JACKSON, Mo. -- Brock Howard and James Love return to the state high school wrestling tournament with something to prove.
One wants to prove something to his competitors, the other, to himself.
The Jackson High School teammates each get their chance when Class 4A double-elimination competition begins at 6 p.m. today in Columbia, Mo.
Love, a senior who finished third in the state last year in the 152-pound class, said he's eager to get back.
"My goal is first, nothing less," Love said. "But I really want to do my best. Even though I have pretty bad asthma, I want to let some people up there know that I can still go."
Howard, a sophomore, has moved to the 112-pound class. He was sixth last year as a 103-pounder.
"I didn't do as well as I would have liked last year," he said, "so I want to place higher this time."
Howard could get a nice start. His first-round opponent is a wrestler he pinned twice this season.
Hard work and earlier exposure to state competition has boosted the confidence of both wrestlers. Love, a starting linebacker on Jackson's state semifinalist football team, said he has something else going for him.
"Faith," he said. "That's all I've got, my faith in the Lord."
Howard, who admits he needs to work on his quickness, said strength is his asset.
"I come in every morning and lift (weights) and I do 70 rope climbs twice a week," said Howard, also a soccer and track athlete.
Love (26-3) and Howard (38-2) are among six sectional qualifiers the Indians will send to the state championships. Freshman Cody Rouse (33-10) at 130 pounds, senior Ricky Feiner (36-7) at 140, senior Seth Harrell (31-3) at 215 and senior Luke Wade (34-8), a heavyweight, complete the group.
"I think all of us can place," Love said.
Jackson coach Steve Wachter, who guided his team to a fourth-place finish last year, took a conservative approach.
"To be honest, I wouldn't rule any of them out," Wachter said, "but, as tough as the competition is, you can't rule any of them in, either.
"This year the state tournament is so balanced and so competitive in 4A."
Cape Girardeau Central also will be represented at the state meet. Trever Duncan (24-12) is making his first state appearance in the 160-pound division after a season in which he captained the team and medaled in every meet.
(573) 335-6611, extension 171