Securing a spot at the state meet was at premium at the Class 4 District 4 Tournament.
Three of the top four teams in the Class 4 rankings, according to MissouriWrestling.com, were in the district and the trio of Liberty, Staley and Park Hill secured 30 of the 56 state qualifying spots to the state wrestling championships.
Three area teams – Blue Springs, Fort Osage and Lee’s Summit North – got 15 of the final 26 berths in the state tournament that starts on Thursday in Columbia.
Each of the three schools had five state qualifiers and finished in order in the standings, with Lee’s Summit North taking fourth, Fort Osage fifth and Blue Springs sixth. Nationally ranked Liberty won the team title and Park Hill was the runner-up, followed by Staley.
“We had a couple not go our way and that is how it goes sometimes,” Lee’s Summit North coach Mick Cronk said. “Unfortunately we have a couple guys that would place at the state tournament but can’t get out of our district. I will predict 40 percent of the state medals will come out of this district when it should be 25 percent, but I would say 40 percent will come from this district, if not more. There is one guy I know that didn’t get through that would be a champion or runner-up in another district and isn’t getting out of here. That is how things are in this district. I’m proud of the kids’ efforts.”
Lee’s Summit North and Blue Springs each had a district champion, but the only one that got a chance to finish the title match was Lee’s Summit North’s Mark McGhee.
The Missouri Western football signee pinned his way to the 285-pound title, starting with an 11-second fall against Park Hill’s Logan Lasater. In the semifinals, McGhee needed only 28 seconds to pin Liberty North’s Alex Geisert. McGhee got a fall in 43 seconds against Liberty’s Nick Biesemeyer in the finals.
“I don’t go into a match thinking I’ll pin them as fast as I can,” McGhee said. “I just try to wrestle my match and if I happen to get a pin, that is what I get. Last year, I took third (at districts) and it is good to come back and win it. I’m very excited to get back to state.”
It was the first district title for the senior, who didn’t start wrestling until his sophomore year.
Cronk said that McGhee has the potential to be a state champion and could already have one had it not been the decision to play basketball as a freshman.
“This sport has helped me a lot and wrestling is the biggest part of me getting better in football,” said McGhee, who improved to 39-4. “My sophomore year I got hurt. I only wrestled district that year, so to come this fast, I’m pretty excited.”
Cronk recalled recruiting the burly lineman to join the team as a freshman but didn’t have luck. The next year, that luck changed when McGhee chose the mat. McGhee made the bubble round match as a sophomore and lost before losing in the semifinals last year before taking third place.
“I about cried when he didn’t wrestle, I was like, ‘How are you going to play play B team basketball?’” Cronk said with a chuckle of McGhee’s early high school plans. “He’s basically had two seasons of wrestling. He has one week left before he will go play football for the rest of his life.”
The Broncos had another finalist in Triston Jones, who lost by a 16-4 major decision to Liberty’s Drake Smith in the finals of the 160-pound class.
The other three qualifiers came on the backside of the bracket with Zane Ragland (182) and Aaron Barnhill (195) taking third and David Spiller (132) finishing fourth. Cronk thought the Broncos had a chance for eight qualifiers, but the team went 3-7 in the bubble round matches.
Blue Springs' Korbin Shepherd, a reigning state champion, won another district title by going 3-0.
The junior won the 126-pound title with pins over Park Hill South’s Mohammed Ali and Fort Osage’s Waylon Mansfield, before getting an injury default win over Staley’s Khyler Brewer in the finals.
The final match lasted 29 seconds before Brewer grabbed his left ankle. After his two minutes of injury time expired, he walked around for about 10 seconds before surrendering to give Shepherd the district title.
Shepherd (39-1) had the same scenario happen against Brewer last year in the Class 4 120-pound final, as Brewer injured his head and injury defaulted.
“I hope everything is OK with him and I wish him the best,” Shepherd said of Brewer (40-4).
The two had met two times earlier this year and each got a win in overtime.
Blue Springs’ Cayden Dotson (120) lost in the semifinals but won his next two matches to finish in third place, beating Staley’s Jacob Windsor, 8-2, in the third-place contest.
Jaxson McIntyre (145), DeAndre Thomas (152) and Brock Sullivan (285) were all fourth-place qualifiers for the Wildcats.
Fort Osage had all five state qualifiers coming on the backside of the bracket.
Keegan Emrick (106), Josh Rieck (160) and Stevie Gabb (285) all finished third, while Mansfield (126) and Gavin Roller (220) placed fourth.
Emrick got an 8-3 decision over Lee’s Summit’s Nathan Wishne, while Gabb claimed a 4-2 overtime win against Blue Springs’ Sullivan. Rieck returned to state for the second year in a row after a 4-1 decision against Rockhurst’s Tyler Rinas.
“I feel it was a pretty good bracket and I loved the way it was set up,” said Rieck, who is 42-9. “I felt confident going in and I set my goal. I’d like to have been on top of the podium, but I’m going to state and I did better than I did last year at districts (fourth-place finish) and I hope for the same outcome, to do better at state than last year.”
Rieck’s lone loss came to eventual champion Smith of Liberty in the semifinals.
Blue Springs South and Truman each had a chance for a state qualifier but came up short in the bubble rounds on Saturday. Cooper Boyles (195) reached the consolation semifinals but lost to Barnhill by a pin. Truman had two chances with Sterling Trawick (195) and David Brack (285), but both lost by pins.