Things began well for the Richmond Spartan wrestlers Thursday at the state wrestling tournament in Columbia. Four of the six Richmond wrestlers won their first match at Mizzou Arena, but the second round on Friday took its toll.
By early Saturday afternoon, the Spartans had just one medal to show for the three-day tournament as sophomore Colby Bowles took a 7-3 decision from Luke Morgan of Knob Noster to capture the third-place medal at 189 pounds. It was the lowest state medal count for Richmond since 1992. The Spartans ended the tournament in 20th place in Class 1 with 28.5 points. Whitfield won the team title with 160, while Brookfield finished as the runner-up with 156, followed by Marceline edging Seneca for third, 143-142.
For Bowles, who ended the season with a 41-9 record, it was his second state medal after taking sixth in the Class 2 160-pound bracket as a freshman. After a technical fall victory in his opening match, he advanced to the semifinals with a 6-2 win over Marceline junior Matthew Bell. His lone loss of the weekend came in the semifinals as he dropped a 5-1 decision to Dane Diehl, a senior from Butler. Simmons said Bowles really didn’t wrestle his best in the loss.
“Sometimes when you wrestle their style, it makes you look like you’re slower,” he said. “The guys a good kid, though, it’s not like he was push over or anything, he’s beaten some pretty good wrestlers. He had five losses, four of them in our tournament.”
Diehl, a fifth-place medalist last year, lost in this year’s finals to Lawson’s Devin Mellon. After his loss, Bowles finished strong as he won by fall over Braden Schmitz, a senior from Fatima, in 3:36 to advance to the third-place match where he met Morgan.
Bowles, along with Chris McFall at 119, Reny Reis at 135, and T.J. Kirkham all won their first round match Thursday morning. Preston Maples at 125 and Kane Southwick both lost their first-round matches, and then were eliminated later in the day when they lost their first-round wrestleback.
Spartan Coach Ken Simmons knew his team had some tough matchups heading into the quarterfinals. Richmond drew two defending state champions and another one who finished third the previous year in Friday’s session.
McFall met Dannen Merrill, a junior from Maryville, who finished third last year and brought a 39-1 record into their meeting. Merrill then took a 15-0 technical fall over the Spartan sophomore on his way to winning the eventual 119-pound championship. Reis then battled last year’s 130-pound state champion, Nick Cordray, in a quarterfinal matchup. The Marceline junior won by fall in 5:34, and finished as runner-up for the tournament.
Kirkham, another Spartan sophomore, met undefeated Austin Evans of Brookfield in the 160-pound quarterfinal. Evans, who would eventually go on to claim his second consecutive state championship, won by fall over Kirkham in 1:00.
“We had tough draws, but we didn’t wrestle our best either though,” Simmons said. “I thought Reny had a good chance to win his match, but just got caught at the end. Colby had a chance to get into the finals. He got a couple of moves at the edge of the mat that didn’t go our way and he couldn’t get control. It’s just frustrating. I thought they both were capable of placing higher than they did.”
Ries was the lone Spartan to win his next match Friday night as he took a 4-3 decision over Devon Gage of Stanberry. McFall was eliminated after losing a 15-1 decision to Seth Buhman of Maysville, and Kirkham fell 8-2 to J.D. Herst of St. Peter’s to end his tournament.
Ries was then eliminated in the next round when he lost by fall in 4:56 to Seneca junior Josh Mullen.
Although disappointed by this year’s tournament, Simmons, knowing that five of his qualifiers were just sophomores, was optimistic about next few seasons.
“In two years, I think we could have a chance to compete for a state title, but they need to improve,” he said. “They can’t wait until next year to do that. They need to do the work in the off-season and use this as a building block. Sometimes with tough losses like these, it could serve as a motivational purpose to get better. If they use it that way, they’ll get better and they will improve. So hopefully it hurts a little bit. If it hurts, we’ll get better.”
PHOTO: Colby Bowles takes down Braden Schmitz of Fatima in the fourth round of wrestlebacks on Saturday. Bowles won by fall in 3:36. (Photo by Russ Green/The Daily News)