Since his freshman year, Bret Heil had always wanted to be a state champion in wrestling.
Year after year, he competed at the state tournament and came close to his goal but didn’t quite get there.
Finally, in his senior season, he beat Liberty’s Greyden Penner 2-1 to win his first state championship in February. While that goal was obviously on his list, No. 2 was winning his match at the Blue Chip Metro Classic Battle at the Border match Tuesday.
He was one of three Blue Springs wrestlers to compete in the match that features some of Missouri’s top senior metro area wrestlers against Kansas.
Heil had a tough draw in Rossville’s Isaiah Luellen, who went 27-0 this season and was a two-time state champion and the Class 1-2-3A Kansas wrestler of the year. The Wildcats senior fell 7-3 in his 152-pound match and the rest of Team Missouri had to deal with a loaded Kansas team in a 35-15 loss at Kansas City Kansas Community College, ending Missouri’s five-match winning streak.
“There were a lot of close, tight matches,” Team Missouri and Blue Springs coach Bobbe Lowe said. “There wasn’t as many fireworks as you usually see here. Sometimes kids get out of their element and do some things. Not as much tonight. The kids wrestled a little smarter and more conservative today.”
Heil jumped ahead of Luellen 1-0 after an escape in the second period, but a couple of extremely quick single-leg takedowns from his opponent eventually led to his loss. Even though Heil completed a memorable high school career with a state title, he was not happy with his match on Tuesday.
“I wasn’t using my offense very well and my defense wasn’t very good,” said Heil, who finished 44-4 this season and went down a weight class for this event (went from 160 to 152). “This wasn’t a very good match at all.”
That still did not take away from the season he had, Lowe said, as Heil plans on wrestling in college.
“It doesn’t define him,” Lowe said of Heil. “He had a great season. I think he’ll use this to motivate him when he moves on to college.”
Added Heil: “It felt good to end my senior year with a state championship. I wish I got this one. I can’t do anything about it. I just have to prepare for college now. I talked to a few D-I schools. I went on a couple of visits. I am waiting to see who I like the most.”
His Blue Springs teammates – Jett Merlo (138) and Zach Hazen (195) – also fell in their matches. Hazen lost 3-2 in a competitive match to three-time state medalist Anthony Gaona of St. Thomas Aquinas and Merlo couldn’t find a takedown in a 7-1 loss to Mill Valley’s Conner Ward.
Hazen trailed 2-0 early after Gaona worked a single-leg takedown. The Blue Springs senior fought back to tie it 2-2 after a couple of escapes. But he couldn’t ride Gaona for the entire third period as he surrendered an escape.
“I felt like (Gaona) was pretty strong, and I was looking for a shot,” Hazen. “He just kept circling and he had a hold of my arm. It was tough to get around that.”
Merlo also was satisfied with his high school career as he took fifth at state this season and qualified all four years. He still hopes to make more noise when he wrestles in college.
“I am pretty satisfied with my freshman year (took fifth at state), but I wish I could have pulled through and placed my sophomore and junior years,” Merlo said. “You can’t do anything about that. I am thankful I got to place my senior year.
“I am looking at (junior colleges) and Division III schools. I don’t know where I am going, but somewhere around here.”
Hazen, like Heil and Merlo, plans on wrestling in college, as he aims to get a spot on the wrestling team at Westminster College in Fulton, Mo.
“I felt like I had a good high school career,” said Hazen, who finished second at state this season. “I wish I had at least one more year.”