Wearing a vest of tape, Rock Bridge’s Justin Davis winced as he breathed heavily. There was obvious pain with each breath, but Davis would not let up on his opponent.
After injuring his ribs in a dual against Kirksville on Feb. 1, Davis (33-8 at 103 pounds) has been forced to wrestle through pain. It didn’t seem to bother him much. He won a 4-2 decision against junior Brant Loyd (36-7) of Joplin to secure third place at the District 3 tournament Saturday at Jefferson City.
“We don’t know (the exact problem with his ribs),” Davis said. “I messed them up before with freestyle and broke a couple of them. I don’t know what’s going on now. I’m just wrestling through it.”
Rock Bridge had one more qualifier to the state meet, which starts Thursday at Hearnes Center. Senior 171-pounder Cam Purcell placed fourth.
Hickman qualified three wrestlers, with brothers Tony (119) and K.C. Pescaglia (125) both placing second and senior 189-pounder Zach Arnold earning a title.
Hickman was seventh in the team standings with 88 1/2 points and Rock Bridge was ninth with 47 1/2.
“We were hoping for five (qualifiers),” Rock Bridge coach John Kopnisky said. “Cam, coming back as a returning state qualifier, we figured he’d do well. We figured Justin had a good chance. Some of the other guys are a little inexperienced. It’s tough getting through.”
After losing his first match on Friday, Davis, a junior and the No. 4 seed, only needed one win Saturday to qualify.
No. 2 seed Andy Corbin (31-5) of Jefferson City didn’t make weight.
Corbin was in the semifinals, and the loser of his match would have wrestled Davis in the consolation semis. Since Corbin didn’t make weight, he forfeited both matches and sent Davis into the third-place match.
“I expected to have to win a lot more than one, but that’s just the way stuff goes, especially with Corbin not making weight,” Davis said. “It just changed the whole thing. I knew he has been close all year, but I never expected him to do that. I mean, you just have to work for that, and he must have got lazy.”
Arnold (41-6) won a title for Hickman with a 7-2 decision against Tommy Humphrey (32-7) of Troy. He will try to better his third-place finish at state last year.
Hickman junior Tony Pescaglia (34-4) placed second after losing by fall to Erik Warner (34-0) of Fort Zumwalt West. K.C.
Pescaglia (37-2), a sophomore, lost a 7-2 decision to Michael Gagliano (23-4) of Fort Zumwalt West in the finals.
Hickman coach J.D. Coffman wanted the brothers to win, but he understands how the losses could help them next week.
“It’s hard to wrestle a guy for the first time when you’ve never seen them,” Coffman said. “They got their first-time jitters out of the way and both are excited about the opportunity going from here. It’s always good to be the underdog and get a second chance at them.”
Purcell (31-10) placed fourth for the Bruins after losing by fall to Brandon Beard (24-12) of Francis Howell Central. This is the second time Purcell has qualified for state, after placing fourth at sectionals at 152 pounds last year.
Coffman said he is confident in his wrestlers.
“They all have real good chances to medal,” he said. “They are all wrestling well right now and peaking both mentally and physically. I like our chances of doing well this next weekend.”
Eddie Watson contributed to this report