The Rock Bridge wrestling team defeated visiting Helias, 40-16, on Wednesday night. The Bruins said the victory, their second in a row over Helias, was also their third victory against the Crusaders in 20 years.
Rock Bridge was led by Theo Blumenschein and Charlie Lay, who each won by pins early in their matches. Kyle Lewis also had a strong performance, beating his opponent 13-1. However, Rock Bridge’s Taylor Crane, missouriwrestling.com’s No. 1-ranked wrestler at 135 pounds, went unopposed.
One of the most intriguing matches of the night was the second showdown between the Bruins’ Chris Masters and Helias’ Charlie Gilstrap at 171 pounds. Masters, wrestling with a broken hand, defeated Gilstrap by pin last year on Helias’ home floor. For the majority of this year, Gilstrap has wrestled at 189 pounds, but he slimmed down to 171 for Wednesday’s match against Rock Bridge.
“He was out for blood. He wanted to embarrass me on my home floor like I did to him last year,” Masters said.
On Wednesday, Gilstrap defeated Masters, 5-3, in a close decision. At one point in the match, Masters was called for stalling. Masters said he thought the officiating affected the decision.
“There were some poorly made calls,” he said.
In last year’s dual match at Helias, Rock Bridge won 34-33.
Rock Bridge coach Brook Harlan said he felt more comfortable Wednesday night.
“Last year it came down to the last match,” Harlan said. “So it was nice to have a little cushion.”
Harlan noted that Helias is suffering a down year but that his team still stepped up to the challenge.
“They have a lot of nice wrestlers,” he said. “But we stepped up against their tough guys, and they saw our best guys. Each year we keep getting better and better.”
Rock Bridge’s varsity starts three freshman and two sophomores and only uses two seniors, so the majority of the team will return for at least one more season.
“Our youth shows promise for next year,” Harlan said.
Rock Bridge has started out 2-2 in dual matches and has done well in its tournaments. Rock Bridge wrestled undermanned in both the Truman Tournament and the North Kansas City tournaments, with only nine wrestlers. Rock Bridge finished fourth at the Truman Tournament and third at North Kansas City, where the Bruins were on the verge of silver, but had one wrestler not make weight. The team finished the tournament three points out of second.
“We’ve wrestled fairly shorthanded so far this season,” Harlan said.