JEFFERSON CITY — The Class 4, District 3 wrestling meet Friday and Saturday in Jefferson City had its fair share of quality storylines for Hickman and Rock Bridge; The schools combined to bring nine state qualifeiers, Drae Cox earned his first trip to state after two near misses, and the Pescaglia familycontinued its dominance.. However, the smallest qualifier of the group had a unique story all his own. With his third place finish, Rock Bridge 103-pounder Will Evans was the first Bruins freshman to advance to the state tournament since Andy McVey in 1994.
Joining Evans next weekend at Mizzou Arena will be teammates Taylor Crane, Kyle Lewis and Charlie Lay. Hickman advanced five, with brothers Vince and K.C. Pescaglia, Drae Cox, Jacob Thornton and Jordan Lanham placing in the top four of their weight classes.
Evans, a self proclaimed “stoic kinda guy,” kept his emotions in check throughout the weekend, as well as on the medal stand. But the excitement of reaching the top level of high school wrestling wasn’t lost on him.
“It feels good to get to state,” Evans said. “Not many freshmen get to go to state. You gotta get in to place or win.”
Evans said getting to state was a result of work this season and for the past six years. Before this season, Evans wrestled in six youth state tournaments, finishing fourth two years ago and third last year. Even with that experience, he is quick to point out that wrestling at the high school level is much more daunting.
“High school is a whole other deal,” Evans said. “It’s way harder than grade school. (Wrestling in grade school) helped me handle it well, but high school is all that matters. There’s a lot of weight classes in grade school, but high school only has a few, which makes it much more intense.”
Bruins coach Brook Harlan said he noticed improvement in Evans as Evans worked to match the heightened competition in high school.
“He’s matured quite a bit this season,” Harlan said. “He’s gotten a lot stronger, and has really stepped up toward the end of the season.”
Evans also noted improvement in his skills this season.
“I’ve seen a lot of improvement in my speed and angles,” he said. “Wrestling is a sport where if you work hard, you can get better every day.”
And its the same hard work that draws Harlan’s admiration.
“Will’s a phenomenal worker,” Harlan said. “In practice, he’s always pushing his teammates to work harder. There’s typically a lot of new, younger wrestlers in the 103 (pound) class. He’s always working with brand new wrestlers and helping them get better.”
Evans will need that work ethic as he prepares for his trip to state. He said that “hanging with” the bracket winner at the district meet, Taylor Bolin of Fort Zumwalt West, gave him a lot of confidence. Even so, Evans is still only cautiously optimistic of his chances.
“A lot of it depends on who I face,” he said.
Win or lose, Harlan said he is satisfied with the success Evans enjoyed in his first season with the Bruins.
“I’m glad he gets the experience of going to state,” Harlan said. “He has the potential to place, which is really great as a freshman.”
After his first year of high school wrestling, Evans said that the experience has been good to him, with more good experiences to come next weekend.
“It’s nice to wrestle in your hometown,” Evans said. “My family and friends get to come watch, and my youth minister. Those are the people in life you can just talk about wrestling with, my friends and teachers. The high school experience has been good.”