Maryville wrestling is Columbia-bound with six wrestlers getting a Class 2 State Tournament bid at the District 4 tournament.
The group of wrestlers that will be heading to the state tournament include juniors Gavin Gray-Walker and Jeff Stooksbury, sophomores Kade Wilmes, Connor Weiss and Keiren Watkins and freshman Drew Spire.
The Spoofhounds had two senior wrestlers in Treyton Paris and Jarrett Partridge, who fell just short of a state bid at districts. Coach Kody Koster had much to say about the outcome of the district meet.
“We were in a position where we felt we could send seven or eight guys down to Columbia,” Koster said. “It was unfortunate to see Treyton and Jeff fall short being there last year. I wish we could bring them back next year because we are going to miss their leadership.”
Gray-Walker walked away from the district tournament with a first-place finish. Gray-Walker, who recently transferred from Gallatin, is helping shift the culture around Maryville wrestling.
Gray-Walker was able to pull out the victory against St. Pius X’s John Liberto in the final seconds with a takedown in his district matchup. The match tallied out 3-1 in Gray-Walker’s favor. Going into the match, both wrestlers had a combined six losses on the year.
“I wasn’t able to get much offense going throughout the match,” Gray-Walker said. “The focus was for me to be more defensive and not let him score due to my lack of offense. It felt great to come out of the championship with a win, especially in a match like that.”
The trio of sophomore wrestlers all finished second while Stooksbury and Spire finished fourth. With a young core headed to the Class 2 State Championship, Koster can see the program changing in front of him.
“Getting six guys state bids this year is a step up from the two we sent last year,” Koster said. “We have a lot of momentum heading to the state tournament; it would be nice to see some of these guys get up on the podium in Columbia.”
Of the six wrestlers that are state-bound, two will be making back-to-back trips in Weiss and Wilmes. Their experience last year could prove to be very helpful for the wrestlers headed to state for the first time.
“I am grateful to be headed back to state this year,” Weiss said. “Our goal was to send around six to eight guys to state at the beginning of the year.”
The Spoofhounds were overjoyed with the fact that six wrestlers received state bids, but Koster wants to keep the pedal to the floor with the state tournament being only a couple of days away.
“It is important that we keep finding ways to get better every time out on the mat,” Koster said. “ “We can not afford to get complacent just because we accomplished our goals we set at the beginning of the year.”
In Koster’s second year in command, he has managed to shift the perception of Maryville wrestling. Koster brings a passion to the sport that many cannot match. It seems to be rubbing off on the wrestlers as they brought intensity to the district tournament. Koster wants the team to bring that level of intensity and drive to Columbia.
The Spoofhounds will head to Columbia Feb. 14 to wrestle in the Class 2 State Championships at Mizzou Arena.