Now I'll be first to say, wrestling wouldn't be considered my ideal sport. But this past weekend I was lucky enough to draw the assignment of covering the SEMO Conference Wrestling Tournament.
As I walked up to the doors of the Sikeston Field House, a shiver managed to rolled down my spine (probably from the cold), and I admit I was skeptical. However, after the final bout was settled, I walked out of those same doors with a great deal of admiration for the competitors and the sport of wrestling.
I guess two days of 11 different teams going at it for 100-plus matches over the course of 13 hours will do that to ya... right? Needless to say, I've seen my fair share of singlets.
But while watching the action of the tournament, I couldn't help but wonder one thing. Where was the support of the Sikeston faithful? Don't get me wrong, I realize that it isn't exactly like going into a packed house for a Friday night basketball game. But while the bleachers are full for the state-ranked Bulldogs on the court, there is also some state-ranked talent for home team on the mat.
And yes, there may only be a handful of wrestlers on the squad this year but senior Gavilan Bland is enough reason to pay for the price admission. This two-time state qualifier placed sixth in last year's state finals and wrestled in the most exciting match of the SEMO Conference Tournament when he beat Tyler Thomure of Ste. Genevieve to claim his first tournament championship. At the same time capturing his 100th career win.
Bland is most definitely a rare talent with raw strength and an athlete who everybody should see compete in action at least once before he goes.
Not only have the Sikeston coaches done a great job with the veteran on the team, but they have also done a great job cropping the young talent as well.
Sophomore Nick De La Rosa and freshmen Jacob Murphy both had solid outings this past weekend. While Murphy placed fourth, De La Rosa did an excellent job of bouncing back to win out after some early round faults.
And while expectations are high for Bland, after Murphy and De La Rosa won't be too far behind come district time.
Oh, and let's not forget. The Bulldogs will have their heavyweight back pretty soon to fill out their the upper part of the roster. That's right, another state qualifying senior, Robert Madison, will be healthy and ready to go come playoff time also.
That being said, I definitely recommend everybody should take the time to go check out 3's company on the mat... at least until Madison gets there.
As for me, after 13 hours worth of wrestling, the next time I see anyone in any singlet type outfit... it better include me by the pool side.