The Hickman and Rock Bridge wrestling teams will be competing in one less postseason tournament.
With the Missouri State High School Athletic Association expanding wrestling from three to four classes this year, the sectional tournament has been replaced by a longer district tournament.
In the past, teams would wrestle in an eight-team district tournament then an eight-team sectional tournament the next weekend. The top four finishers in each weight class would advance to the state tournament.
Now, each class is divided into four 13-team district tournaments with the top four finishers going to state.
Hickman and Rock Bridge will participate today and Saturday in the Class 4 District 3 event at Jefferson City. The state meet begins Thursday at Hearnes Center.
Rock Bridge coach John Kopnisky said that the change was inevitable.
“The theory is, more and more schools are popping up, and more schools have wrestling, and it’s becoming a bigger sport,” Kopnisky said.
“If they kept it the way it was going, it would just be a mess keeping the same tournaments and having a district, sectional and state. With this, we can have more classes, more districts, and more people to state.”
Kopnisky said he thought the change would increase chances for wrestlers all across the state.
“Now, smaller schools can get more guys to state and it gives them a better chance of having a state champ or having someone place,” Kopnisky said. “Although they are a tiny school, they can still have somebody out there to make the school proud.”
Rock Bridge’s lone returning state qualifier, 171-pounder Cam Purcell, placed third at districts and fourth at sectionals last year at 152 pounds.
“For me (this year), I want to place at state,” Purcell said. “For the team, I think we can qualify five or six guys.”
— Brandon Morgan
Hickman wrestling: The Hickman practice room sounded like a rap concert.
With music booming from a large stereo, the Kewpies (3-11) were getting their last practice in Thursday before heading to Jefferson City tonight for the Class 4 District 3 meet.
Coach J.D. Coffman said his team is strong enough to send five or six wrestlers to the championships, but he doesn’t like making predictions.
“They’ve had a good week of practice, and I think they are well prepared,” Coffman said while turning down the music.
“I told the boys Monday and Tuesday of this week if we can qualify more than that, then it would just be icing on the cake and make things extra special.”
Hickman 189-pounder Zach Arnold, who finished third at state at 171 last season, hopes to improve his 41-5 record. At 119, Tony Pescaglia (34-3) looks to return to state, too, where he finished third at 112 last season. His brother K.C. Pescaglia (125) has only one loss this season.
“I don’t know if I can put undue pressure on them,” Coffman said. “It’s their wrestling season. Like the old saying goes we can’t do it for them, the coaches can’t wrestle for them, so as far as I’m concerned I do the best I can to get them prepared mentally and physically and then its up to them to reach their goals. Hopefully I’ve instilled in them the attitude and drive and the desire for them to reach for those goals and we’ll see how that turns out.”
Jeff McHugh, a 171-pound junior, suffered a shoulder injury last week against Smith-Cotton. McHugh was not practicing, but he said nothing could keep him from wrestling tonight.
“I’m excited to get down there and give it a shot,” McHugh said. “I should be ready to go and hopefully I’ll be able to do well. I’m excited to see the other guys wrestle, too. It should be interesting to see how we do.”
— Eddie Watson