Their eyes were big and their breathing deep. The nervous faces of the competitors at this season’s state wrestling tournament peered at the crowd as they walked united into Mizzou Arena to the Olympic theme song. The wrestlers walked into the arena to possibly the biggest matches of their young careers.
Brooke Harlan, the Rock Bridge wrestling coach, beamed with excitement and pride. He seemed to glide up the stairs of the arena, boosted by the confidence that comes from a successful round of wrestling.
All three Rock Bridge state qualifiers won their first-round matches, giving the team six points.
“They wrestled really well,” Harlan said. “They get to rest instead of wrestling again tonight, which should help tomorrow. I’m really proud of them. It’s a great thing to have Taylor (Crane) and Kyle (Lewis) get to experience (state) pretty young, and I’m happy Justin (Davis) is wrestling so well now and recovered from his injuries.”
Davis, an 103-pound senior, won 9-5 against junior Ashley Hudson of Lafayette-Wildwood. He has wrestled in only had a handful of matches since recovering from a broken left hand.
After a slow start, Lewis, a 130-pound sophomore won his match over Terrell Smart of Hazelwood Central, 13-9.
“I was nervous in the first period,” Lewis said. “He took me down quick to a near fall. I was kind of nervous because it was state, but in the second (period) I got my nerves out, and he took some bad shots that I took advantage of to throw him on his back. That gave me the 12-7 lead and I was able to be cautious until the end.”
Crane, a 135-pound sophomore, won his match 7-3. He is now 42-2 this season and is confident that he will finish in the top this year.
“I definitely feel like I will medal,” Crane said. “I face Maxx Waterkotte from Northwest (Cedar Hill) in the next round. I beat him pretty bad at the Hickman finals a few weeks ago.”
Hickman’s wrestling coach J.D. Coffman seemed equally excited by his wrestlers’ performances.
Last year’s champion at 119 pounds, senior Tony Pescaglia performed as expected, pinning freshman Chris Watson of Park Hill South with 45 seconds remaining in the second period. Junior K.C. Pescaglia (125) pinned Joe Ojile of Vianney with 5 seconds left in their match.
K.C. Pescaglia said he is looking to improve on his fourth-place state finish a year ago. Both wrestlers attributed their fast starts to being even more confident this year.
“It’s definitely not as stressful this year,” Tony Pescaglia said. “It’s my last year, so I want to have fun with it. I already signed with Mizzou, so I just want to go out and have fun and end my career on a high note.”
The last Hickman qualifier, senior Alex Wegener (171) lost his first match 5-3 to senior Sean Dietz of DeSmet. He then lost his second match 3-2 to junior Dan Phillips of Parkway West.
The tournament resumes today at 9 a.m.