Oak Grove earn three all-state honors in Class 2 tourney
After Oak Grove sophomore Caleb Groff pulled off an upset victory in the 285-pound semifinals, the path to a state championship seemed to be well within reach.
The Panther sophomore topped defending state champion Harrison Merriman of Monett 6-5 in the semifinals of the Class 2 Missouri State High School Wrestling Championships. That was a big step in getting a state title as the Monett junior was ranked No. 1 according to the MissouriWrestling.com poll.
That set up Groff, ranked No. 2, with a championship match against No. 4-ranked Camren Hedgpeth of Cameron, an opponent he had already beaten twice in the regular season. However, Groff fell short of his goal of winning a state championship after a clasping penalty and a slip on a headlock takedown attempt cost him in a 4-2 loss Thursday at Cable Dahmer Arena.
Groff was one of three Oak Grove wrestlers to earn an all-state medal along with Zander Brinegar (fifth, 220 pounds) and Carson Smith (fourth, 152). Adrian Whitehead (170) fell in the consolation semifinals. Oak Grove finished 13th as a team with 37 points, while MRVC West foe Pleasant Hill captured the title with 137.
Groff was the first Panther to make it to a state championship match since Tyler Curd in 2019.
“I worked hard all season and got to where I wanted,” Groff said. “I didn’t come through at the end, but it was still a great season overall.”
Groff led 1-0 after an escape in the second period, but a clasping call started a 4-0 run for Hedgpeth that included a takedown after Groff fell to the mat after slipping on a headlock.
“I beat him two times before and I think I just went out there and choked,” Groff said. “I didn’t go out there and do what I needed to do. But it’s OK, I will be back.”
Oak Grove head coach James Morgan agreed that Groff will bounce back from the experience.
“It was a good tournament for him and a good season, too,” Morgan said. “We very easily could have got a state title this year. He’s close.”
Brinegar, ranked No. 1, suffered a 3-2 loss in the first round against Harrisonville’s Carson Miller, but bounced back to finish 3-0 and defeated St. Charles West’s Alex Meyer in the consolation finals, making him a three-time state medalist.
“It was a good tournament,” Brinegar said. “There are a lot of great wrestlers here because of the extra districts. It makes it tougher because there’s so many scrappy wrestlers. I didn’t perform the way I wanted to, but it still turned out pretty well.”
Smith earned his first state medal after defeating Clinton’s Matt Balke 1-0 in the quarterfinals. Smith fell 3-2 to Pleasant Hill’s Ryan Volland in the semifinals and then dropped a 5-1 decision to Jefferson City Helias Catholic’s Nikolai Careaga in the third-place match.
“I was really close to making the finals,” Smith said. “It felt great to finally get on the podium and I will be ready for next year.”