This Saturday Mexico athletic director Jeff Anderson planned ahead and made sure the Bulldogs varsity wrestling team would have the home mat advantage at the class 2 district 2 meet.
This field is still no easy draw when you consider Fulton and Moberly both have four ranked wrestlers followed by Kirks with three and St. Charles West with two. Priory, Winfield and Christian also have one ranked wrestler each, plus there are seven other squads looking to make their mark at this event. That includes the Missouri Military Academy, Soldan International, Orchard Farm, Normandy Collaborative, Miller Career Academy, MCcluer South-Berkley and John Burroughs.
The first challenge Mexico's Carter Maxwell at 106 will face in the form of state-ranked wresters are Kirksville's Logan Blickhan and Fulton's Jackson Caswell, who are listed second and fourth, respectively.
"Carter Maxwell has to come ready to wrestle this weekend. Carter has improved all season," said Mexico coach Gayle Adams. "If he sticks to the game plan good things will happen for him."
At 113 the field is just as deep and it starts with Fulton's second-ranked Sam Hrabovsky. Christian's Jonathan Cochrum is fifth in the state and is more than likely on the radar of Mexico's Brayan Juarez and the Colonel's Richard Choy, as well.
"Brayan Juarez has been in this position before as a freshman. Brayan qualified for state last year and he needs to put a good tournament together and he will be heading back to state this year," Adams said. "My guys wrestle hard. We have been in dog fights all year. When it’s all said and done he will be going back to state."
While the Bulldogs don't have a wrestler at 120, MMA has Luis Garzon. Moberly also has Jacob Aleshire and he's ranked sixth in Missouri at that weight class.
"Overall, my team is a very young team. We only have two seniors and the rest are underclassmen," said MMA coach Dr. Ryan Nowlin. "We return two juniors and the rest are freshmen and sophomores. We might take our licks this year, but we'll be pretty salty the next two seasons. Keep in mind that we have to compete against schools that are three to four times our size due to the state multiplier for private schools. With only 150 kids, it can be tough to compete with Mexico and St. Charles West."
At 126 the cupboards might be bare for the Colonels, but Mexico's Kevin Duong is probably the best wrestler in his weight class at this meet. The same could be said at 132 about the Bulldogs, the only difference being that Dylan Patton is ranked third in Missouri and is looking to medal at the state for the fourth straight year, but the Colonel's Liam Hipp is still going to give him a try if given the opportunity.
"Liam Hipp at 132 is a sophomore transfer this fall and had a very good run at last years district tournament in Class 3, but fell just one match short," Dr. Nowlin said. "He is up a weight class, which he has struggled with this season. We have been able to nurse our several injuries throughout the late half of the season, and should be ready for district competition. We have fought the flu bug not once but twice, and we are nursing along the same type of injuries that every team does this time of year."
At 138 Mexico's Dillon Nichols is ranked second in Missouri and Fulton's Tucker Caswell is third, which should make for quite a match. MMA's Styles Fountain has also had quite a season, but when he went head-to-head with Nichols at the Colonels recently, Nichols won by technical fall.
"Dillon Nichols is a returning state placer, but I except big things from all my guys," Adams said. "I think if they wrestle to their potential they all have great chances to wrestle next weekend at state."
For the Bulldogs Blayne Weiberg and the Colonels WrayVauze Givens at 145 their biggest threat might be top ranked Brandon Carbray of St. Charles West. As for Mexico's Jaeden Pottebaum at 152, even though he doesn't have a counterpart from MMA to look out for, he might want to keep his eye on Winfield's fifth-ranked Clark Rogers.
"Senior Jaeden Pottembuam and Junior Blayne Wieberg are ready to make a splash this weekend to punch their ticket to state," Adams said. "I’m excited for this team to see if we can improve from are finish last year which we got second in the state."
The biggest challenge lying ahead at 160 for the Bulldogs Vinny Vitale is probably Trevor Hatchel of St. Charles West because he's ranked third. At 170 it's a different story all together, though, because while Kirksville's Vin Kriegshauser is fifth and Priory's Greg Rowles is third, Mexico's Kellen Ekern is the unquestioned best by virtue of numerous different standards, including the fact he's a three time state champ who signed his national letter of intent to wrestle at Div. 1 Old Dominion starting this fall.
"Clark Gookin at 160 is a mid-year transfer from Kentucky. Before Chrsitmas he was 7-1 at 145," said Dr. Nowlin. "As his character and integrity run deep, he didn't believe it fair to Givens or Huckins to challenge them for their spots in the line-up, so he remains content to wrestle at 160, which is 10 to 11 pounds heavier than he is. He's a good quality wrestler who could sneak up on someone since he only has four matches to his credit in the second half of the season, and those four he wrestled sick."
The challenge for the Bulldogs Jakob Bradley and the Colonels Ayden Garcia at 182 might appear somewhat daunting from the outside. After all, Moberly's Kyler Guthrie is ranked number one in the state and Fulton's Colton Bristol is fifth, but just like he does at every other weight class, Adams has a plan.
"Jakob Bradley will wrestle hard no matter who is in front of him. Ranking is a number. When the tournament starts on Friday everyone is 0-0. Anything can happen," said Adams. "If Jakob attacks and sticks with his offense good things will happen for him. He will be ready to wrestle."
The field at 195 won't be quite as treacherous for MMA's Forrest Druumond and Mexico's Hale Fuemmeler as Moberly's second-ranked Chance Richards appears to be the only landmine in this field, but the danger lying in wait at 220 appears to be a little more subtle. That's because the Colonels Copeland Grahmann is wiser than his limited experience would lead you to beleive and Mexico's Wyatt Turner is a four-year varsity wrestler who already signed his national letter of intent.
"Grahmann is a senior. He is 13-4 and has wrestled very well when he has been healthy," Dr. Nowlin said. "He will go as far as his shoulder will allow him to go."
Just like at 170, the rest of the field has to take a wide berth of the Bulldogs at 285 because Terrese Aaron is the returning state champion and there's no reason he can't repeat that feat this year. He also will be wrestling at Div. I Northern Illinois in the fall and is looking to go out a winner in every way imaginable. MMA's Sky Thunderchild Henio also wants his share of the glory, but considering he's already lost to Aaron this season, he may prefer to take a different path to the next level.
"Sky Thunderchild at 285 will have a tough draw with a bracket that is loaded with big and strong heavyweights," said Dr. Nowlin. "To find the cream of the crop of this weight class, we just have to look toward the west at MHS's own Terese Aarons. He is probably one of the best pure heavyweights I have ever seen in my nearly 30 years of officiating and coaching wrestling."