Despite another limited lineup, Park Hill South came agonizingly close to a breakthrough season in 2016-17.
Three wrestlers came within one match of earning a first Class 4 Missouri State Wrestling Championships’ bid in the Class 4 District 4 Tournament. All three return along with senior Carter Thomas, who became a second time qualifier and the Panthers’ lone state representative a year ago.
Of the 10 Park Hill South wrestlers at districts last year, only Kevin Nollet was a senior.
“We talked about as a team,” Park Hill South coach Dan Dunkin said. “We want five (state qualifiers). Some of them said six. Those young kids, some of them are coming back as sophomores but got a lot of experience as freshmen. We expect good things. We want to be competitive with the better teams.”
For the second straight year, Park Hill South had one state qualifier, and the Panthers haven’t sent more than two since 2014.
Thomas has a 1-4 record in two trips to state, going 0-2 last season at 132 after qualifying and winning a match at 113 as a freshman in 2015. Andrew Mikuls, a senior, and sophomore Gage Baska and Cameron Gilliespie both lost in the District 4 consolation semis.
Mikuls went 31-16 as a junior and came up one win shy of state each of the past two seasons as Park Hill South’s most consistent presence.
Injuries and other factors have led to an inconsistent lineup for Dunkin in recent years, but the return of Baska (30-11, 120 at districts) and Gillespie (26-12, 160 at districts) provides a solid young foundation to build around. Andre Anderson, a junior, has seen a lot of varsity time the past two seasons and went 20-19 in 2016-17.
Park Hill South also welcomes back senior Scott Storey, who went 7-6 with the team as a sophomore. He returns after spending a year out of the district.
“We will struggle to be competitive in a dual score with good teams, but in the matches, we want to be competitive. We want to compete,” Dunkin said. “I don’t get that we’ve lost any of our fight. I think this is our year to make a big step.”