Update: Flanigan won the 110-pound class at districts, making history as the first Lady Trojan to qualify for the state tournament.
Congratulations to Autumn Flanigan for making history and becoming Troy Buchanan’s first ever girls district wrestling champion! Autumn will now move on to compete in the state tournament in Columbia in 2 weeks! pic.twitter.com/stBkzUnCQL— TBHS_AD (@TBHSTrojans) February 2, 2019
Autumn Flanigan has continued to steamroll the opposition, with the 110-pound Troy Buchanan wrestler winning the recent Kyle Thrasher Memorial Tournament at Francis Howell High School.
“She’s doing well, she just won Thrasher over the weekend – another tough tournament for the girls, and for the guys as well,” wrestling coach Pat Nichols said. “There were 37 guys teams and 25 girls teams there.”
One of those opponents Flanigan faced was ranked second in the state for her weight class by missouriwrestling.com, and Nichols said Flanigan pinned her in under two minutes.
“She’s doing really well, [she’s] just got to stay focused, keep her weight under control and don’t put the cart in front of the horse, so to say,” Nichols said. “If she does that, you can get beat on any given day by anybody.”
At the Thrasher tourney, Senior John Hepburn took fourth for the 195-pound class and Gavin Land took eighth, but those were the only two male medalists. Carmen Martin was the other female medalist, taking fourth.
“That’s by far one of the toughest tournaments in the state,” Nichols said.
The days left in the wrestling season are dwindling – Flanigan and the other girls went to the District Championships over the weekend on Feb. 1-2 at Fort Zumwalt North, and the boys wrestlers will go to districts at Francis Howell this coming weekend, Feb. 8-9. The state tournament comes right on the heels of the boys’ districts.
The challenge for the kids this time of year is to stay engaged and motivated, and stay with the grind of training and matches. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, Nichols said, and as long as the wrestlers keep honing their craft and work on their conditioning, they’ll be able to overcome the adversities thrown at them.
“That’s a huge thing, wrestling matches have so many ups and downs, and you have to be able to keep your mental focus through the whole six minutes…if you can do that, you can beat anybody on any given day,” Nichols said.
For the rest of the season, he wants to see his wrestlers finish what they started.
“I’m honest, I’m brutally honest with these guys,” Nichols said. “‘You’re not supposed to win. Does that mean you can’t? No. But on paper, you’re not supposed to be the champion. You’re not even supposed to medal. Prove somebody wrong. Flip the coin the other way. Put them on the defensive.’”
In training now, the wrestlers are specializing and picking out specific techniques perfect.
“I compare it to a WWE match for these guys,” Nichols said. “When you watch WWE, you see the one guy, when he hits his knock-out move and the [other] guy gets pinned, what is your knockout move? What’s going to help you win a match?
“So we’re fine-tuning those things, kid-by-kid.”
One of the things Nichols said wrestling teaches, more so than other sports, is fortitude and strength of will, and those are characteristics the Troy wrestlers will have to embody as the season wraps.
In tournaments, kids have to go through wrestle backs and have to throw themselves back into the competition after a loss. It’s a downer, upsetting and mentally depriving, Nichols said, but they have to be able to go back out and compete through all that.
“And if you’re not on the back side of a bracket, you’re in the semis, you’ve got the next level competition of a kid,” Nichols said. “You can’t make mistakes, one mistake can cost you a match.”
Only a few get their hand raised in victory, wrestling won’t “pay the bills” later in life, and just a select few kids in the state will get scholarship money from the sport.
“And when you know that and understand that and you’re still out here sweating and bleeding, going through what we’re having to go through, it’s going to make you successful in life,” Nichols said.