Jackson carries title of defending champ at Classic

Friday, December 17, 2004

Jackson went 11 years between Tiger Classic wrestling titles.

Last year the Indians used strong performances across the board to post their eighth Tiger Classic championship, but their first since 1992. Jackson had finished second the previous three years.

In the 30th year of the Classic, Jackson is trying to make sure the wait for another title is not as long.

"I feel like we have a chance to be real competitive in the tournament again this year," Jackson coach Steve Wachter said. "Of course, there's a lot of good teams in it, and you have to wrestle well in it and stay healthy. That's a big key."

The Tiger Classic gets under way today at Central Junior High School with 20 teams participating in the two-day tournament.

"Each year the teams we have come in are great teams. The other thing is with the number of teams you get to see, you're bound to run into some studs," Central coach and tournament director Josh Crowell said.

Jackson returns four wrestlers who placed fourth or better last year, led by senior Cody Rouse and junior Ben McMillian. Rouse finished second at 145 pounds to Marquette's Bobby Conn. Conn also defeated Rouse in the state championship match at 145. This year Rouse is wrestling at 152 pounds, where he is undefeated.

"Cody really has wrestled well. The first two tournaments he's wrestled outstanding, so has Kamden (Rampley)," Wachter said.

Jackson has had an individual champion at the Tiger Classic each of the last 11 years. Kremer Rampley was Jackson's lone champion last year. This year the Indians will enter with several wrestlers seeded at, or near, No. 1 heading into the Classic.

"You always want to get people in the finals, and you like to have someone on your team win a championship for the team and them," Wachter said.

Jackson has started the season strong, including a third-place finish at the Missouri Duals in Jefferson City last weekend. Rouse and Sean Gant (135 pounds) each finished 7-0.

Jackson also finished third at the Parkway South Tournament, where Rouse and Kamden Rampley finished first. Rouse is 15-0 this season, while Rampley is 14-1.

Last year's title has also helped the Indians in a key department.

"It gives a lot of my wrestlers a lot of confidence, and a lot of my experienced wrestlers also know each tournament is different," he said. "And of course each year is different. You have to start each tournament from scratch."

Wachter said Northwest -- a team Jackson will face in the districts -- Seckman and Ste. Genevieve should be among the top contenders.

"Ste. Genevieve is always a good team and they always wrestle well in the Classic," Wachter said. "You can't count them out."

Fort Zumwalt North finished second to Jackson last year, while Troy-Buchanan was third.

For the host Tigers, Cory Huskey is the top returning finisher after taking fifth last year. Matt Latham placed sixth. The Tigers have had some solid early season performances, with Huskey and Ryan Davis (189 pounds) still undefeated.

Huskey will have to contend with two state champions in the 160-pound division, including Conn, the favorite.

Crowell said the Classic can only help his squad.

"The reason we do this is because it is going to benefit our kids down the road," he said.

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