Last season, Grain Valley 220-pounder Jaden Worthington had a breakout year.
He finished fourth at state in his weight class a year ago and is looking for even more in 2019 — a state championship to be exact.
The senior took a giant leap toward that as he qualified for state and won the 220-pound division at the Class 3 District 4 Tournament Saturday at Kearney High School.
Worthington dominated his bracket, earning three pins and one major decision. He was one of seven Grain Valley wrestlers to qualify for the Missouri State High School Wrestling Championships.
Joining him at state from the Eagles are Caleb Benshoof (132), Trent LeGrotte (145), Hunter Newsom (170, third), Ethan Grasher (152), Donovan McBride (285) and Mitchel Alexander (138).
Also qualifying for state from Eastern Jackson County were Van Horn’s Ethan (106) and Payton Moses (120); and William Chrisman’s Kash Ocobock (113), Jose Muravilla (126), Mason Walters (182) and David Toese (285).
Grain Valley finished fourth in the district tournament with 145 points. Kearney won with 189. William Chrisman was seventh (76) and Van Horn was 12th (24.5).
“We took some tough losses,” Grain Valley coach Jesse Whitson said of four Eagle wrestlers falling in the bubble match. “I am happy for the seven guys that they are going. Those guys have to stay together and get ready for next week.”
Worthington, who is ranked No. 3 in his class by missouriwrestling.com, worked in a pair of single-leg takedowns and got a cradle for a pin of Grandview’s Kendall Thomas in 2:59 in the championship match.
Even though he dominated his bracket, Worthington was not satisfied.
“I think pretty well, but not well enough,” Worthington said. “There are still some things I need to work on for state. I am going to get to work and sharpen the iron. The goal is to win a 220-pound state title.”
The Eagles were able to get six others to state – five of whom had to win bubble matches to qualify. Grasher, who missed most of the season with a sprain in his left shoulder, improved to 9-2 after defeating Chrisman’s Rico Alaniz 5-1 in the bubble match. He fell 6-1 to Platte County’s Blaine Kuehn in the third-place bout. Grasher fell in the bubble match his freshman year and missed districts as a sophomore and junior due to injury, so he’s stoked for his first and only opportunity to wrestle at state.
“It feels pretty good,” Grasher said of qualifying for state. “This is pretty awesome. I am going to try and place and wrestle hard.”
Like Grasher, Newsom will make his first state appearance after pinning Warrensburg’s Hunter Burgess in 1:40 in the bubble match. The sophomore later defeated Raytown’s Caleb Harness 7-2 for third place.
“It’s a good achievement, but I am hungry for more,” Newsom said. “I am ready for state. I want more. I am not satisfied with this at all.”
LeGrotte will make his second appearance at state following a sixth-place finish a year ago. He made it to the championship round at districts and fell to Kearney’s Caden Green 3-1 following a late takedown. LeGrotte said he’ll be look for revenge.
“I’ll get him,” LeGrotte said of Green. “I can’t wait to face him again. That’s all I want.”
Benshoof took third, Alexander was third and McBride was fourth, as well, for the Eagles.
Payton Moses is in a similar situation as Grasher and Newsom. He is making his first trip to state as a senior after falling in the bubble match the past three years. He finally broke through Saturday, albeit in a controversial finish. He topped Grain Valley’s Thomas Barrett 6-4 in a sudden victory. In the third overtime period, Barrett appeared to have came close to a takedown, but Moses quickly flipped around Barrett and worked to the top position for the takedown and the victory.
Whitson had a lengthy discussion with the referees after the match, pleading their case that Barrett had one. But they ultimately ruled in favor of Moses.
“I thought (the referee) made a direct call,” Van Horn coach Craig Addison said. “You have to give our wrestler time to react and that’s really all it was. He got put on his back for a split second and we needed the time to react. I would be upset if I was the Grain Valley coach, too, but that’s the nature of the sport.”
The senior was relieved after he finally got over the bubble-match hump.
“I put in a lot of hard work, and I deserve it,” Payton Moses said.
His brother Ethan, a sophomore, will be making a return trip to state after taking third. After falling 3-2 to Helias Catholic’s Gavin Adams in the semifinals, he bounced back to beat Grain Valley’s Eli Hendricks 5-2 in the bubble match and pinned Platte County’s Vincent Cesaro to take third.
“I thought there were some calls that were iffy. I should have won my match (against Adams), but it’s done and over with,” Ethan said. “I am happy to go back to state, and I plan on placing.”
For Chrisman, Muravilla will make his first trip to state as a senior as he took fourth after pinning Sedalia Smith-Cotton’s Caleb Bush in 53 seconds in the bubble round. He took fourth after being pinned by Platte County’s Nick Maddux in the third-place bout.
“It’s crazy. It’s like, I don’t believe it, but it’s there. I got it,” Muravilla said. “I accomplished what I needed to do.”
Walters had a strong showing for the Bears, as he will make his second trip to state. He took second after earning two pins. He was pinned by undefeated Sam East of Harrisonville in the championship match.
“It was a good tournament, I thought I did well,” Walters said. “I am definitely looking forward to state and hopefully place.”
Toese took third after pinning McBride in the second round, and Ocobock was third after pinning Platte County’s Grant Stathopoulous.
“Kash and David just did what they do,” Chrisman coach Riley Glasgow said. “They are in every match. They are never out of it. They will go down and make some noise in Columbia.”