COLUMBIA, Mo. — Despite wrestling in his biggest match of the year, Park Hill’s Josh Steele said the pressure wasn’t there.
The Park Hill senior stepped on the mat for the championship in the 145 pound class in Class 4 on Saturday, Feb. 17, against Francis Howell Central’s Corey Wait in a match up of the top two wrestlers in the MissouriWrestling.com rankings heading into state.
Steele was the first of three Trojans to bid for a title at the 88th Annual MSHSAA Wrestling Championships and became the only one to take the top spot on the podium with a 9-6 victory against Wait.
Tied at 4-4 early in the third period, No. 2-ranked Steele got a takedown and then got No. 1-ranked Wait in a cradle and the lead grew to 8-4 with 56 seconds.
It capped a 35-3 season for Steele, a four-time state qualifier and a two-time medalist after taking fifth in 2016.
“It is amazing … indescribable,” Steele moments after the win at Mizzou Arena. “The moment I knew I had him was when I had rolled him into a cradle. I was up by four and I knew I had the match sealed. It was big to get bonus points, but knew it wasn’t possible to get first in the team title hunt.
“Surprisingly, all my other matches had more stress than that one. I knew going in we were going to get second place. I was doing it for myself and I had nothing really to lose.”
A signee with Division II Maryville University, Steele originally fell behind 2-0 to Wait, on a rare takedown. An escape made it 2-1 after the first period and after tying it at 2-2 early in the second, Steele got a takedown on Wait (23-4) with 53 seconds left in the second.
“Most people, once they give up the first takedown they shut down,” Steele said. “All year, no one has really taken me down except the kids ranked in the nation that beat me. I knew once I got taken down, I had to keep wrestling and wrestling.”
Steele’s path to the title started with a 13-4 major decision against Seckman’s Gavin Moore. In the quarterfinals, Steele posted a 4-2 win against Fort Zumwalt North’s Jack Ederer on Friday, Feb. 16.
Later on Friday, Steele picked up a win in the semifinals to seal his spot in the finals. He drew Waynesville’s Michael Cassidy in that matchup — a slight upset winner against Lafayette Wildwood’s Cameron Wegener, the No. 3-ranked wrestler that finished 56-3 and had the most wins in the weight class.
Steele went up 2-0 on Cassidy — ranked No. 6 — in the first period but the Waynesville junior tied the match at 2-2 after the second period. Steele took a 4-2 lead early in the third, which paved the way for a 6-3 victory. Incidentally, Cassidy drew Wegener in the third-place match and lost.