COLUMBIA, Mo. — Casey Jumps became a product of the Platte County program.
From three wins as a freshman to the spotlights of Mizzou Arena, the Pirates senior grew into his stature. Jumps remained stoic throughout the weekend of the Class 3 Missouri State Wrestling Championships, not allowing his emotions to crack until after a 2-1 decision victory over Warrenton’s Jacob Null in the 220-pound state championship match Saturday, Feb. 18.
A pump of his fists to his supporters, including former Platte County state champions. Then the tears as he engaged head coach Reggie Burress and assistant Gabe Middleton in a joint hug.
“I think it’s just a testament to our coaching staff, how much they put into working with kids,” said Jumps (47-4), the 43rd state champion in Platte County history. “How much they believe and care about every kid. I wasn’t always in the state finals.”
Jumps wrestled all four years at 220 for Platte County, going 3-13 as a freshman. He dedicated himself to the sport and became a state qualifier as a sophomore then a fifth-place medalist last winter as a junior.
Entering state as the favorite this season, Jumps advanced to the finals with two first period pins and then a 10-0 major decision in the semifinals against Neosho’s Christian Nutz. That earned Jumps the opportunity to put on the orange and black retro-look singlet almost all of the greats in Platte County have worn at state on the biggest stage.
Jumps and Null each had an escape but a penalty point assessed against Null proved to be the difference in a methodical effort from the Pirates’ newest state champion.
“This was the ultimate goal,” Jumps said. “Freshman and sophomore year, all those hard practices in the summer, I knew it would pay off for this one — this tournament. This is all I wanted to do this year — state title. I just feel like that match really wrapped up my career at Platte County.”
Jumps and juniors Cody Phippen (113) and Sage Smart (195) all advanced to the finals for Platte County, but four medalists, three finalists and two state champions weren’t enough for the Pirates to win another state trophy. They ended up with 92 points, 11 out of fourth place.
Neosho (150 points) won a fifth straight Class 3 state title, but the next five teams in the standings all hailed from District 4 — Smithville (118), Kearney (115), Grain Valley (103), Platte County (92) and Belton (73).
“Looking back, we graduated a ton last year. A lot of people left us for dead,” Burress said. “You talk to a lot of people, they would say, ‘Oh, you lost everything.’ You know what? We didn’t. We fought hard.”
While Jumps won his first state title, Phippen won his second in dominant fashion. He transferred from Basehor-Linwood (Kan.) after a state runner-up showing in Class 4A at 106 and slotted into the lowest weight in Platte County’s lineup.
A state champion at 106 as a sophomore, Phippen (46-3) went unbeaten against in-state competition this season. He pinned each of his first two state opponents before winning 4-2 vs. Washington senior Cody Hey in the semifinals.
A late takedown for Hey left Phippen looking disgusted as he left the mat, but he posted another dominant showing in a 15-3 major decision against Kearney freshman Caden Green in the final — a rematch of the District 4 championship bout from the previous week. Phippen went into the second period scoreless but got a takedown early and then turned Green to his back for three near-fall points late in the second to start his rout.
“My goal is definitely not to win by two points in the state tournament,” said Phippen, who won by technical fall in the 2016 Class 3 106 state final. “I came to dominate everyone, and since I couldn’t do it in the semifinals, it kind of frustrated me, especially giving up the last two points at the end. I didn’t like that.
“I guess I just had to come back and wrestle and take out my anger (in the finals).”
Smart’s impressive run in the 195 bracket ended with a disappointing loss.
A second-year qualifier, Smart earned his first state medal the hard way, needing a dramatic win in the quarterfinals to advance. He met up with Willard’s Christian Smart — no relation — and the match went into overtime tied at 1-1.
Sage Smart rode out his opponent for the full 30 seconds in the first half of tiebreaker before scoring a winning reversal that turned into a surprising pin at the 7 minute, 42 second mark of the match.
