(Photo by Brent Shipman, Staff)
SIKESTON -- After finishing fourth as team in this year's Class 3, District 1 Tournament, the Sikeston wrestling team will once again be well represented when the state tournament kicks off this Thursday in Columbia.
In all, seven Bulldogs will descend on Mizzou Arena with hopes of capturing a state title.
"That's what you want to see in a program," Sikeston coach Seth Harrell said. "That consistency year in and year out. Particularly at the district and state tournaments. Obviously seven guys is a great accomplishment.
"From a coaches standpoint we're still a couple of mistakes away from having even a few more guys go."
All three state qualifiers returning from last year's team, which sent five, will once again be making the trip. That includes junior Jacob Stinnett (132) along with seniors Blake Angle (120) and Kenton Robinson (138).
"I made it again and that was my biggest goal," Robinson said, who won the SEMO Conference championship this year. "To make it back to state and try to win a championship my senior year before I graduated."
"I lost a tough one in the semifinals at districts, but I bounced back and still qualified for state, which made me proud of myself."
For Angle, a four year state-qualifier, this will be his last chance to best his 2009 performance when he placed sixth in state.
"I guess it means a little more to me (being my last time)," Angle said. "I don't really try to think about it and then when I look back at the tournament it's tough thinking it's going to be your last time out on them mat.
"I feel like, even though I took second in districts, I picked up a better draw than I would have if I had took first because I think I have a easier first round match into the quarterfinals."
Joining the three returners will be four newcomers in seniors Ben Walker (285) and Clayton Driskill (220), junior Nick Nichols (182) and sophomore Clay Porter (160).
"It's what I've been shooting for since I started wrestling five years ago," Driskill said of making state. "I beat some tough competition and I felt pretty nervous in that bubble match in districts, but ended up doing alright.
"My goal is definitely to place. I've placed in every tournament this year and this one isn't any different. That's been my goal at every tournament, to place, and to be all-state would be a heck of an accomplishment."
Coming off their showing in districts, Harrell feels his team is in a better place going into state than it was last year.
"We were 0-5 in that medal round last year in districts," Harrell said. "This year we were 4-3 and that sets you up for state. Because the higher you finish in your district, the lower seed your going to have to wrestle from the other side (at state).
"That's kind of how we've been all year long is our medal matches we've done well all year long. We were 5-1 in the conference tournament and 4-3 in districts.