High School wrestling adds girls to the sport

The SoBoCo wrestling team will take to the mats for the first time this season with a group of talented sophomores, a legitimate state contender and a trio of girls.

Wrestlers, that is. Girls wrestlers.

If you haven’t heard, Missouri will have girls competitive wrestling this season – and Eagles coach Trent Tracy says it is the fastest-growing sport in the state.

On Thursday at Hallsville, the Eagles will take on the host Indians, Blair Oaks and Versailles in a Tri-County Conference quadrangle match that will go a long way to telling Tracy where his team excels and where they need work.

“Most of our guys will wrestle up a weight from where they will be at the end of the season,” Tracy said, “but it will be good to get out there and see the eexperienced guys and the new guys. You are always anxious to get that first match under your belt.”

Twenty-one wrestlers are competing for the Eagles in the wrestling program’s third season. While SoBoCo has a mix of experienced and inexperienced wrestlers, Tracy likes his team’s chances at the end of the season, citing a talented group of sophomores:

• Konnor Turner – 120-lbs. who just missed qualifying for state as a freshman, then saw all four qualifiers from his district compete in the state semi-finals. Turner is strong on top and not bad on his feet, but needs more variety (experience) in his attacks, Tracy said.

• Cade Scheer – 113-lbs who might have been the Eagles’ most-improved wrestler last season. Tracy says he hopes to get Scheer ‘over the hump’ and into the state tournament in what could be his break-out season.

• Max Hampton – coming off a great football season playing on both sides of the line, Hampton will be the Eagles heavyweight. The sophomore has the size and the athleticism to wrestle with more experienced opponents, Tracy said, and his work in the weight room will pay dividends on the mat.

Parker Boyce and David Heyen are two Eagles who gained experience last season and will fill out the SoBoCo lineup when they recover from injuries.

Of course, the undisputed star of the team is senior and three-time state qualifier Blake Schmidt.

Moving up to 138-lbs. this season, Schmidt has an excellent chance to be back on the medal stand at the state tournament, according to Tracy.

“Blake is more well-rounded and during the off-season, to help with his future in the military, he wass doing their workouts. He ran cross-country this fall and this is his last hurrah,” Tracy said. “I think he has a good shot to medal at state.”

Schmidt’s biggest asset is that he can wrestle with anyone his size at a variety of styles. “He can just go after someone and get down to business, or he can scramble with anyone,” Tracy said. “He can funk it up out there and come out on top.”

The Eagles had seven girls come out for the first year of girls’ wrestling – and three of them decided to stick to the sport.

“It’s definitely not a sport for all athletes – boys as well as girls,” Tracy said, “but I was excited to see that kind of interest for the first year.”

The SoBoCo girls include Sarah Johnson, Ashtin Standifer and Isabella Finnegan.

Tracy said the girls are going through the same workouts as the guys, and wrestling with them in practice. “We just consider them wrestlers, period,” Tracy said. “If you go through these workouts, you see that effort and you get that respect.” Tracy said with 850 girls competing this season, girls wrestling – a competitive Olympic sport, as well as at the college level at schools such as Missouri Valley – is growing quickly.

“They will have 10 weight classes this year (compared to 14 for boys) and they will have their own district and state meets,” Tracy said. “We will look for matches for them at dual meets and they will compete at some JV tournaments.”

Tracy said last year’s Tri-County Conference champs from Versailles should be a favorite again this year, but that adding Boonville to the conference will ‘change up the mix’ quite a bit. The Eagles and Blair Oaks should also contend in conference matches.

Tracy said his wrestlers will quickly gain experience, but noted the mid-level wrestlers will have a difficult road to the top.

“I’m in favor of kids playing different sports,” Tracy said, “but the top wrestlers are wrestling year-round right now.”

By Bruce Wallace