At full strength, Platte County likely would have left the reformatted 48th edition of the Platte County Invitational over the weekend. The Pirates closed in on a full-strength roster but couldn’t overcome four losses by decision and the absence of freshman Jake Fernandez in a loss to Helias on Saturday at Platte County High School.
Still, Platte County went 4-1 in the tournament’s dual format, junior Eli Rocha picked up career win No. 100 and freshman Caden Hulett and juniors Blaine Keuhn and Jaydon Walls also went unbeaten in another sign of progress for a rebuilding roster. The tight loss to Helias that put a mark on a previously unbeaten dual record was the only negative.
“There was definitely a lot of little things that we could have done to win that (dual),” said Platte County senior Hunter Burge, who closed his day with a first period pin in his 132-pound match in the closing dual with Kirksville. “There wasn’t one match that skewed the dual. There were a couple of things. We really should have taken that dual.”
Platte County lost its dual with Helias in the third and final round of Pool A competition, but the Pirates came back to best B Pool winner Smithville and B Pool runnerup Kirksville to claim second place. Helias won the tournament with a 5-0 record.
Fernandez missed his third straight competition and hopes to return this week, but the likely postseason lineup for Platte County took shape. Drake Lacina, one of only three seniors in the lineup Saturday, cut back to 160 pounds and would provide another returning state qualifier in the middle to upper weights.
“I think this team could be really good come state time,” Hulett said. “We have a full lineup, and everyone’s got a chance so I think we’ll do well.”
At full strength, Platte County should have two-time state medalist Rocha (145) plus previous state qualifiers in junior Jared Parsons (138), Lacina (160), Keuhn (170), Walls (195) and senior Jesse Schillinger (220) along with standout freshmen Hulett (106) and Fernandez (182). Add in state hopefuls in Burge and junior Ben McDaniel (152), and the Pirates have a chance to maximize its state potential even in a COVID-adjusted qualifying process. The top four advance out of districts to sectionals with the top three in each weight class going to state — down from the typical top four.
“Everybody contributed; they’re getting better, improving on things,” Platte County coach Reggie Burress said. “We still have things to work on before districts, but I’m pleased with the effort. We’re staying in matches. I think last year some of these kids were getting pinned by a few of these kids. We’re staying in matches and giving ourselves a chance to win.
“We’ll move forward and make corrections and see how things play out in the postseason.”
Platte County 60, William Chrisman 18
The Pirates won four of the six matches wrestled in the Pool A opener with Hulett needing sudden victory to win a 4-2 decision over Riley Ragan at 106 pounds. That started a run of five decisions on the day for Hulett, who ranks in the top six at his weight in the Missouri Wrestling rankings for Class 3.
Keuhn and Walls added second-period falls, and Platte County senior Jesse Schillinger won the 220 match in a 3-1 decision with a takedown in the 1-minute sudden victory overtime period.
Platte County 52, St. James Academy 20
The Pirates continued their recent run of dominance against Kansas competition after falling behind 14-0 in the first three matches.
Burge started a run of nine straight Platte County wins with a pin at 132, and junior Jared Parsons followed with a 2-1 win in tiebreakers at 138. Rocha, a two-time Class 3 state medalist, recorded the 100th victory of his career at 145 with a 14-6 major decision over Jack Steinlage. Rocha closed in on a technical fall late when he ended up reversed to his back for a stint, allowing five points and surviving a minor scare.
Platte County junior Ben McDaniel — down to 152 to help make room in the lineup for Lacina — recorded a fall. Lacina also had a fall at 160, and Keuhn and sophomore Andrew Gjoni took forfeits at the next two weights. Walls (fall) and Schillinger (forfeit) increased the Pirates lead to 49-14.
“Now, I feel like when we get going the momentum builds for us,” Burress said.
After a St. James win at 285, Hulett closed the dual with a 3-2 decision over sophomore Mo Cregan, a fifth-place state finisher in Class 4A at 106 as a freshman. Cregan gave up an early stalling point and couldn’t escape late in the third period with a chance to tie the score.
“(I’d like) a few I can finish normally would be nice,” Hulett said. “But a win’s a win.”
Helias 36, Platte County 31
The Pirates lost four total decisions, two by a score of 3-2, and couldn’t avoid a fall at 285 in their first dual loss of the season.
