The Blue Springs and Blue Springs South wrestling teams not only got to reignite their rivalry for the 2017-18 season, they got to see what the competition will be like at districts and state in a month as they faced each other and defending Class 4 state champion Park Hill Tuesday in a three-team meet.
The Trojans proved why they are a perennial state powerhouse as they toppled the Wildcats 49-25 and the Jaguars 66-10 at Park Hill High School. Blue Springs took second as it topped South 44-31 in the first match of the evening.
Blue Springs’ Bret Heil (160), Jett Merlo (145) and Zach Hazen (220) all were undefeated in both of their matches. Heil, who was third at state last season, is more motivated than ever to win his first state title in his senior year and showed that he’s up for the task. After getting a forfeit win against South before he used a cow catcher hold on Park Hill’s Phoenix Thomas to net a pin in 1:10.
“I do that move quite a bit,” Heil said. “His head was up and it just looked like it was there.”
Hazen, decided to take on a bigger challenge, literally, when he bumped up from 195 to 220 pounds. He took a major decision over South’s Noah Leonard thanks to five takedowns, mostly of the single-leg variety. The senior also outlasted Park Hill’s Simon Tesfamarian with a 5-2 win. The two were deadlocked in a 2-2 tie going into the second and Hazen worked an escape and got a single-leg takedown and rode the top position throughout the third to earn the win.
Like Heil, Hazen is aiming to make some major noise at state.
“Coach wanted so we what I could do against bigger competition,” Hazen said. “(His matches) were good. Those were some tough kids. They’re strong and they have some knowledge.
“(This season) I am trying to get in that state final.”
Added Blue Springs coach Bobbe Lowe: “He wrestled some pretty good sized kids who weren’t bad. He did a good job of picking and choosing his scores and staying on top and being in control. I would just like to see more tenacity and score more points.”
Merlo won by forfeit against South and he got an underhook pin on Park Hill’s Jack Vande Ven in 1:27.
Lowe was pleased with some of his top guys, he is still looking for a lot more intensity from his guys one month before state.
“I think we can still do quite a bit better,” Lowe said. “I would like to see more intensity from our guys. We’re just OK to somewhat wrestle and we really don’t want to put it to guys. We need to take that next step and we haven’t done that yet.”
For the Jaguars, there were only a pair of wrestlers to go without a loss. Logan Hecker (120), went down a weight class from 126, and dominated both of his matches. He took a 10-0 major decision over Park Hill’s Antonio Pacheco, nearly getting a pin in the process; and he earned a 10-1 major decision against Wildcat sophomore Keegan Hodge.
“I wouldn’t be able to do it without the team, they push us as hard as we can go,” Hecker said. “I had good defense, but I am going to work on getting it better in practice.”
Added South coach Doug Black: “He’s opened up more. He did well, but he needs to widen the gap. He’s only a sophomore, but we don’t make excuses.”
Jastin Robertson (113) pinned Blue Springs’ Jason Gross in 2:40 and was the beneficiary of a forfeit from Park Hill.
Black came away with many positive thoughts from Tuesday’s three-team match despite not picking up a team victory.
“Park Hill is tough,” Black said. “We wrestled them earlier this year and I think our kids did a lot better this time. That’s definitely a good stepping stone.
“(Against Blue Springs), it came down to the last match, but unfortunately we came up a little bit short. They are a good rival. I thought we could have won a couple of matches that Blue Springs did.”
Other results from the Wildcats-Jaguars dual included Blue Springs’ DeAndre Thomas (126) pinning Cooper Doolin in 3:18 with a half nelson worked into a cradle; South’s Will Bullard (138) topped Daemon Hegarty 4-3 after getting a takedown with 38 seconds left in the third period; Wildcat freshman Michael Infranca caught Russell Baker with a quick takedown and eventually got a pin via a cradle in 51 seconds; Blue Springs senior Ray Paniagua (170) defeated William St. Louis 10-4; South senior Brady Childers (182) pinned Lawson Lackey in 31 seconds after reversing a near takedown from the Wildcat junior; and the Wildcats’ Koby Mansfield got a first-round pin on Peyton Valentine.