JEFFERSON CITY -- Three Rock Bridge wrestlers have another grueling week of practice ahead.
They earned it.
Cam Purcell, Will Martin and Erin Slate went to Jefferson City High on Saturday hoping to do their best. They left as state championship qualifiers.
Rock Bridge 3 for 3 for state qualifiers
Purcell, Martin and Slate were the only Rock Bridge wrestlers to compete in the Class 3 Sectional 3 Tournament. The top four finishers in each weight bracket qualified for the state tournament in Hearnes Center that runs Thursday through Saturday.
Purcell (152) and Martin (160) placed fourth, and Slate (171) finished third. How they placed in the tournament didn’t seem to matter to them as much as qualifying for the state tournament did.
“It’s been my goal all year,” Martin said.
Martin’s first match was an indication of how the rest of his day would go. Trailing 9-4 with 15 seconds left, Martin pinned Daniel Gibson from Parkview.
Martin said that he wasn’t sure how he won after he tried to cradle Gibson and failed.
“I thought I had lost,” Martin said. “Somehow I stacked him. I don’t know what happened.”
Coach John Kopnisky said he was grateful for Martin’s win.
“Any time someone gives us a gift like that, we’ll take it,” Kopnisky said.
Purcell and Slate also succeeded in their first matches. Purcell earned a 5-4 decision against Lebanon’s Joe Kueny. Slate defeated Chris Schaefer from Hillcrest 9-4.
Winning in the losers' bracket led to state berths
After losing their semifinal matches Purcell, Martin and Slate were placed in the losers’ bracket. Winning their next match would qualify them for the state tournament. Losing would end their season. Each qualified for the state tournament and made it look easy.
Purcell pinned Rolla’s Ryan Mathews in 1:53. Martin defeated Jake Reed of Troy Buchanan 8-2. Slate earned a technical fall against Dan Jensen of Rolla 18-3.
Slate said he expected to qualify for the state tournament.
“I knew I was going,” Slate said. “I was just hoping somebody else would go with me.”
Slate finished third after defeating Schaefer for a second time 6-1. Purcell lost to Jake McKinney from Jefferson City 8-2. Rock Bridge’s Tony Accurso defeated Martin 8-6.
Slate attributed his and his teammates’ success to their extra effort the past week.
“I do think the morning practices and film watching have helped us out a lot,” Slate said.
Purcell, Martin and Slate are first-time state championship qualifiers. It is a first for their coach, too. It is the first time he will coach in a state championship.
Kopnisky wants his team to focus on the future. He said qualifying for the state championships isn’t good enough. He expects it to do well in the tournament. Kopnisky is preparing his team for the future but is pleased with its efforts.
“Bringing these guys to state, I couldn’t be happier,” Kopnisky said.