Even with all the elements in place for a successful season, Blue Springs wrestling coach Bobbe Lowe knows the Wildcats are still a work in progress. That made it easier to put Tuesday night in perspective.
Blue Springs opened its season with a 39-33 loss to Belton in a dual in the Pirates’ brand-new gym.
“I don’t like losing, but I’ve never been a coach to put a lot of stock in early matchups,” Lowe said. “It’s a marathon. We want to win the last mile of the race, not the first.”
Lowe knows that even with three state qualifiers, including a returning state champ, going Tuesday, the Wildcats’ lineup will look very different by the end of the season. Cayden Dotson, a state qualifier last season, wasn’t certified to wrestle at 120 pounds until today and was listed at 126. Michael Infranca competed at 170 but will drop to 160, and Corbin Katamura, who is expected to have the 170 slot, missed practice last week to go on a band trip.
“We had to bump some guys up; we had to move some things around,” Lowe said. “We had to put some guys in some tough spots, but I was happy with how the kids really fought.”
Infranca won his match at 170, holding off Luke Woltkamp 8-5 with a takedown in the third period for one of the Wildcats’ seven victories. Korbin Shepherd, the Class 4 state champion at 120 pounds last season, started his junior year with a first-period pin of Luca Riley at 138 pounds, well above the 126 slot he’s expected to fill.
“Our lineup was kind of all over the place tonight,” Shepherd said. “(Lowe) knew that going into the dual, but he said he had confidence in us to go fight and win every single match.”
Shepherd’s pin was the first of three for Blue Springs. Jaxson McIntyre, another returning state qualifier, pinned Ryker Altman in the first period at 152 pounds, and heavyweight Brock Sullivan did the same to Zach Masteller.
Sullivan’s fall broke a 27-27 tie, but Belton recorded pins in the final two matches to take the match. With the score tied 33-33, Blue Springs newcomer Aleksai Wojtkiewicz (113) battled hard before falling to Antonio Rizzi in the second period for the Pirates’ sixth pin of the night.
“I don’t even know if he’s wrestled a match before,” Lowe said. “I was just happy to watch him fight.”
In the only girls varsity match of the night, Rhian Kempf of Blue Springs pinned Belton’s Kathryn Eager at 142 pounds.
Lowe hopes to have more pieces in place when Blue Springs opens its Suburban Big Six schedule Tuesday at Lee’s Summit West. And if everything isn’t in place, that would just be par for the course.
“It never really is the first of the year,” Lowe said. “Sometimes you get those special teams where everything fits the whole year, but this is kind of one of those that’s just not.”