Platte County senior EmmaLyn Burnett wrestles in the Class 2 MSHSAA Wrestling Championships last year in Columbia. ROSS MARTIN/PC Preps Extra

Platte County eyes continued success for program built on cultivating, developing talent

While only Burnett returns from record group of 5 state qualifiers, Pirates have another intriguing roster with equal parts experience, potential.

The viable identity for the program relies on the development of those committed to the process.

Platte County junior Giada Cucchiara wrestles in the Class 2 District 4 tournament last winter at Pirate Fieldhouse.

A year ago, Platte County’s fifth season produced a program-record five Class 2 MSHSAA Wrestling Championship qualifiers into the two-day tournament. However, the Pirates must stay dedicated to the principles that have created momentum built in the nascent stages of progress with only senior EmmaLyn Burnett back from that group.

Platte County graduated Haley Burge, Lilly Brower and Hannah Mand among an influential group of seniors, while Giada Cucchiara suffered a season-ending torn ACL during offseason soccer. The Pirates still have a typical roster — a mix of proven returners, developing contributors and intriguing newcomers.

“With a lot of hard work, anyone can help this team,” Platte County coach Reggie Burress said. “If you’re willing to come out here and practice hard every day and give it 100%, we’re going to help you get better. You’re going to find ways to get better. It may be that you’re not the most talented wrestler, but you’re going to be in the best shape, push other kids to the limits and win matches when you’re not supposed to.”

While Brower became a two-time state medalist with a third-place finish at 115 pounds, Burge, Mand, Burnett and Cucchiara all made state debuts. Brower and Burnett both opened with wins in their brackets, while Burge and Mand won first-round wrestleback matches after both entered as No. 4 seeds out Class 2 District 4.

Platte County sophomore Karrington Friddell competes in the Class 2 District 4 tournament last season at Pirate Fieldhouse.

Cucchiara went 0-2 at state in her first year of wrestling. The five qualifiers scored a total of 30 points for Platte County and helped the Pirates tie for 19th in Class 2.

Platte County regularly filled 11 of 14 weight classes last season, and this year’s roster could be even deeper despite Cucchiara’s injury and the early graduation of junior Sarah Hamburg, who just missed state qualification in 2023. The Pirates also return juniors Alivia Juarez (170 pounds) and Adrianna Ciccarelli (115 pounds) and sophomores Karrington Friddell (105 pounds), Gabriella Ciccarelli (110 pounds) and Nicole Fernandez (190 pounds) with starting experience.

“I think the good thing is our numbers are good. We got them spread out this year and cover at least 12 of the 14 weight classes so we’re seeing growth there,” Burress said.

If nothing else, Burnett and Cucchiara provide an example of the potential pathway to quick success.

Platte County junior Alivia Juarez wrestles in the Class 2 District 4 tournament last season at Pirate Fieldhouse.

As a sophomore, Burnett earned a spot in Platte County’s postseason lineup, and just a year later, she claimed the Class 2 District 4 championship at 125 pounds, becoming just the third in program history to claim a title. She returns at that weight last year after going 1-2 at state and finished her second season at 27-11 overall.

Prior to Burnett, only KayLyn Munn and Sarina Bertram had earned district titles in the one-class postseason system with 2022-23 marking the first year of a split into two. Burnett can also join them as the only multi-time state qualifiers in program history this season.

“Obviously, we’re looking for leadership from EmmaLyn. She has to be a leader every day,” Burress said.

A soccer-first athlete, Cucchiara joined Platte County team last year and immediately showed promise, going on to place third in Class 2 District 4 at 135 pounds. She seemed a prime candidate for a second-year bump in performance and likely would’ve teamed with Burnett to give the Pirates a solid 1-2 punch toward the middle of the lineup.

Instead, Burress must replace half of last year’s high-achieving lineup, which went 8-2 in duals and finished second to Belton in the Suburban Conference White Division.

“Even though Giada’s hurt, she’s at practice every day and helping coach the younger kids,” Burress said. “Most kids won’t do that, but she’s here every day and helps in any way she can.”

The other returners will look to build on the ups and down of prior experience. Gabriella Ciccarelli (12-21, 100); Friddell (13-12, 105) and Fernandez (9-18, 190) all came up just one win shy of qualifying for state, while Juarez posted a winning record (14-12) at 155 pounds but went two-and-out in a tough district bracket but will be in her third year.

Platte County sophomore Nicole Fernandez wrestles in the Class 2 District 4 tournament last season at Pirate Fieldhouse.

Adrianna Ciccarelli (6-14) wrestled much of the season in the lower weights before Brower’s return shuffled the lineup.

“It definitely feels like we’re retooling and trying to figure some things out,” Burress said. “Being around long enough, my expectations are that we’re going to get better and when it comes to (the postseason) compete hard and see what we can get done.”

Prior to 2022-23, only KayLyn Munn and Sarina Bertram had won district titles and state medals for Platte County. Burnett joined the district champion list, while Brower won her first medal with the Pirates.

Brower (14-5) gained full eligibility in the second half of the season and returned to the mat for the first time since a state runnerup finish at Excelsior Springs as a freshman. Burge became the Pirates’ second four-year senior in the program’s five-year history and went 1-2 at state in the 110 bracket, after cutting down to make room for Brower in the lineup.

Mand (120) placed fourth at Class 2 District 4 to earn her state berth in just her second year with the program. She eventually completed a standout track career and signed to run at Park University.

Platte County sophomore Gabriella Ciccarelli competes in the Class 2 District 4 tournament last season at Pirate Fieldhouse.

Like Mand, much of this year’s roster could include athletes from other sports with the potential to quickly acclimate to wrestling.

Platte County sophomore Charley Sims made an immediate impact as a freshman sprinter on the track team and slots in at 120, while junior Annabel Beeman (135) brings significant experience as a state cross country runner and starter for the Pirates’ soccer team.

Madeleine Stone, another first-year junior, makes the winter switch from swimming after qualifying for the Class 1 MSHSAA Swimming and Diving Championships each of the past two years. She earned honorable mention all-state honors on a relay last year and currently occupies the 235 slot.

“We don’t always have kids that have wrestled a long time, but we’ve shown that we can get them where they need to be in a shorter amount of time than some,” Burress said.

With a roster of just 15, Burress also expects freshman Mila Cucchiara (140) and junior Taylore Lavery (145) to make the original starting lineup, while sophomores Kylee Wilson (110) and Gwendolyn Duncan (115) to compete for time in the lower weights. The Pirates also have Anna Wiesehan and freshman Natalie Donnini in contention for the 130 spot.

“Seeing the growth in the number of younger girls coming out is going to help us a lot in the future also,” Burress said. “Behind this group, there are a couple of really good (middle schoolers) coming in to add to this group.”

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