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'Rebuilding' Broncos claim Panther Classic title

By Michael Smith
The Examiner

Lee’s Summit North went into rebuild mode this season after losing seven seniors from last year’s wrestling team.

The Broncos are depending on a lot of younger wrestlers now, but that hasn’t stopped them from having some success. That was evident on Saturday at the Oak Grove Panther Classic when they took first place with 132.5 points. 

Host Oak Grove finished fourth (106.5), Fort Osage was fifth (88.5) and William Chrisman was eighth (47).

“We did lose a ton of wrestlers from last year,” North coach Mick Cronk said. “I told the kids, we lost about half of our varsity kids who’ve been varsity for four years. Most of those guys have been in the varsity lineup since they were freshmen.

“I knew we were still going to be tough because we have guys like Trey Robinson, Caden Schweitzer, Aaron Barnhill and Ryan McNeel. We have a really good freshman class that needs more polishing. They’re an unfinished product.”

The Broncos had two wrestlers win their weight divisions and six others earn a medal. Robinson (138) went 5-0 to take his weight class, which included a close match in a 6-4 victory over Fort Osage’s Bryan Herrera.

“We got quarantined for a couple of weeks, so I was out of shape,” Robinson said. “Getting back into things felt really good. I was moving my feet a lot and getting my opponents off balance. I also had a lot of good counter shots today.”

Cronk had a few criticisms of Robinson’s performance but was pleased overall.

“I had a feeling Trey would have a good day,” Cronk said. “There were some points where Trey looked really good today and there were other points where it felt like we have a lot of work to do.

“For him to come in and take first was really good, but I felt like we would have done better.”

Barnhill (195) was the other Bronco to take first after he finished 5-0. After defeating Fort Osage’s David Jacquez 11-0 in the third round, Barnhill faced him again in the finals and escaped with a 1-0 victory.

“I would’ve liked to have had more takedowns,” said Barnhill, who is ranked No. 4 at 182 in Class 4 of the MissouriWrestling.com poll. “I hit some shots but none of them scored. It was a very defensive match.”

Cronk said he felt like Barnhill could have done better in his final match, however.

“I thought he could have had a better finals match,” Cronk said. “He still won, but it wasn’t our best outing. He can really be elite. He’s a phenomenal human being, he’s a great wrestler and he works hard.”

Other Broncos to finish in the top three included Paden Cole (106, third), Charlie Dykes (113, second), Seth Hooper (120, third), Luke Steinbrugge (138, third), Javi Gutierrez (145, third) and Joe Engle (182, second).

Like North, Oak Grove had a pair of wrestlers take home first-place medals.

Zander Brinegar (220), ranked No. 2 in Class 2, had his toughest match of the season against No. 3 Jarrett Kinder of Moberly. The Oak Grove junior came back from a 4-3 deficit by getting an escape, a throw for a takedown and a pin in 5:49 to seal the victory in the final.

“He was really strong, I couldn’t get into a good position with him,” Brinegar said. “I just had to wait it out and see what I could do. That was my toughest match by far.”

Caleb Groff (285) was the other Panther to take first. The No. 2-ranked sophomore got a rematch against Class 4 No. 2-ranked Stevie Gabb of Fort Osage in the championship. Earlier in the year Gabb defeated Groff 11-4 in the title bout of the Lee’s Summit Holiday Invitational.

This time, things went awry for Gabb when he suffered a left ankle injury during a takedown attempt from Groff, forcing him to injury default in the match when it was tied at 2-2. Groff also earned a 2-1 victory against No. 4-ranked Andrew Huff of Moberly.

“Last time, I forced moves,” Groff said of his last match against Gabb. “This time I came in more patient. It sucks he hurt his leg. I hope he gets better.”

William Chrisman 182-pounder Mason Walters (182), ranked No. 6 in Class 3, was the lone Bear to win an individual title.

The senior is looking to earn his first state medal this season after qualifying for state and not placing the past two years. He went 5-0 Saturday.

“I tried to get the match over with,” Walters said of his final match against Belton’s Ethan Yinger, which ended in a cradle and a pin in 3:38. “It was a long day and I wrestled as hard as I could. When I saw an opportunity and I took it to get the cradle.

“It’s this year or nothing. I have to go out there and look to beat every opponent in my way.”

Along with Gabb, Herrera (138), Daniel Tapusoa (170) and Jacquez (195) placed second for Fort Osage.