Tyler St. Louis can feel the energy around the program, and some of the credit can go to his predecessor.
A non-faculty coach, St. Louis earned the job and the chance to succeed Nate Danneman, who spent one year as West Platte’s head coach after three years as an assistant. The task carries plenty of weight after Danneman died at the age of 37 in a tragic car accident on Interstate 29 in Platte County — just two months after last season’s Class 1 Missouri State Wrestling Championships.
West Platte started practice this season with 14 wrestlers, up from the eight that finished the 2016-17 season.
“I’m definitely excited about what’s ahead. We have a lot of potential,” said St. Louis, who previously spent time as a high school assistant in North Carolina and two years at North Kansas City High School before his most recent stint as a youth coach at Platte County. “The circumstances have created a lot of energy around the program in a positive way. There’s a lot of respect for coach Danneman, so a lot of these guys are trying to respond and finish business they left undone with him.”
After losing just one senior from a year ago, West Platte will likely lean heavily on two on-again, off-again seniors.
Brayan Rodriguez went 25-12 as a junior, reaching the Class 1 District 4 championship match at 132 pounds. He went 0-2 at state but showed off the promise he displayed as a freshman before sitting out the 2015-16 season.
Devin Driskell went to state at 113 pounds as a freshman in 2014-15, finishing 28-24 after going two-and-out. He’s back for the first time since then, looking to add depth.
In addition, West Platte will have juniors Julian Trelow (145 last year) and Thomas Tharp (285) back with plenty of experience.
“The most exciting thing is how coachable these kids are,” St. Louis said. “You’ve got a bunch of small town kids that know discipline and respond well to it. As a coach, that’s what you want — kids that you show something once or twice and they’re going to listen, follow and pick it up.”
While many times in recent years West Platte struggled to field a half full lineup, St. Louis doesn’t want to take small steps and worry about being more competitive. He wants to drive the Bluejays to win, even if the top and bottom of the roster could be light.
St. Louis, 28, knows about winning.
One of four three-time state champions at Platte County (2005, 2007-2008) and one of only two four-time finalists, St. Louis went 51-0 as a senior in 2008 at 152 pounds and remains in the top 10 all-time for the Pirates in wins, earning a spot in the Pirate Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2016. He wrestled one season at North Carolina before going on to finish his degree early and get into coaching.
“Given the quality of kids that we have in here, our first step is to win,” St. Louis said. “Our goal this year is to compete at the state tournament. We’ve got two kids who have had experience there that are back, and we’ve got two or three more that should be down there this year.”