2020-21 Wrestler of the Year: Blue Springs' Korbin Shepherd leaves prep career with no regrets

Michael Smith
The Examiner
Blue Springs senior Korbin Shepherd jumps for joy after capturing his second state title with a pin of CBC's Santino Robinson in the Class 4 132-pound final. Shepherd, who has signed with Missouri, is The Examiner's 2020-21 Boys Wrestler of the Year after his 32-0 season.

It was no secret that Blue Springs senior Korbin Shepherd was one of the best wrestlers in Missouri.

After all, he made the state championship in his weight class in all four seasons. But once he got to that final match, he saw a mixed bag of results during his high school career.

During his freshman season, he lost to four-time state champ Jeremiah Reno out of Liberty at 106. During his sophomore campaign, Shepherd won by injury default against Staley’s Khyler Brewer after holding a 5-2 lead at 120. In his junior year, he lost to Brewer 3-1 in sudden victory at 126.

None of the three championship matches were a desired result for Shepherd, even though he won the title as a sophomore.

So what did his senior year have in store?

Even while missing a couple of weeks due to quarantine because of COVID-19 protocols, Shepherd finally got the closure to the season he had always wanted. He finished the season undefeated at 32-0 and won the 132-pound state title in the most dominant fashion possible, pinning 2020 state champion Santonio Robinson of Christian Brothers College by pin in 1:56.

More:Blue Springs' Shepherd helps Missouri to Metro Classic win over Kansas

Blue Springs senior Korbin Shepherd tries to pull his leg from the grasp of Liberty's Jude Axsom in their 132-pound championship match in the Class 4 Sectional 4 tournament. Shepherd was 32-0 in his final high school season before heading to Mizzou to wrestle for the perennial top-10 NCAA squad.

During this season, Shepherd also defeated three-time state champion Eli Ashcroft of Kearney twice by decision and even beat a four-time state champion out of Iowa in Matthew Lewis. As far as the results on the mat go, it was the perfect season. Because of his dominance in the 2020-21 season, Shepherd is The Examiner Boys Wrestler of the Year for the second straight year.

“This was the most state champs I have ever wrestled in a single season,” Shepherd said. “I wrestled a lot of amazing guys. That helped keep me motivated and pushed me in the room.”

Going into the season, Shepherd never forgot about his loss the year before. He used it as motivation.

“Stepping off the mat at state, really made me settle in. I felt so low,” Shepherd said of his loss to Brewer. “I knew I couldn’t let myself feel defeated and throw a pity party for myself. I was back in the room a day after.

“I promised myself I wouldn’t be back at that low point again.”

More:Blue Springs senior Korbin Shepherd claims second state title

And that’s the type of attitude that helped Shepherd become one of the best wrestlers in Missouri at any weight class. Blue Springs coach Bobbe Lowe raved about Shepherd’s work ethic, which is a major part of his success.

“There were a couple of times Korbin had to sit out for quarantine reasons. He kept working out on his own and stayed on track,” Lowe said. “He kept doing everything he could possibly do that was in his control. He made sure he was going to achieve that goal (of winning a state title).”

After Shepherd's state title win against Robinson, he got to have a celebration he didn’t have the previous three seasons. Just seconds after his pin, he leaped into the waiting arms of Lowe.

“There is not a better way I could have ended it,” Shepherd said. “I was a little emotional that night. I couldn’t believe it all came to an end. That hug is something I will never forget. A photo of that will probably be hanging on my wall.”

More:2020-21 Girls Wrestler of the Year: Fort Osage's Haley Ward remains motivated for future

It’s something Lowe won’t forget either.

“I know I am not always the most enthusiastic or entertaining type of coach,” Lowe said. “I have never been that type of guy. I was taught by (Bob) Glasgow that you have to go out there and act like you win these things all the time.

“As I have gotten older, I have learned to appreciate those things more. It means a lot that Korbin said our relationship is good. The most rewarding thing for me is to see a kid be coachable and listen. He took a lot of the advice that I taught him and he got better. It was a great moment.”

Shepherd said he plans on wrestling at Fargo Cadet and Junior Nationals in July before he moves on to wrestle for the University of Missouri, a perennial top 10 team in NCAA Division I. Shepherd said he thinks he will redshirt his first season with coach Brian Smith’s Tigers to get acclimated to the schedule and build muscle in the weight room.

He added that he aims to become an NCAA champion.

“I have high standards for wherever they put me,” Shepherd said. “I am going to maximize my opportunities. I am a goal-oriented person and I am going to set my goals high.”

Shepherd said a big reason he chose the Tigers was because of Blue Springs graduate Dom Bradley, who is a volunteer assistant coach for Mizzou.

Now that his high school career is over, Shepherd looks back at the experience and he’s proud of how it turned out – even with all the ups and downs of his championship matches.

“I still have a hat that I got autographed by (Bradley) when I was 6 years old,” Shepherd said of the former Mizzou All-American and Olympic hopeful. “By the time I was 8, he was my Mo West (club team) coach and I was watching him on TV. Dom has been an idol of mine since I started wrestling, and to have him recruit me, is a dream come true.”

