The wrestlers at St. James have been busy this week as both their boys and girls teams took part in tournaments over the weekend, before hosting a quad with St. Clair, MIDCS and Principia on Tuesday.
The Lady Tigers continued an spectacular season at the Wonder Woman Tournament at Battle, as two of their three wrestlers took part in championship matches. As a team, the Lady Tigers also earned a third place ranking in the state.
The boys, meanwhile, earned a pair of dual victories at the St. Genevieve Duals, before winning two of their three duals at home on Tuesday.
The Lady Tigers have been spectacular all season led by Kaylynn Crocker and Heather Pankey. Both wrestlers pinned their way to championship matches at the Wonder Woman Tournament over the weekend. Crocker made quick work of Washington's Mia Reed in the championship at 110, winning by a pin in the first minute of the match. Pankey wrestled up a weight class over the weekend and faced off against Holt's Esther Han for the championship at 136. Pankey is they top ranked wrestler at 131, while Han was the top ranked wrestler at 136. Han had the upper hand over the weekend, as Pankey settled for a second place finish. Emily Light had a strong showing as well. She earned a fourth place finish in the highly competitive women's tournament.
"Heather basically blew right through her bracket. She pinned her way all the way to the finals. Kaylynn did the same. Both of them just kind of took off from the word go," said head coach Beau Moreland.
While Pankey and Crocker get a lot of the attention, Light has also had a strong season rounding out the girls team. She's gotten a lot of help from her two female teammates and that trio have been a great unit all season long.
"Heather and Kaylynn have been a huge part of her development. You can only do so much with a coach and a wrestler, you have to have a great partner. The three of those girls make up a great trio," said coach Moreland. "Emily came into this sport brand new, never done it before and she loves it. She's got a perfect attitude for the sport, she loves coming in there to be aggressive and physical. She's not scared to grab one of the guys and have a go with them. She loves growing and developing."
One thing that says a lot about how impressive this group has been is the fact that they're ranked third in the state as a team despite having just three wrestlers. They also haven't had a ton of matches against other girls, because their options have been limited. Despite that, they've proved to be dominant every chance they've had and the wrestling community in Missouri has noticed.
"Here's the thing with those three. When they walk into a gym, the other girls and even guys now, when people are looking at who is in their weight class, they're the three that people are hoping aren't. They aren't wanting to wrestle the St. James girls," said Moreland. "Because of that kind of mentality and that kind of talk in the community, it's helped with their rankings going up. They know that those three are dominant and very good at what they do."
Those three girls have also helped set the tone for wrestling in St. James in general this season, which has been fun to see for coach Moreland.
"It's been great. The girls are kind of coming into their own. They have ownership in the sport now and it's almost a new flavor into the sport (of wrestling) in St. James," said the St. James head coach. "It's getting a new crowd of people looking into our sport and take an interest in it."
The boys have a lot of fresh faces this season and they've had to take their lumps, but the Tigers have seen some improvement in the last week. They took part in the St. Genevieve Duals over the weekend, earning wins over St. Clair and Miller Career Academy, finishing the duals with a team record of 2-3.
The Tigers started with a tough dual against Dexter, where they lost 63-6. St. James then had a tight match with Owensville. Nick Halbrook and Gavin Jewell both got pins for St. James, but the Tigers had a few extra opens with the girls taking part in another tournament and they dropped the dual 35-24. St. James bounced back against St. Clair. Halbrook got another pin for St. James, as did Zach Achterberg. The Tigers were able to take advantage of some opens for St. Clair to pull out a 33-30 win. Halbrook then continued a great weekend against Miller Career Academy, winning a 6-1 decision for his third straight win. St. James took an easy 33-12 win, as Miller had just three wrestlers. They finished the tournament with a 72-3 loss to St. Genevieve.
The two wins at St. Genevieve were an important confidence builder for St. James. The Tigers needed to see for themselves that their hard work is paying off and they had the chance to see that with a pair of wins.
"Going into it, trying to keep the guys motivated and keep them positive, because we've had some tough competition, the Pleasant Hills Tournament and stuff like that. You go to Moberly and the duals this year were really tough. They were really young, brand new to it and you can only expect, after going out so many times and not seeing any improvement personally that it starts getting frustrating," said coach Moreland. "We go down to St. Genevieve and get two wins. Granted, one was against a three man team, but a win is a win to these guys and it kind of gave them a little bit of that motivation that we can beat some guys, we can wrestle."
The Tigers then used that momentum to have another strong showing in their home quad. St. James was at full strength with both their boys and girls and started the night with a rematch against St. Clair. The dual started with a pair of girls matches. Crocker made quick work of Olivia Pratt, getting a pin in just over a minute. Light then got caught and pinned by Morgan Juergens. The first St. James win in the boys dual then went to the third female wrestler, Pankey. She put on a nice move to get a reversal and a pin against Seth Banks in the first period. Gavin Jewell then pinned John Davenport Cortivo II early in the second period. . St. James was able to win the dual thanks to another 18 points on opens, kicking off the night with a 30-24 win.
The Tigers then faced off against Principia for the second dual of the night. Crocker opened the dual with a 28 second pin of Zach Proctor. St. James then had three straight wins by opens, before a Tiger open gave Principia six points. Jewell then was pinned at the end of the first period at 145, before Achterberg won a 5-0 decision over Jacob Warrick. Unfortunately, that would be the last win for St. James, as they were punned in the next match, before giving up 12 more points on opens. Principia narrowly won the dual 30-27.
St. James finished the night against MICDS. St. James won the dual 36-30 thanks to a number of opens from MICDS. The Tigers only win was a pin by Zach Achterberg, who took down Kellen Von Hoven in the third period. St. James also won the only girls match, as Pankey earned her second pin of the night.
After getting off to a good start to the week in St. Genevieve, the two dual wins at their home dual was another important confidence booster for the Tigers.
"They came into (the home quad) with a great attitude, they had belief in themselves and belief in each other," said coach Moreland. "The mindset of the team as a team and as individuals with the team, that's probably the biggest part. If you don't have confidence and believe in yourself and your teammates, it's just going to be a long season. These guys have embraced each other and they've taken these last couple of wins and you can see it in their faces, you can see it in their attitude. I'm hoping that's going to make a big difference."
Next up for St. James is the Owensville Tournament on Saturday, Jan. 12.