After taking an initial 6-0 lead with a forfeit at 120, Platte County lost the next three matches, including an 8-3 decision for Jacob Schrimpf over Burge at 132 and a 5-3 decision for Carson Hayes over Parsons. Rocha just missed a technical fall at 145 and settled for a dominant 19-8 major decision over Wyatt Forck at 145.
Helias led 12-10 at that point and then secured six key points with Nikolai Careaga and Alex Tesreau securing 3-2 decisions in the next two matches over McDaniel and Lacina, respectively.
Keuhn’s pin at 170 pulled Platte County back within two points, but Gjoni, replacing Fernandez in the lineup, ended up turned and pinned in the final second of the second period of the 182 match to negate the potential swing. The Pirates took the lead back at 28-24 with a pin from Walls and a forfeit for Shillinger at 220.
In the heavyweight match, Platte County sophomore Mar’Ques Brown took a 3-0 lead on Alex Cook but dinged up in his ankle in the process. After allowing Cook an escape after a takedown, Brown held a 3-1 lead but ended up pinned late in the third period. Helias led 30-28 at that point, and Hulett won a 4-0 decision to make it 31-30 only for the Crusaders to take a forfeit at 113 for the winning points.
“This is the first day that Ben and Drake are in the lineup together, and obviously, we’re missing Fernandez,” Burress said. “That’s not good for us, but Andrew Gjoni stepped in and battled. We’ve had people step up to keep teams from bumping and moving people around.
“They get disappointed and down for themselves with a loss, but it’s a great thing (for inexperienced wrestlers) to get opportunities.”
Platte County 40, Smithville 33
The Pirates fell behind 12-0, stormed back to a big lead and ultimately held on for the second dual victory of the season over Smithville.
After a quick pin at 126 for a 6-0 lead, Smithville picked up key points at 132 in a matchup between senior three-time state medalist JT O’Rourke and Burge, who took a 2-0 lead into the second period. O’Rourke then turned Burge to his back twice and earned the fall in 4 minutes, 34 seconds.
“O’Rourke, he figured it out — he’s a smart wrestler — figured out how to beat me at the end of the match. That’s the reason I lost,” said Burge, who is in his first full season as a starter and hopes to be a state qualifier in his final try. “I felt real good going out there. I just lost my cool as the match went on.”
Platte County tied the score at 12-12 with pins for Parsons and Rocha before McDaniel lost a 9-5 decision to Ethan Muir in a tight 152 match. Lacina went to tiebreakers to win a 2-1 decision at 160, and the Pirates went ahead 37-15 with pins for Keuhn (170) and Walls (195) around a forfeit for Gjoni at 182 and then Schillinger’s 9-0 major decision at 220 over Trisan Wald.
Smithville won three of the final four to close the deficit, but Hulett’s 3-1 decision at 106 over Trent Hallett secured the win for Platte County.
Platte County 48, Kirksville 28
The Pirates never trailed in the finale after Burge started the dual with a second period pin. Parsons finished his day 2-2 with a loss by major decision at 138, but Rocha followed with a pin at 145 and McDaniel took a forfeit to make it 18-4.
Keuhn (fall) and Walls (forfeit) increased Platte County’s lead to 30-13, but Kirksville wins at 220 by decision and 285 by all made it 30-22. However, Hulett and Leary took forfeits at 106 and 120, and freshman Brody Lueders capped the day with a second-period pin at 126 for his lone win to make It a 20-point margin of victory.
Platte County 42, Willard 30
Brown earned the first pin of his career to close the dual in the 285 match, dramatically sealing the win for the Pirates in the opener of a quad Friday night in Belton.
Platte County entered the final match leading 36-30, and a pin for Willard would’ve sent the dual into criteria tiebreaker procedures. Instead, Brown scored the fall on a throw near the edge of the mat — much to the delight of his teammates.
“We can see (Brown) getting better,” Burress said. “The whole team was so excited for him, and we had to have not get pinned to win the dual. Not only does he not get pinned, he gets the fall. Hopefully, he can keep building on that this year and next year.”
Hulett opened with a 7-4 decision over Class 3 sixth-ranked 106 senior Noah Agcaoili. Trailing 3-0 after two periods, Hulett had two takedowns and a late set of three near-fall points to earn the win.
