“We’re going to go down there with only eight kids and Neosho’s going to have 13,” Kearney coach Chad Hopkins said. “Some of those teams will have more kids and more firepower, but the kids still have to perform. We’ll find out next Saturday.”
The Bulldogs hope their Thoroughbreds — like two-time state champion Jaret Singh, who cruised to the championship at 113 pounds — will beat the bigger stables.
Facing Jefferson City Helias senior Dylan Linsenbardt, who entered districts ranked second in the state, in the final, Singh won by technical fall, 15-0, only 9 seconds into the second period.
Singh had a first-round bye, but won his other matches by pin and another tech fall — dominance he credits to a rugged regular-season schedule.
“The schedule we’ve had to face this year has taken us to some of the toughest tournaments in the country, so when we come back home it’s almost like breezer tournaments,” Singh said. “I’m ready for state. I’m ready to get this done.”
He’s not alone.
Kearney’s other reigning state champions, senior Kevin Kinney (138) and junior Grant Leeth (145), also made light work of districts.
“Mentally, when I step on the line, I’m here to do what I need to do,” said Kinney, who scored a 12-2 major decision in the final against Platte County senior Collin Tolliver. “We train to be the best out there on the mat and I was today.”
Meanwhile, Leeth notched a 19-8 major decision in his final.
“I wanted to secure more bonus points for my team, but I was still happy with my performance,” Leeth said. “We’re super-competitive with each other in the room and out here. We’re fighting to see who can end the year with the most teams points. There’s always something on the line. We all feed off it.”
At the moment, Singh holds a slight lead over Leeth in the team-points race.
Junior Blake Clevenger (132) and senior Blain Dresher (160) also claimed titles for Kearney, which had to make do without junior Seth Brayfield. Brayfield, who is ranked No. 2 at 120 pounds, quit the team hours before the district tourney.
“Obviously, that doesn’t help when you have an All-American that decides the day of the tournament not to wrestle,” Hopkins said. “But I think the guys really rallied together this weekend.”
Runner-up Platte County, which finished with 192.5 points behind Kearney’s 203, qualified 11 wrestlers to state, including two champions.
Oak Park and Winnetonka also walked away with two champions.
Northmen senior Brad Perkins (126) stayed perfect in his high school career. He improved to 9-0 this season and 87-0 overall with a 5-1 win against Kearney senior Joe Disciacca in the title bout.
Perkins’ teammate, senior Jaeger Low, upset Staley senior Daltan Sweet in the 195 final.
Training partners and best friends, seniors Casey Bryan (170) and Anthony Flores (182), snagged back-to-back titles for the Griffins, while Staley junior Bailey Sutko capped the meet with a championship at 285.