Most coaches want a state championship or at least a state champion. All Jefferson City coach Steve Johnson wants is 100 percent.
“One hundred percent effort, it’s all I can ever ask of a kid,” Johnson said. “I don’t worry about team scores; I worry about kids when you get to this point.”
The 2004 MSHSAA wrestling championships, which started Thursday at Hearnes Center, will be Johnson’s last. After 28 years, Johnson is ready to retire to spend more time with his family. He has seen many differences over the years but said the competition changed the most.
“The competition is a lot tougher now than it was 28 years ago,” Johnson said. “Not to say that those kids weren’t good but wrestling is just starting earlier, kids are getting more experience in the kids clubs and the youth programs around the state.”
Johnson said because of the close competition records didn’t mean anything.
Undefeated advance past first round
That didn’t hold true for the undefeated wrestlers. Each of the 23 undefeated wrestlers coming into the tournament won his first match.
Twelve of the matches were won by pin. Blake Peterson of St. Joseph Central pinned Nathan Burbridge of Hazelwood Central in 14 seconds to break the record for fastest fall at 160 pounds in Class 3. The previous record was 23 seconds by Anthony Smith of Raytown in 1990.
The Class 3 fastest fall record at 171 pounds was also broken when D.L. Gleason of Oak Park pinned John Henry of Seckman in 30 seconds. The previous record was 32 seconds by Kevin Herron in 1996.
Another five undefeated wrestlers won by 10 or more points.
It was a good day to be undefeated but most wrestlers agreed with Johnson.
Park Hill looks to repeat Class 3 crown
Undefeated heavyweight Mike Gunselman of defending Class 3 champion Park Hill earned a fall but was quick to say that his record didn’t give him more confidence.
“I don’t really think about my record,” Gunselman said. “It’s a new tournament so everyone is 0-0 really.”
Gunselman also said it would be hard for Park Hill to defend its state title.
“(Winning a state title) is going to be hard, but we’re also coming in here thinking pretty much for ourselves,” Gunselman said. “We want to see a team state championship but it’s an individual tournament.”
After the first round in Class 3, Park Hill’s chances for a repeat looked dim, in fourth with 22.5 points. Raymore-Peculiar leads with 34. Hickman is in a three-way tie for 16th with Francis Howell and Christian Brothers College with 12. Rock Bridge is in an eight-way tie for 41st with 2.
Other defending state champions also struggled. Farmington leads in Class 2 with 28 points, while defending champion Helias is tied for 16th with 10.
Lawson has a small 26.5-25 lead over defending champion Oak Grove in Class 1.