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Jackson seniors begin push to qualify for state meet
For all of the success Jackson's seven senior wrestlers have had during their four-year wrestling careers, only two of the Indians' seven seniors have previously made the trek to Columbia for the state meet.
Those other five seniors will have one last chance to clinch a state berth when the Class 4 District 1 meet begins today at Lindbergh High School in south St. Louis County.
The top four wrestlers in each weight class qualify for the state meet in Columbia. Wrestling will begin at 5 p.m. today, and resume at 10 a.m. on Saturday.
"That would be very nice, a good cap-off," senior Ben McMillian said of qualifying for the state meet. "Not a lot of people think about us. We could be a sleeper if we get there."
McMillian and senior Sean Gant came painfully close to reaching state last year. Both wrestlers lost by one point with a chance to qualify for state.
"Ben's had a rough road [to get to state]," Jackson coach Steve Wachter said. "His path hasn't been easy. He's got through. He's endured."
This season, McMillian has a 44-4 record at 145 pounds. He won a SEMO Conference title at his weight class.
Gant, another four-year varsity wrestler, is 31-7 at 152 pounds heading into the district meet. Gant has been ranked by missouriwrestling.com much of the season and is currently ranked No. 4 in his weight class.
"Sean Gant made a big commitment this spring and summer," Wachter said.
Senior heavyweight Cole Jansen is another conference champion looking for his first state berth. Jansen is 31-8. Seniors Russel Brown (140) and Anthony Werner (160) also are looking to qualify for the first time. Brown is 30-16, and Werner is 18-11.
Wachter said this is one of the biggest senior classes he can remember, and all seven have contributed during their four years.
"Those seniors have been everywhere across the state in the summer and spring [wrestling]," Wachter said. "They've wrestled for four years. It's a hard-working group of seniors. They've been dedicated and made the commitment to be the best they can be."
At the top of the list of Jackson's senior state state hopefuls is Kamden Rampley, who finished third at 189 pounds last year and also qualified as a sophomore.
Rampley is undefeated in the 215-pound weight class this season at 47-0 heading into the district meet. Wes Vilda of CBC is ranked No. 1 at 215 pounds in Class 4, followed by Rampley. Vilda lost a 3-2 decision in the championship match at 215 pounds last year.
"Kamden's just had an unbelievable season," Wachter said. "Of course, he's had a great background. His mom and dad took him everywhere to wrestle. He has outstanding fundamentals.
"He has a lot of the same qualities his brother [all-state wrestler Kremer Rampley] had. He's mentally tough, a great positional wrestler. He always gives you 110 percent."
Rampley is trying to become the second straight undefeated state champion for the Indians. Cody Rouse finished his senior year 52-0 last season in the 152-pound weight class.
Josh Schumacher is the other senior for Jackson, and also is a returning all-state wrestler. Schumacher finished sixth at the state meet last year at 125 pounds. This season, Schumacher is 29-4 at 135 pounds.
Justin Miller (125) and Jamie Schumacher (130) are Jackson's other two returning state qualifiers. Miller and Jamie Schumacher, both sophomores, will have tough draws in a deep pool of wrestlers at Lindbergh. Miller is 35-13 this season and Jamie Schumacher is 28-14.
"For them to go [to state] they will flat earn it, because both those weight classes are as good as I've seen," Wachter said. "They can do it, but they have to raise their level and believe in themselves."
Central goes to Farmington
Central qualified four wrestlers for the state meet last year, a season-high under coach Josh Crowell, and will look to improve on that at the Class 3 District 1 meet in Farmington.
The Tigers have battled through injuries and illness much of the season, finishing with a 4-5 dual record. Central appears to be as healthy as its been this season heading into the two-day tournament.
"When you get to the district tournament you could have none qualify, you could have a bunch," Central coach Josh Crowell said. "You just never know. There's so many variables with a sport like wrestling."
Matt Latham, Tyler Yeargain and Garrett New are back after qualifying for the state meet last year as sophomores. Senior Chris Griffith also should have a strong shot at a state bid.
"Those guys are definitely wrestling at their best and some of the guys that didn't make it [to state last year] are gunning at it this year," Crowell said. "They feed off each other."
For some of the Tigers, the district meet will be yet another opportunity to gain valuable experience on the mat. Griffith will be the only senior competing at the district meet for the Tigers.
Crowell said all season the team has prepared to handle the pressure of these final meets.
"The best thing is to practice hard all season and be ready to go," he said. "I feel right now our kids are ready to go."