KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Anthony Erickson considered it an honor to wrestle the first match in the KC Metro Classic Battle at the Border. He also considered it his duty to get his Missouri team off to a good start.
“Leading off is definitely interesting,” the Oak Grove senior said. “You want to set a good tone for the team that we are here to stay.”
Erickson did his part, and Missouri did get off to a good start in the 28th annual dual between some of the top senior wrestlers on both sides of the state line. But it was the Kansas team that finished strong and walked away with a 41-25 victory Tuesday night at Kansas City Kansas Community College.
Erickson, a fourth-place finisher at 145 pounds in the Class 2 state tournament last month, squeaked out a 6-4 decision over Austin Keal of Mill Valley in a 138-pound match. Erickson had a 5-0 lead after two periods but had to hang on after giving up two takedowns in the third period.
“I gassed out,” Erickson said. “I didn’t get enough conditioning in before this but I knew I was in a good spot where I could hold on and fight and keep the score where I needed it to be.”
Erickson was the only one of the four Eastern Jackson County wrestlers to get a victory against a rugged Kansas squad. Triston Jones of Lee’s Summit North, who followed Erickson, lost a 10-2 major decision against Brandon Madden of Blue Valley Southwest at 145 pounds. David Spiller of Lee’s Summit North was pinned by Keegan Slyter of Olathe North at 126, and Trent Starr of Grain Valley dropped a 10-2 major decision to Lou Fincher of Lawrence Free State in another 126 match.
“I felt like we were the underdogs,” Jones said. “They had some really good wrestlers, they were all pretty solid. That was a great Kansas team they put together.”
Missouri took six of the 15 matches and did hold a 17-7 lead early in the dual. Four-time undefeated state champion Jeremiah Reno of Liberty won a technical fall at 125 pounds for a 25-25 tie, but Kansas won the last four matches.
Blue Springs coach Bobbe Lowe, one of three coaches on the Missouri squad, said Missouri’s wrestlers fought hard but suffered from some major absences.
“When you’ve got 12 or 13 guys who turn it down – really top-notch, high-level kids – that makes it tough,” Lowe said. “On that side I was kind of disappointed but the kids who came here tonight did a great job.”
It wasn’t enough to beat Kansas, which now trails Missouri 18-10 all-time in the series.
“It didn’t end the way I wanted it to, but it was super fun and I got an awesome opportunity,” Jones said. “If I could do it over again I would do it the same way.”