Burge (132), Rocha (145), Walls (195) and Schillinger (220) also had falls for Platte County, who were without Lacina and Fernandez for the night’s three duals. Keuhn also had an important 4-2 decision at 170, but Schillinger’s pin with just 1 second left in the match turned a decision into a pin and gave the Pirates a little more breathing room for the 285 result.
“Duals like that are what makes a wrestling team a team,” Burge said. “We all relied on Mar’Ques and he pulled through. He’s a sophomore, hasn’t been wrestling that long, but he’s definitely taking it serious.”
Platte County 51, Belton 18
Hulett again opened with a decision — 5-0 over Jaden Lambert — and Platte County overcame a 15-3 deficit for an easy dual win.
Burge lost 1-0 to Brady Littleton in a tough 132 match, but Parsons and Rocha took forfeits in the next two matches to tie the dual score at 15-15. McDaniel gave the Pirates the lead for good with a pin at 152 to go with a forfeit for junior Christian Yocklin at 160.
Keuhn lost a 4-3 decision to Belton sophomore Zach Attebury in another highlight match at 170. Attebury broke a 2-2 tie with a third-period takedown, and Keuhn escaped with 30 seconds left but couldn’t find a winning takedown in what was the final match wrestled of the night with Belton open at 182, 195, 220 and 285.
Platte County 42, St. Thomas Aquinas 33
The Pirates bested the No. 5-ranked team in Kansas’ Class 5A in an exciting finale.
Hulett opened with a 3-2 decision over Tobius Kriner at 106, and Platte County led 15-12 after the teams exchanged wins over the next four matches. The Pirates ended up winning three in a row from 132 to 145 with two forfeits plus a first-period pin for Parsons.
McDaniel won a 13-8 decision at 160, and Keuhn took a forfeit at 170 to make it 36-18. St. Thomas Aquinas took three of the final four matches, but Walls locked up the victory for the Pirates with a pin of Sean Carroll, ranked No. 4 in Class 5A, in 4:40. The match went back and forth before Walls reversed Carroll to his back and scored the fall in the third period.
Platte County 44, Blue Springs 30
The Pirates hosted a rescheduled dual Wednesday at Platte County High School, and Lacina made a triumphant return to the lineup, weighing in at 170 and wrestling up at 182 despite being in the middle of his weight cut to 160.
Platte County held a slim 32-24 lead entering the 182 match, and Lacina scored a late escape to send the match to overtime tied 2-2 with Corbin Katamura. Off the whistle for the 1-minute sudden victory overtime period, Lacina finally found an opening for a takedown and a 4-2 decision victory.
“I knew I couldn’t muscle that kid so I just had to wait it out, and luckily, I got through three periods before I had to do it. But I got it done,” Lacina said. “I don’t even know. I just kind of went for (the takedown).”
Lacina qualified for state both as a sophomore and a junior but had been pushed out of a talented part of Platte County’s lineup by increased competition. He has focused on weight control to get to 160 pounds after going to state at 182 as a sophomore and 170 as a junior.
One of the keys will be working with McDaniel, Keuhn and Fernandez in the practice room and use internal competition to fuel success in the coming weeks.
“My teammates are great. I couldn’t do it without them — or coach Burress. They keep me motivated,” Lacina said. “All those guys, I look up to them every day and just try to meet where they’re at.
“I’ve waited a few years to be involved in a team like this, and I’m just super pumped to try and get down there (to state) and contribute.”
Walls followed with a 23-second pin to make it 41-24, and Schillinger won 3-2 in ultimate tiebreaker with an escape for the Pirates’ final win. Schillinger and Dom Howlett exchanged escapes in regulation and then in the tiebreaker overtime periods following a scoreless sudden victory period.
Platte County led 4-0 after Hulett’s 9-1 major decision at 106, and the Pirates would only briefly trail at 18-16. Leary and (third period pin) and Lueders (forfeit) had made it 16-6 before Blue Springs came back with pins at 132 from former Class 4 state champion Korbin Shepherd and Jason Gross at 138 with Parsons out of the lineup.
Rocha and McDaniel returned the favor with back-to-back pins, and Keuhn started the run of four straight wins that locked up the dual with an 11-1 major decision at 170.