By Brennan Stebbins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
A 27th-place finish at the Class 3 state tournament last season was an improvement for the Webb City wrestling team.
The Cardinals could be poised for another jump this winter as Webb City returns a bevy of experienced wrestlers.
Leading the way will be a trio of senior state qualifiers in Kyler Carter, Josh Copher and Kade Hicks.
Carter is the most experienced of the bunch as a two-time state medalist. He finished sixth as a sophomore and placed third at 106 pounds last year with a 43-4 overall record. He went 48-8 as a sophomore.
“He’s been an excellent performer for us at the lower weights the past three years,” Webb City head coach Larron Hurst said. “He’s looking to build on his third place finish at Columbia. He’s set a foundation for our younger wrestlers at those lower weights and given them something to strive for as a lower weight wrestler.”
Copher qualified at 126 pounds and finished with a 38-11 record. Hicks was 15-8 while qualifying at 170 pounds. Both are two-time state qualifiers.
“Josh is the type of wrestler who you want everybody to be in the room,” Hurst said. “He works hard whether it’s drilling or live. He set a standard for us at an upper lower weight. His motor is an asset to him and he pushes himself to achieve. He’s looking forward to having a great senior year campaign.”
“Kade is another type of wrestler you want in the room,” he said. “Kade’s versatility is excellent. He can adapt to various styles and wrestle those types of matches. He sets an example in the way he works and acts on and off the mat. He’s a hard worker that our younger wrestlers can look up to and strive to be like.”
Webb City had a fourth qualifier last year in 220-pounder Matt Miller, but he graduated.
The Cardinals return about 10 starters overall, including everyone from 126 pounds to 170 pounds in last year’s district lineup.
The list includes senior Donald Simonds, who was at 113; sophomore Brantley Carter at 132, senior Jackson Taylor at 138, junior Brayden Hollingsworth at 145, sophomore Brody German at 152, junior Roger Carranco at 160 and sophomore Buddy Belcher at 195.
Carter went 22-16 and Hollingsworth went 25-13; both came up one win shy of qualifying for state. Carranco, meanwhile, was 27-9.
Juniors Pryce Mason and Jacob Ott also return with varsity experience, and freshman Tony Bidlack has a shot at making an impact in the varsity lineup.
Hurst said one big question is how the junior varsity wrestlers have progressed after another year of lifting and wrestling.
“Competition in the room should be increased so that is a question mark if our kids will continue to compete and improve throughout the season,” Hurst said.
“It’s pretty simple, we want our kids to improve each match out,” he said. “We’re going to see how we progress as individuals and a team. It’ll come down to our leadership, which I think will be good for these younger kids, and the experience that our upperclassmen bring into the room.”