“Big win in the quarters, and I just took that and used it as momentum into the finals,” Smart said.
Assured of a medal at that point, Smart (37-13) won an 8-3 decision against Charlie McCracken of Westminster Christian to reach the state final. He also ended up with a District 4 title bout rematch with Smithville’s Jake Boyd (52-2), a senior and defending state champion from Class 2 the previous season.
Boyd looked even more dominant than the previous week in a 10-4 decision, leaving Smart to reconcile the disappointment of a runner-up finish along with his success of reaching that point.
“A lot of stuff hasn’t set in yet,” Smart said after receiving his second-place medal.
Platte County nearly put all of its medalists in the finals.
Dakota Schmidt, also a second-time qualifier, looked sluggish in a 7-6 decision over Carthage’s Dillon Lancaster in the first round but came back for a dominant 11-2 major decision over DeSoto’s Michale Manning in the quarterfinals to assure his first state medal.
Having gone 1-2 in his state debut at the same weight as a sophomore, Schmidt earned a semifinal matchup with Warrenton’s Drake Meine. Schmidt pinned Meine in their previous matchup less than a month earlier.
Schmidt led 5-3 late in the third period when Meine not only scored a tying takedown but received a penalty point when the officials ruled Schmidt illegally grabbed Meine’s singlet during the scramble. Down 6-5, Schmidt scored a tying escape to force overtime, but Meine grabbed the winning takedown in the 1-minute overtime period.
The bad luck continued for Schmidt in wrestlebacks Saturday morning.
Up 4-1 late on Smithville’s Brian Boyd, Schmidt ended up thrown to his back in the closing seconds for a two-point takedown and two near-fall points in a 5-4 loss. Schmidt (44-12) then came back to dominate his final match, taking fifth with a 10-1 major decision against Battle’s Hunter Smith.
“Four (finalists) would have been nice, but Dakota rebounded back and got fifth and didn’t just fold up the tent,” Burress said. “He fought through some adversity.”
Platte County brought eight qualifiers but lost two on the first day of competition with first-time qualifiers, sophomore Nick Filger (138) and junior Matthew Knopp (285) both going 0-2.
Down 12-4 in his wrestleback match, Filger (21-27) nearly fought all the way back but lost a 14-12 decision to MICDS’ Richard Harmon. Knopp (30-21) lost a pair of one-point decisions.
The fight for a team trophy became more difficult after sophomore Nolan Saale, another first-time qualifier, and junior Austin Kincaid, a returning state medalist, were eliminated in second round wrestlebacks.
Saale won a 132 wrestleback match Thursday night with a 4-0 decision over McCluer’s De’Marco Poole but lost 4-1 to Smithville’s Ryan Hampton to end his tournament. Hampton went on to place third.
A sixth-place finisher at 120 as a sophomore, Kincaid drew a quarterfinal matchup with Rolla senior Tristan Barr — the eventual state runnerup. Barr held on for a 7-5 decision, sending Kincaid to wrestlebacks.
In wrestlebacks, Kincaid (30-18) led Warrensburg’s Colby Benge in a District 4 title bout rematch, but a late takedown gave the Tigers sophomore a 5-4 victory.
“We’ve all been there and wrestled in tournaments where it didn’t go our way,” Jumps said. “I hope they just keep working like they are, and they’ll get it.”
Down to just the four semifinalists, Platte County didn’t have quite enough to keep pace with the top four. The Pirates had finished second to Neosho in back-to-back seasons but lost three of four state champions from a year ago — a group that combined for eight career state titles.
Platte County rebuilt around its known commodities with all five returning qualifiers going back to state. Jumps was the lone senior to advance out of districts, giving the Pirates reason to believe more success could be on the way in the coming years.
“I’m proud of all of them,” Burress said. “We’ll get back to work in a few weeks and start building toward next year and hopefully developing some more kids and getting them to believe and train hard and do what’s right — and become like Jumps, really.”