Cody Rouse goes to the Tiger Classic today looking for his second straight individual title, but that's only a small part of his goal for his junior season.
On a roster filled with state-tournament talent, Rouse has established himself as a main weapons on Jackson's squad. Rouse is coming off a 7-0 performance at the Missouri Duals in Jefferson City against some of the top teams in the state.
And when Rouse hits the mat today at Central Junior High, where he is the second seed in his weight class, it will be another step in what he sees as a run toward his first state title.
"I want to win it this year," Rouse said.
Rouse, who moved to 145 pounds this season from 140 last season, had a strong sophomore campaign that included a school-record 47 wins and a third-place state finish. Rouse started the state meet last year by losing a 3-0 decision. That didn't deter Rouse, though, and he went on to win five straight matches.
Rouse said being able to win five straight matches and place so high at the state meet boosted his confidence heading into this season.
"It's a confidence booster, but it's also a lot higher expectations," he said. "You have to do more than you did the year before, but that's nothing I can't handle."
Rouse already has raced out to a 15-0 record, including an individual title at the Parkway South Tournament.
"He just loves to compete," Jackson coach Steve Wachter said. "The key to anyone who is successful is to love to compete, to love the game."
Before setting his sights on a run at a state title, Rouse will try help Jackson win its first Tiger Classic team title since 1992.
This year's Classic is made up of 20 teams, the largest field in the 29 years of the tournament. The Indians have placed second each of the past three years, and despite not being able to secure a team title in a decade, Jackson has had individual winners in each of the past 10 Classics.
"We really want the Classic title," Rouse said. "I want it as an individual, and we want it as a team."
Jackson put four wrestlers in championship matches last year, with Brock Howard, Ben McMillian and Kremer Rampley all finishing second. Blake Ulrich finished third.
"I think this year our team as a whole is much stronger," Rouse said.
Jackson, Fort Zumwalt North and Northwest of House Springs -- last year's champion -- enter as tournament favorites, as does Christian Brothers High School of Memphis, Tenn.
"It's an awfully competitive tournament.," Wachter said. I think it's tougher this year. It's always a tough tournament, but I think that it's even tougher this year."