By Richard Polen
Globe Sports Writer
An abundance of state tournament-tested wrestlers will compete in the C.J. Classic beginning at 10 a.m. today at Carl Junction.
The 11-team tournament includes defending champion Willard, but Carl Junction head coach Jeremy Finley said he expects challengers to emerge for the team championship.
“Carthage is going to be tough,” Finley said. “I expect Willard to be in the running, too. Webb City is pretty tough. They have a lot of kids out and a lot of experience.”
Carthage has five returning state qualifiers in Dakota Jones, Tyler Harden, Gage Gartner, Trevor Feagans and Seth Logan. Carthage will be a Class 3 district opponent for Carl Junction along with McDonald County, Webb City and Willard.
Carl Junction is led by Nick Koon, who placed fifth at 132 pounds in last season’s state meet. Other varsity returnees include juniors Calvin Bremmerkamp and Taylor Dawdy and senior Mason Markham.
“We have quite a few new guys who have stepped into the lineup,” Finley said. “It’s early in the season, but I feel like they have a bright future as long as they keep working hard.”
McDonald County’s returnees include state qualifiers Josh Chewey and Jordan Moffett.
Nevada and Monett are the two Class 2 schools in the tournament. Nevada’s Slade Stiles, Johnathon Ireland, Zach Shepherd and Colby Smith competed at the state meet last season along with Monett’s Chase Brennan, Kedric Brink, Devon Overall and Matt Wentz.
Seneca and Diamond were assigned to Class 1. Diamond returns Jake Goade, Jeremy Morris, Dylan Flint and Jordan Douglas, while Seneca is led by Cole Lankford, Logan Grady and state runner-up Will Roark.
“There are going to be quite a few state medalists and multiple state medalists in some weight classes,” said Seneca head coach Jeff Sill. “We’re trying to get into tournament shape and see some good competition. We just won’t have everybody at their weight classes yet.”
Two Kansas schools — Labette County and Cherryvale — round out the field. Curtis Hodges, Kaden Housel and D.J. Cook represented Cherryvale at the Kansas 3-2-1A state meet last season.