The Brentwood and Maplewood Richmond Heights wrestling programs will each be well-represented at this week’s state championships in Columbia, Mo.
But it was the Whitfield wrestling program that put on a clinic on Saturday en route to defending its MSHSAA Class 1, District 1 championship. The Warriors qualified 13 individuals to the state tournament, including nine district champions.
As for Brentwood’s sixth-place finish and seven individual qualifiers, head coach Roy Hughes was satisfied with his squad’s performance.
Rashad Jordan (20-9) was the lone finalist, but the junior was pinned in 1:55 by Ryan Strope in the 112-pound title bout.
Senior Elie Moore (30-15) used a nifty reversal to pin Whitfield junior Jake Becker with nine seconds remaining in the second period of their 140-pound third-place match. Senior Ryan Jones (26-13) held on for a 2-1 decision over Lutheran St. Peters’ Jared Gray to place third at 145 pounds.
Finishing fourth for the Eagles was 103-pound freshman Lucas Jones (23-16), 135-pound sophomore Mykell Hudspeth (18-9), 152-pound junior Tyler Jones (29-14) and sophomore heavyweight David Rivera (18-13).
“I’m pretty darn happy with it. I didn’t know if we would get that many or not, but the guys came out and wrestled hard,” Hughes said. “Our younger kids are still coming along. Heck, we had seven guys qualify and six of our other guys were within a win of qualifying as well.
“So we’re growing and getting better. That’s the whole goal. Hopefully, some of these younger guys that didn’t make it will push them to work harder for next year.”
Whitfield ran away from the field and compiled 263.5 points, which was a staggering 145 points clear of runner-up Principia with 118.5 points. Along with those nine titles, the Warriors added a runner-up finish, two third-place winners and a fourth-place finisher.
“This is a record for us. It’s the most we’ve ever qualified,” longtime Whitfield head coach Charlie Sherertz said. “We’ve never fielded a full team in the 15 years I’ve been here. We’ve qualified 12 a few times, but I was comfortable that we could qualify 13 kids.
“I think it was a little validation that what we’re doing with the grind and toughness of our regular season pays off. We had kids that were like 27-23 shellacking kids that were 36-3. So I’ve been telling them there is a method to the madness, to hang in there, to buy in, to believe and thrive on this tough schedule because it will pay off. So far so good.”
After a seventh-place finish for Maplewood Richmond Heights, head coach Chris Meyer watched as three individuals pushed through to the state tournament.
Leading that trio was 125-pound sophomore Montel Maggitt (37-4), who reached the finals but dropped a 13-3 major decision against Whitfield senior Ian Murphy and settled for second place.
Senior Eduardo Verdia (37-8) finished third at 160, losing only to Lutheran St. Peters’ J.D. Herst in the semifinal round before bouncing back with consecutive wins to punch his state ticket.
Sophomore LaVon Clark (13-12) was the final Blue Devils qualifier with a fourth-place finish, losing his final match against Whitfield junior Stephen Scobee despite nearly pinning his Whitfield opponent in the second period.
“LaVon almost had that pin to get third. It was close, but that’s just inexperience,” Meyer said. “He wasn’t quite sure how to flatten his opponent out. This is his first year wrestling so you have to be happy for him.
“I thought Ed wrestled pretty well. He was probably in the toughest weight class with a state champ and a third-place finisher from last year’s state tournament.
“I’m also happy for Montel because he didn’t make it to state last year. He lost to Murphy last year here at districts. He wrestled hard and with a lot of intensity. But Whitfield has a good program. They wrestle better competition all season long. They have good guys in the practice room. I think that showed up in the finals match.”
Fatima and Herculaneum tied for third place with 115 points each followed by St. James in fifth (103), Brentwood sixth (99.5) and Central New Madrid seventh (72). Rounding out the field, MRH was eighth (50), Lutheran St. Peters ninth (37), Cleveland NJROTC 10th (28), Transportation and Law 11th (6), Barat Academy 12th (4) and Lift for Life Academy 13th (3.5).
Taking first place for the Warriors was 103-pound freshman Jack Pantanella (37-10), 119-pound junior Austin Smith (38-13), Murphy (29-23), 130-pound sophomore Chris Wilkes (50-1), 135-pound freshman Rodney Hahn (45-6), 152-pound junior Ethan Sherertz (36-12), 160-pound senior Mike Kissell (49-0), 171-pound senior Peter Gienke (31-15) and 215-pound senior Wyatt Salsbury (37-15).
The match of the tournament came in the 160-pound final, pitting last year’s 145-pound state champ in Kissell versus Herst, who placed third at this weight a year ago. Kissell held on for a hard-fought 3-2 decision to remain undefeated, while capturing a fourth straight district title.
“Mike is more comfortable at 152 and wrestled there most of the year,” Sherertz said. “But the last two weeks I moved him to 160 to make room for Ethan going down to 152. Mike is solid enough and strong enough to hold his own at 160. It’s a gamble, but we’re banking on it.”
Other Whitfield grapplers qualifying for the state tournament were 145-pound junior Pat McLaughlin (17-26), who finished second, 112-pound junior Eric Engel (17-33) and Scobee (21-17), both were third, and Becker (23-13), who placed fourth.
Now the Warriors can shift their focus squarely on bringing home another state championship trophy and raising another banner inside Cady Athletic Center.
“That’s the goal of the year,” Sherertz said. “We have a team that has enough talent. Whether we’re going to do it, we’ll know next weekend at this time. We’re in position to control our own destiny.”
The only other team to have multiple champions was Fatima as 112-pound sophomore Ryan Strope remained perfect at 34-0 while 145-pound senior Aaron Strope improved to 30-2.
St. James junior Jason Walls (36-6) took the 140-pound crown, Principia senior Josh Roometua (29-6) won the 189-pound title and Herculaneum sophomore Brian Duncan (26-6) captured the heavyweight championship.
The 81st MSHSAA wrestling championships will be held at Mizzou Arena on Feb. 17-19.