basehor-Linwood (Kan.), were both first-time champions for Platte County, while sophomore Dakota Schmidt reached the 170 final to earn his first state berth. In addition, sophomores Austin Kincaid (120) and Sage Smart (195) and seniors Trey Dockery (126) and Tyler Blankenship (182) won third-place matches.
Kincaid, Schmidt and Smart join the more experienced parts of the lineup to match last year’s total of 10 state qualifiers.
The other seven have previous state experience, looking to lead Platte County to the first Class 3 state championship in program history. Last season, the Pirates ended up with two champions, three finalists and five medalists but finished a distant second to Neosho and the Wildcats’ five finalists and 12 medalists.
Platte County hopes to close that gap after maximizing the qualifiers and their seeds. Neosho will bring 11 to state this year in search of a fourth straight Class 3 title.
“I definitely think we got through what we needed,” Platte County coach Reggie Burress said. “Would I have liked to have a couple more? Yeah. Could we have ended up with a couple less? Yes as well.”
Phippen (45-2) enters ranked No. 1 at 106 according to missouriwrestling.com and continued to rack up wins against those below him on the list.
In the semifinals, Phippen showed frustration at times, unable to break down Helias’ Evan Winder (ranked No. 6) for big points. Phippen won a 3-0 decision before moving on to the finals and scoring an 8-0 major decision against No. 4 Caleb Benshoof of Grain Valley.
Phippen has not lost a match to a Class 3 foe this year but understands part of his role in the Pirates’ team chase, which can lead to the frustrations.
“I’m just trying to score big points because I see everyone else scoring big points and I feel like I need to,” Phippen said. “I’ve just got to accept a win.”
After Phippen, Kincaid and Dockery won important third-place matches, recovering from difficult semifinal losses.
Kincaid (18-14) gave up a late takedown to lose a 4-3 decision against Grain Valley’s Mitchell Alexander in a 120 semifinal. Kincaid then came back to win a pair of tight decisions to set up a first-round state matchup with Farmington sophomore Ian Asher (14-6), also unranked.
Dockery went through the backside to lock up his third straight state trip.
Having suffered through injury issues, Dockery goes into state with a 15-16 record, the most recent loss a controversial decision in the district semifinals. The official waved off a late takedown in a flurry of action in the matchup between Dockery and No. 6-ranked Clayton Fenzl of Belton.
Instead of Fenzl giving up two points and then scoring two on a reversal, he was awarded the two points for a takedown, allowing him to hold on for a 5-4 win despite a penalty point for clasping before time ran out. Dockery also received a penalty point for cautions on false starts but appeared to have earned a second point before the official gave a unique rules interpretation for opting not to penalize Fenzl.
Dockery scored a pin in his bubble round match to assure his trip to state and then beat No. 7-ranked Logan Parham in a 2-0 decision at third.
“Honestly, (the loss to Fenzl) was frustrating at first, but I’ve just got to work hard and hopefully I’ll see him again at state,” said Dockery, seeking his first state medal in his final try.
Platte County’s next three wins in the round were repeat district titles for Schmitt, Karsten and Johnny Blankenship, who led 14-2 in the 160 final against Belton’s Jacob Benson before pinning him with 5 seconds to go.
Schmidt, a first-year varsity member, took the lone loss of the round in a 9-4 decision against Raytown South’s Ottis Peeler (45-3), ranked No. 3 at 170. Schmidt (30-16) earned the No. 1 seed in the bracket and suffered only his fourth loss to a Missouri opponent — all four to returning state medalists, and two of them defending state champions (Park Hill’s Canten Marriott and Oak Grove’s Landon Cairer).
The other two third-place wins for Platte County were also wrestled back-to-back.
After losing in the first round, Tyler Blankenship won four straight decisions to earn a second straight state berth at 182. He needed two stalling points and an escape in the final seconds of a 3-1 win against Oak Park’s Remington Brelsford to earn his state berth before defeating Grandview’s Ja’Kori Bell by the same score with a third-period takedown breaking a 1-1 tie.
Like Schmidt and Kincaid, Smart’s first season as a regular in the lineup will include a state berth. He entered ranked No. 7 at 195 but lost for a second straight time to returning state finalist Zac Courtoise of Kearney. He locked in a second period headlock to pin Smart in their semifinal.
Smart won his next two matches with first period pins to take the No. 3 seed.
Jumps, a returning state qualifier, finished the round with his fourth pin on the season of Kearney’s Clayton Mordecai in the 220 final. Jumps, ranked No. 4, went 2-2 at state last year and missed a medal by one win, and he draws a possible quarterfinal matchup this year with No. 3 Adrian Hitchcock, a sophomore from Neosho.
Hitchcock won a matchup between the two back in December’s Kansas City Stampede, and the rematch could be a big factor in the state team race.