By Richard Polen
Globe Sports Writer
Monett will bring seven state qualifiers, including four with state tournament experience, into the MSHSAA Wrestling Championships that begin today at Mizzou Arena in Columbia.
The Cubs’ lineup includes three Class 2 district champions — Sean Jastal, a freshman at 106 pounds; Chase Brennan, a junior at 113, and Matt Wentz, a junior at 182.
Brennan, whose career record is 123-13, is making his third appearance at the state tournament. He won the title as a freshman at 103 and placed third as a sophomore at 113.
“We haven’t wrestled a lot of these people, but if we wrestle to our ability, we’ll be fine,” said Monett head coach Daryl Bradley. “I feel like we have an opportunity to win seven first-round matches.”
Kedrick Brink, a sophomore at 120, is a returning state qualifier along with Matt Wentz at 182 and Devon Overall at 195. Sophomores Dominick Witherow at 145 and Wesley Abramovitz at 170 are first-time qualifiers.
“That’s something we talked about all week, is that this is just another tournament,” Bradley said. “Having that experience sure helps.”
Among Neosho’s challengers in Class 3 is No. 1-ranked Kearney, which won the District 4 tournament at Liberty North.
“We’re going to go down there with only eight kids and Neosho’s going to have 13,” Kearney coach Chad Hopkins told The Kansas City Star. “Some of those teams will have more kids and more firepower, but the kids still have to perform.”
Kearney is led by two-time state champion Jaret Singh at 113 pounds, senior Kevin Kinney at 138 and junior Grant Leeth at 145.
Kearney wrestled without junior Seth Brayfield, who was ranked No. 2 at 120 but quit the team just before the district tournament.
“Obviously, that doesn’t help when you have an All-American that decides the day of the tournament not to wrestle,” Hopkins told The Star.
Platte County, which finished 10.5 points behind Kearney, has 11 state tournament qualifiers. The Pirates won their seventh state title in 2010 when they competed in Class 2.
Oak Park senior Brad Perkins at 126 goes in the state tournament unbeaten in his high school career. He is 9-0 this season and 87-0 overall.
Park Hill, ranked No. 1 in Class 4, won the district tournament at Lee’s Summit and has 11 state qualifiers. Second-place Blue Springs has six district champions among its eight qualifiers.
Joplin’s Don Hollingshead, who will see Jacob Kaibel of Troy in the first round, would face unbeaten Cain Salas of Blue Springs in the quarterfinals if both wrestlers win their first-round matches.
As Joplin’s only qualifier, coach David Myers won’t be distracted by other matches. “That’s definitely the positive aspect of it,” Myers said. “We can set him up as best we can.
“What I told him was, one through eight, there’s not a lot of separation. It’s just whoever shows up on Thursday or Friday. That’s the best thing about Don. He’s one of the better guys anywhere in greco. It’s the equivalent of a boxer who has a puncher’s chance. It’s always exciting. They’ll be looking for it, too.”
Although defending champion Whitfield is ranked No. 1 in Class 1, the championship is up for grabs, said Whitfield head coach Charlie Sheretz. “Like any tournament, it’s going to come down to the team that’s on top of its game that weekend,” Sheretz told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
He listed his team along with Brookfield, Seneca, Blair Oaks and possibly Lawson as the top contenders before the district tournaments. Whitfield’s lineup includes two-time state champion Rodney Hahn at 152 along with defending champions Chris Wilkes at 138 and Will Hahn at 160.
Diamond’s Jordan Douglas, a senior at 145, is a four-time state qualifier.