First, Mike Hagerty was happy that among the hustle and bustle of summer activities, nearly 20 boys from the Mo West Championship Wrestling Club made the trip last weekend to the Southern Plains tournaments in Dodge City, Kansas.
Then, the Blue Springs High School wrestling coach was excited to see the overall success the club members had in the tournament.
“Almost every kid we sent won at least one match, except for two kids,” said Hagerty, one of several area coaches who helps with Mo West Club. “That’s pretty amazing for a regional-level competition.
“I would’ve wanted to push a few more kids into placing matches, but we had some in the bubble matches (consolation semifinals).”
In the Southern Plains freestyle tournament, Grain Valley’s Mavrick Alexander and Lee’s Summit’s Ali’i Loyola each went 5-0, claiming cadet division first places at 132 and 195 pounds, respectively. Brock Mercer of Oak Grove claimed four wins at cadet 126 and Wolfgang Clapper three wins at cadet 126.
In the Greco-Roman tournament, Clapper took third place after winning seven straight consolation bouts at cadet 126. Bret Heil of Blue Springs won four matches at cadet 120, Elias Vaoifi of Fort Osage took second at cadet 160 and Harrison Bamman of Grain Valley took third at junior 138. Clapper, Vaoifi and Bamman also won “true second” matches, in which the third-place finisher can challenge the runner-up if he did not lose to him earlier in the tournament.
While Mo West hasn’t had state champion and nationally ranked competitors like Daniel Lewis or Michael Pixley – recent graduates of Hagerty’s Blue Springs program who will wrestle collegiately at Missouri and Illinois, respectively – this year, the wrestling room at Blue Springs High School is consistently brimming with youngsters eager to improve.
Mo West members come mostly from the Blue Springs, Grain Valley, Independence, Lee’s Summit and Oak Grove school districts. Hagerty said another Mo West coach counted 17 schools represented this spring and summer.
“We don’t have a lot of superstars, but we have a lot of kids that are competing well at this point,” Hagerty said. “To still get these kinds of numbers is pretty exciting. The group we have are exceptionally hard workers and like to compete.”
Because the Missouri High School Activities Association limits how many contact days high school coaches can have with their athletes during the summer, Hagerty and peers like Doug Black (Blue Springs South), Robert Caton (Fort Osage), Bobbe Lowe (Oak Grove) and Jesse Whitson (Grain Valley) must be creative and coach other groups during workouts. Mo West also welcomes several guest instructors for workouts in the spring and summer.
Recent high school graduates sometimes train with the club in the offseason, Hagerty said, but other times athletes like Lewis and Pixley are obligated by their college program.
“We like for them to do it (come back with the club) – it adds a lot of intensity in the room – but I also understand the concern of a college coach,” Hagerty said.
Hagerty said he anticipates 20 Mo West wrestlers will compete at next month’s nationals in Fargo, North Dakota, after qualifying from various tournaments or gaining an invitation to join the state’s contingent.