• Cats suffer letdown to Kearney in clash of defending state champs

  • Maybe a letdown was inevitable for the Blue Springs wrestling team.

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  • Maybe a letdown was inevitable for the Blue Springs wrestling team.
    In December, the Wildcats withstood a grinding slate that included an appearance in the high-profile Kansas City Stampede as well as a trip to Rochester, Minn., last weekend for The Clash XI.
    So that Blue Springs stumbled Thursday night in a 44-23 defeat to defending Class 3 state champion Kearney might have been predictable. But, Wildcat coach Mike Hagerty said, that didn’t make it any more acceptable.
    “I don’t think I had our guys prepared,” Hagerty said. “I don’t feel like we had a lot of snap.”
    Hagerty said from start to finish, the Bulldogs had a sharper edge Thursday. The issue he took is that he noticed too many of his guys making mental mishaps – like gaining position and then surrendering a quick reversal – that championship-caliber teams don’t make.
    “It’s going to be a good lesson for us,” Hagerty said. “Because I think guys have to walk away from here feeling a little bit hurt and like we’re maybe not as good as we think we are.”
    There were some positives for Blue Springs. In the 160-pound bout, Cain Salas pinned Dalton Clevenger. Michael Pixley (182) and Austin Reyes (220) also notched wins via pinfall. Easton Stephens earned a 14-7 decision at 106 and Daniel Lewis topped Kevin Kinney 6-2 in double overtime in a matchup of top-ranked 132-pounders.
    But in a matchup of defending state champions and top-ranked 145-pounders, Blue Springs’ Darick Lapaglia suffered a 3-1 loss to Grant Leeth after previously holding a 6-0 record against him. That was one of eight defeats the Cats took, four of which were by pin and one by major decision.
    “I feel like the kids weren’t prepared,” said Pixley, who took just 39 seconds to pin Brandon Walker. “We had a long weekend last weekend and they came in here not mentally focused and weren’t ready to go.”
    Kearney also further exposed a Wildcat weakness that has troubled Hagerty all season. At the moment, there just isn’t enough depth on the roster to excel in dual meets, Hagerty said. In tournaments, the Cats can rely on veterans like Lapaglia and Lewis to rack up big points to carry them to solid placings, Hagerty said, but in duals where every slot is exposed, they’re not cutting it.
    “That’s been an issue for us all season long,” Hagerty said. “You don’t want to put a tag on a team, but we’re just not getting it done in duals. And it’s frustrating because it puts a lot of responsibility on our good kids. ... Those guys are feeling a lot of heat because every time they go out they feel like they have to win in order to carry this team. That’s not fair to them.”
    Page 2 of 2 - As Thursday’s dual wrapped up, many Blue Springs wrestlers sat on their bench wearing blank expressions before receiving a 15-minute talk from Hagerty in the locker room.
    The disappointment was obvious, but Salas pointed out that it could serve as a healthy wake-up call as the Cats enter the final month of the regular season.
    “This is going to get us ready big time for state,” Salas said. “This is all just getting us ready right now. We want to gain another state title and this is definitely preparing us for what’s coming up in the future.”

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