He can now truly appreciate what he accomplished at Blue Springs High School.

“I have no regrets about anything or my high school career,” Shepherd said. “Getting second as a freshman and getting second as a junior helped me get to that dominating senior year. I am grateful for all of those experiences.

“It was a roller coaster of emotions. I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Examiner 2020-21 All-Area Boys Wrestling

FIRST TEAM 

106 pounds: Lucas Barry, fresh., St. Michael the Archangel — 41-1, Class 1 state champion; Class 1 Sectional 4 champion; Class 1 District 5 champion.

113: Rylan Mansfield, fresh., Fort Osage — 29-5, Class 3 state qualifier; Class 3 Sectional 4 second place; Class 3 District 8 champion.

120: Ethan Moses, sr., Van Horn — 24-12; Class 3 state qualifier; Class 3 Sectional 4 third place; Class 3 District 8 second place.

126: Cayden Dotson, sr., Blue Springs — 19-7, Class 4 state qualifier; Class 4 Sectional 4 third place; Class 4 District 7 second place.

132: Korbin Shepherd, sr., Blue Springs — 32-0, Class 4 state champion; Class 4 Sectional 4 champion; Class 4 District 7 champion; 2019-20 and 2020-21 Examiner Boys Wrestler of the Year.

138: Trey Robinson, jr., Lee's Summit North — 35-10, Class 4 all-state (fifth place); Class 4 Sectional 4 second place; Class 4 District 7 champion.

145: Javi Gutierrez, sr., Lee's Summit North — 32-11, Class 4 state qualifier; Class 4 Sectional 4 third place; Class 4 District 7 champion.

152: Jesse Newton, sr., Fort Osage — 29-9, Class 3 state qualifier; Class 3 Sectional 4 third place; Class 3 District 7 second place.

160: Jaxson McIntyre, jr., Blue Springs  — 31-7, Class 4 all-state (fourth place); Class 4 Sectional 4 second place; Class 4 District 7 champion.

170: Adrian Whitehead, jr., Oak Grove — 24-9, Class 2 state qualifier (injury defaulted in bubble match); Class 2 Sectional 4 second place; Class 2 District 7 third place.

182: Mason Walters, sr., William Chrisman — 37-10, Class 3 state qualifier; Class 3 Sectional 4 second place; Class 3 District 8 second place.

195: Hunter Newsom, sr., Grain Valley — 18-1, Class 3 state champion; Class 3 Sectional 4 second place; Class 3 District 7 champion.

220: Tommy LaPour, soph., Blue Springs South — 31-13, Class 4 all-state (fourth place); Class 4 Sectional 4 second place; Class 4 District 7 second place.

285: Caleb Groff, soph., Oak Grove — 31-3, Class 2 all-state (second place); Class 2 Sectional 4 champion; Class 2 District 7 second place.

SECOND TEAM 

106: Gavin Parks, fresh., Grain Valley (34-4)

113: David Maschger, jr., St. Michael the Archangel (20-19)

120: Brock Smith, soph., Grain Valley (15-6)

126: Dru Azcona, soph., Grain Valley (12-5)

126: Andrew Stanfield, jr., St. Michael the Archangel (40-1)

132: John Newton, fresh., Fort Osage (20-13)

138: Tanner Barker, soph., Grain Valley (28-6)

145: Cole Chaney, sr., Oak Grove (22-13)

152: Carson Smith, jr., Oak Grove (23-12)

160: Jeremiah Phillips, sr., Fort Osage (32-8)

170: Zander Dombrowski, soph., Blue Springs South (23-8)

182: Evan Thielen, sr., Blue Springs South (16-9)

195: Aaron Barnhill, sr., Lee's Summit North (34-4)

220: Dom Howlett, jr., Blue Springs (26-13)

220: Zander Brinegar, jr., Oak Grove (36-2)

285: Donovan McBride, sr., Grain Valley (11-3)

HONORABLE MENTION 

Blue Springs: Jason Gross, sr., 138; Brock Sullivan, soph., 285; Blue Springs South: Daniel Hampton, soph., 120; Callen Smithpeter, fresh., 285; Fort Osage: Dylan Reed, jr., 126; Bryan Herrera, sr., 138; David Jacquez, jr., 195; Stevie Gabb, jr., 285; Grain Valley: Cameron Mickelson, sr., 170; Lee’s Summit North: Caden Schweitzer, sr., 120; Owen Moore, sr., 220; Trevor Taylor, jr., 285; Oak Grove: Kaden Scarborough, sr., 126; Hunter Chaney, sr,, 195; St. Michael the Archangel Catholic: Frankie Kratofil, soph., 138; Ellis Edwards, jr., 152; Jackson Stringfield, jr., 170; Zach Berry, soph., 195; Larry Smith, jr., 285; Van Horn: CJ Nelson, fresh., 182; William Chrisman: Andru Campos, jr., 195.