Blue Springs senior Korbin Shepherd claims second state title
Blue Springs senior Korbin Shepherd had a trio of bittersweet endings to his previous state championship appearances.
As a freshman, he fell 11-3 to eventual four-time state champ Jeremiah Reno of Liberty in the 106-pound final. As a sophomore, he won the 120-pound state title due to an injury forfeit by Staley’s Khyler Brewer. And as a junior, he took second at 126, dropping a 3-1 decision to Brewer.
Shepherd admitted none of those championship matches were ideal. But he finally got the ending he wanted at the 2021 Class 4 Missouri State High School Wrestling Championships Saturday at Cable Dahmer Arena.
The Wildcat senior, who is ranked No. 1 in the 132-pound weight class in the MissouriWrestling.com poll, used a power half nelson to turn CBC sophomore Santino Robinson during the championship match. He got the pin at 1:56 to claim the second state championship of his career.
After the match, Shepherd leaped into the arms of head coach Bobbe Lowe and sported an ear-to-ear smile.
“I am just on Cloud 9 right now,” Shepherd said. “This feels like my first state finals win. I got something to celebrate and be happy about. Last year, losing in overtime really sucked. But it was the best thing for me, because I worked harder.”
Lowe credited Shepherd’s dominant 32-0 season to his commitment to the sport.
“His goal was to win a state title and do it in a dominant way,” Lowe said. “He worked for it. He worked hard all year. He did everything he was supposed to do. He even had a couple of speed bumps, but he didn’t let it distract him.”
Although Shepherd was in a strong bracket, he made winning it appear easy. He got a 16-0 tech fall victory against Columbia Hickman’s Ethan Barr in the quarterfinals. Shepherd then pinned Lafayette-Wildwood’s Joel Mylin, a former state champion in Iowa, in 3:52. He capped it off with the win against Robinson, last year’s 113-pound state champion.
“I could have told you after I stepped off the podium last year, I didn’t care who was in front of me, I wanted it more,” said Shepherd, who has signed with Missouri. “I have the best coaches and training partners ever. I am on a different level and I am proving that.”
Added Lowe: “Korbin did a good job not letting (Robinson) have space. We knew he wanted space so he could get to his moves. We kept it tight and that’s how we wanted it to be.”
What made the win even more special was Shepherd’s uncle, Matt Schieber, flew to Missouri from Florida to watch his match. The senior’s uncle hasn’t missed any of Shepherd’s big tournaments since he was in sixth grade.
“He was also a state champion in high school, too,” Shepherd said of his uncle. “I got to watch him wrestle when I was in second grade. Ever since then I was like, ‘I want to do that.’”
Now Shepherd is going to turn his attention to the Fargo Nationals Tournament, an event that brings the best young wrestlers from around the nation to compete.
“I never placed at Fargo before,” Shepherd said. “I really want to go up there and leave with a big stop sign.”
Shepherd wasn’t the only Wildcat to earn an all-state medal as No. 5-ranked Jaxson McIntyre (160) earned his first by taking fourth. Junior Dom Howlett (220) claimed sixth place to also earn his first medal.
McIntyre won his first two matches before falling to No. 4-ranked Brett Smith of Troy 7-0 in the semifinals. He then lost in the third-place match 6-2 to No. 2-ranked Kaden Hart of Francis Howell Central.
“I accomplished my goal, but once I accomplished it, I was looking to get bigger and better,” McIntyre said of earning a state medal.
Howlett has come a long way since last season, when he bounced between junior varsity and varsity and managed only five wins.
“I am happy with my progress,” Howlett said. “My last match wasn’t the greatest, I wanted to go out and get fifth. I will get better and come back next year.”
Blue Springs’ Cayden Dotson (126) and Brock Sullivan (285) also competed at state but both were eliminated in the consolation bracket.
Blue Springs South sophomore Tommy LaPour (220) was the first wrestler in the program to earn a state medal since Sam Hampton (second) and Trey Storey (sixth) in 2016. LaPour took fourth after beating Sedalia Smith-Cotton’s Jackson Hazel, ranked No. 6, by pin in the second round and pinning No. 4-ranked William Nelson of Eureka in the quarterfinals.
LaPour fell to Jefferson City’s Brant Aulber, ranked No. 5, in the semifinals and was pinned by No. 2-ranked John Gholson of Nixa in the third-place bout.
“Right now I am disappointed, everyone wants to get first,” LaPour said. “There’s a lot of work going into the season, and I wasn’t particularly happy with what I did, but I know I did the best I could.
“Everyone wants to have that S on their chest. It’s a pride thing to represent our school. I get to come out here and represent them.”
Lee’s Summit North had half of its four state finalists earn a medal as Aaron Barnhill (195) took third and Trey Robinson (138) took fifth. It was the first medal for both.
Barnhill defeated Nixa’s Michael Turner 6-3 in the first round and pinned No. 1 seed Isaiah Slaughter of Wentzville Holt in the quarterfinals. Barnhill was then pinned by eventual state champion Jack Darrah of CBC in the semifinals but bounced back to defeat No. 2-ranked Jakeil Hayes of Jefferson City 10-7 in the third-place match.
“I wanted the No. 1 seed at sectionals, but that obviously didn’t work out,” Barnhill said. “As the 3-seed, I had to make sure I kept my foot on the gas, push the pace and wrestle my matches.”
Robinson defeated Imperial Seckman’s Ayden Cook 9-2 in the first round, but fell to eventual state runner-up Brandon Stick of Ozark in the quarterfinals. He bounced back with a pair of wins in the consolation bracket to meet Liberty North’s Dylan Alft in the fifth-place bout.
The two had faced each other several times before, and this time Robinson came out on top with a pin in 4:24.
“Before state we talked about seeing each other (in a match),” Robinson said. “We ended up doing that. We talked about how good we are. It was great to wrestle one of my friends in the fifth-place match.
North’s Trevor Taylor (285) and Javi Gutierrez (145) wrestled at state but were eliminated in the consolation bracket.