Things to look for at Class 3-4 state wrestling
If past success is any indicator, it would be a good assumption that Korbin Shepherd will be in the championship match again Saturday night at the Class 4 MSHSAA State Wrestling Championships.
The Blue Springs standout and future Missouri Tiger has made the finals each of the first three years and is a favorite again this year in the 132-pound class.
He enters with a 29-0 record and is the No. 1-ranked wrestler in his weight class, according to Missouri Wrestling.com. Overall, he is 142-10 in his four years at Blue Springs with only a few matches left.
He will open in the quarterfinals by virtue of a first-round bye awarded to sectional champions this year in the modified 12-man bracket – but still using a 16-man bracket layout. He will likely draw Columbia Hickman’s Ethan Barr, who is 36-4, but he has to get past Seckman’s John Bamvakais (10-2) in the first round Saturday at Cable Dahmer Arena.
The other wrestler with a bye in his part of the bracket is Ozark’s Elijah Maskrod, who is 39-11.
Those two matches stand in the way of a fourth straight trip to the finals – but Shepherd is only 1-2 in those showdowns. He is hoping to get his name on the wall inside Herschel Neil Gymnasium with multiple years next to his name.
“There’s been a ton of greats to come through Blue Springs and wear the Wildcat singlet and I’m looking forward to joining the elites that are all multiple time state champs,” said Shepherd, who won a title at 120 pounds as a sophomore. “No nerves here; I’m honestly super excited to compete against the best guys in the state. My bracket is going to be fireworks.
“Winning a state title would be the perfect way to cap off my high school career, undefeated senior season. I’ve been on both sides of the emotions at state, second as a freshman, won it as a sophomore and then second again last year. I know the mentality needed to be back on top.”
Shepherd’s freshman season ended with a loss to Liberty’s Jeremiah Reno in the finals, but that was also against a wrestler who won four straight titles and is one of only three wrestlers in MSHSAA history to have an undefeated career.
Shepherd beat Staley’s Khyler Brewer as a sophomore but then lost to him, 3-1, in a sudden victory overtime 126-pound final last year.
To get to a second state title, the road will be a tough one. He could face Lafayette-Wildwood’s Joel Mylin (32-3) in the semifinals. Mylin is a transfer who won a state championship in Illinois in 2019 and took third last year in Class 2A.
The top half of the bracket features another state champion in CBC’s Santino Robinson, who won at 113 last year.
There, however, one difference of this year’s state tournament compared to others for Shepherd and the four other Wildcats who qualified for state – the location.
“It is bittersweet to say the least (knowing it's the last state meet), but with it being so close to home that makes it even better,” Shepherd said. “I’ll be sleeping in my own bed the night before, waking up and showering and then the five-minute drive to the arena.”
The Wildcats will also have Cayden Dotson (126/18-5 on season), Jaxson McIntyre (160/29-5), Dom Howlett (220/24-11) and Brock Sullivan (285/29-5) competing.
Howlett and Blue Springs South’s Tommy LaPour (29-11) are on the same side of the bracket but each would have to upset a sectional champion to face off in the semifinals.
Dotson, who placed fourth last year in 120, draws Nixa’s Deagan Fugitt (34-7) in the first round, and the winner faces Columbia Hickman’s Hayden Benter (34-7).
Lee’s Summit North will have four at state – including three first-time qualifiers in Javi Gutierrez (145), Trey Robinson (138) and Trevor Taylor (285).
Aaron Barnhill (195) returns and was ranked No. 2 in the state heading into the postseason but was upset last week by Park Hill’s No. 5-ranked Chris Bizzle in the semifinals.
Barnhill battles Nixa’s Michael Turner (27-11) in the first round with Wentzville Holt’s Isaiah Slaughter waiting in the quarterfinals. In the same part of the bracket though looms a chance for a rematch with Bizzle or a showdown with CBC’s Jack Darrah, a state runner-up last year.
Grain Valley and Fort Osage account for nine of the 11 area qualifiers for the Class 3 finals on Friday.
Grain Valley placed eighth in the state last year with six qualifiers – and finished with five medalists.
Three of those are back this year in Dru Azcona, Hunter Newsom and Donovan McBride. McBride is one of two Eagles to get a first-round bye – the other is Gavin Parks (106).
McBride (285) faces the winner of Whitfield’s Alex Tischler or Hillsboro’s Jordan Jarvis. Camdenton’s Dakota Davis is in the same portion of the bracket and has the most wins in the field with a 54-1 mark.
Parks (33-2) awaits the winner of Lebanon’s Drew Bowling or Rockwood Summit’s Minko Brown. Bowling has the most wins of any wrestler in the bracket with a 41-3 mark.
Azcona (126) has a tough draw in his first match, drawing Willard’s Christian Finley, the reigning 113-pound champion.
Tanner Barker (138) faces North County’s Chris Singleton in the first round and the winner gets Camdenton’s Grant Garrett, a returning medalist who is 53-1 and has moved into the top-10 in all-time wins in MSHSAA history with more than 190 in four years.
Newsom and Fort Osage’s David Jacquez are on the same side of the 195-pound bracket, with Newsom (14-1) facing Lebanon’s Jake Henson (40-4) in the opener. Jacquez (28-11) has Webb City’s Jacob Ott (27-6).
Rylan Mansfield (113), Jesse Newton (152) and Jeremiah Phillips (160) are also at state for the Indians.
Phillips (29-7) has won district and sectional championships and got a first-round bye. He will get either Willard’s Ryder Heimbach or Hillsboro’s Eddie Hines. Wentzville Liberty’s Wyatt Haynes is 47-1 and a favorite in the lower part of the bracket with Phillips – but three-time champion Cayden Auch of Neosho is the prohibitive favorite.
Van Horn and Chrisman each have a returning state qualifier back.
Ethan Moses (24-10) made state as a sophomore for the Falcons and so is back after a one-year hiatus. He drew Jon Coroamao of North County (24-2) in the first round, then the winner gets Evan Binder of Whitfield, a defending champion in Class 1 last year – the team got bumped up to Class 3 due to postseason success – and is 40-0.
Walters (36-8) opens with Matt Robison of Fort Zumwalt South (24-15), but the quarterfinals could be a showdown with Carl Junction’s Jesse Cassatt – a state champion at 195 last year who dropped down a weight class.