COLUMBIA — Nothing is certain for the Class 4 state wrestling championships on Saturday, but Hickman’s 189-pound Will Owens is sure of one thing: Assistant coach Ben Smith owes him a steak dinner.
Smith said that if Owens could get a pin during state competition on Friday he would take him out and buy him a nice, juicy steak. But Smith doesn't have the face of a man who lost a bet; his grin indicates he's pleased by Owens’ performance. Smith said it was a bet that he hoped he would lose.
1. Blue Springs, 143
2. Park Hill, 95
3. Francis Howell Central, 94.5
4. Seckman, 80.50
5. Lee's Summit West, 55
6. Jefferson City, 52
7. Rockhurst, 50
8. Ozark, 49.5
9. Waynesville, 49
10. Timberland, 48.5
11. Hickman, 39.5
12. Rock Bridge, 38.5
Despite the pin, Owens could not escape a loss of his own as Jefferson City senior Jared Johnson eliminated him on a fall on Friday.
Owens’ teammate, 215-pound sophomore J’den Cox, kept his state championship hopes alive with a razor thin 2-1 decision win over DeSmet’s Jacob Matyiko.
Cox and Owens, sparring partners in practice, have pushed each other to become better wrestlers and have enjoyed success at the state level because of it.
“We go hard in practice, we get really intense,” Cox said with a grin. “The snaps are a little harder, the slams are a little harder. One of our coaches once said that sometimes it’s good to throw punches in practice.”
The intensity has led to some scarring. Cox said that he had given Owens a dent on the top of his forehead from a practice session earlier this season. When it’s inferred that he has scarred Owens for life, Cox puts out his own arm in defense.
“Look what he did to me!” Cox said.
Cox’s arms are full of tiny scars and scratches, and many of which Owens seems to be the culprit. But the competition between the two is what drives them to succeed.
“In practice, J’den and me go hard,” Owens said. “He gets me down, I get him down. Getting him down gives me confidence because, hey, if I can take him down I can take anyone down.”
Coach J.D. Coffman has seen the two wrestle together and knows first hand how intense they can be. Coffman encourages the two to wrestle that way, so long as it’s not to the point of anything beyond wrestling. J’den, meanwhile, seems to embrace his role as team captain, and Coffman has noticed his teammates have, as well.
“J’den definitely raises the bar for the rest of the team,” Coffman said. “The work ethic these guys have of trying to become a qualifier, to medal, or becoming a state champion is a big reason they’re here.”
Coffman said Cox's semifinal match on Friday was the closest match of the season for him so far, and it even left him stumbling off the mat after his hand was raised. He sat down and received the trainer's attention while icing his forehead.
“He got knocked on the head and poked in the eye,” Coffman said. “But he’ll be all right for tomorrow.”
Cox faces Benjamin Poeschl of Lee’s Summit West on Saturday. Poeschl is also undefeated for the season, setting up an interesting match between unbeaten opponents for this year’s 215-pound final.