Three of Winfield’s wrestlers threw down at the recent state competition in Columbia, Missouri, with one of them going head-to-head with the eventual state champion and taking second in his weight class.
Clark Rogers had a “great” tournament, said coach Trevor Locke, wrestling an opponent from St. Claire first round. In his second match, Rogers beat the eventual third-place finisher, and in his third he overcame the eventual fifth-place finisher.
In the finals, Rogers was paired up with an undefeated wrestler from Bolivar named Hayden Burks, losing a “close match.”
“That was his [Burks] second trip to the finals two years in a row,” Locke said. “[Rogers] had a tough go on that one, and it was a winnable match if things pan out differently. Clark still wrestled really tough, battled really tough, kept it close.”
Austin Gross and Matthew Hornbeck, two freshmen wrestlers, also competed, and learned a lot from their trip to state, Locke said.
“Matthew went one and two, he won a match on the back side before being eliminated,” Locke said. “Austin went 0 and two, but they both had really tough draws because they were both four seeds, that means first round they both had [to wrestle] one seeds.”
That four seed slot is always a tough battle to come out on top in, going against one of the top four kids in that weight class, Locke said.
“We were really happy, coach Payne and I, to take them and get a new experience,” Locke said.
A first year coach, Locke said it was rewarding for three out of five Winfield boys wrestlers to go to state; for the boys, it was a chance to experience that high level competition, and hopefully come back stronger next year.
“It was a pretty awesome experience all around, to be out on the floor for the state championship match,” Locke said.
Next season he said he’d like the boys to shoot for having a higher seed in the tourney next year, to make the path to victory a little easier.
While the roster was small this year, the fact that many of the boys were around the same size made it easy to drill and practice, Locke said.
“We had good practices, even with a shallow group,” Locke said. “So for us as a program, I look at it as a success for the simple fact that we were able to take, out of five wrestlers wrestling in districts, we took three to state.”
Next year, the girls program will be starting almost fresh. Deana Raasch was the only wrestler on the team who wasn’t a senior.
Locke said his hope is to get some younger students, freshmen and sophomores, interested in the program.
“Obviously if you can get them in younger, they can come back year after year and they can have success build up year after year,” Locke said. Winfield’s girls team did not make it to state, and Locke said the female division at state had some “tough as nails wrestlers” there, and it would have been good for some young wrestlers to go and see that.
Locke said it was a pleasure coaching the wrestlers with Bruce Payne through the season, who Locke said built the program up from nothing.
He added that getting to coach in a tight-knit community like Winfield has been a “good ride” so far.
“I hope to keep it up next year,” Locke said.