Strope makes Fatima history with state title
Sunday, February 17, 2013
COLUMBIA, Mo. — There may be others who come after him, but he’ll always be the first name on the list.
The “him” is Fatima’s Ryan Strope, who Saturday became the first Comet to even capture a state wrestling title.
The senior did so with a convincing performance in the Class 1 126-pound title match, dispatching West Platte freshman Justin Rhodes by a 7-1 score at Mizzou Arena.
The not-so-simple task was summed up simply by Strope.
“It’s amazing,” he said.
Strope never trailed in the title match, getting an early takedown to lead 2-0 after one period. He let up on Rhodes in the second period to lead 2-1 heading into the final two minutes.
Starting in the down position, Strope finally got a reversal with :14 left in the match and then got three near-fall points to end it.
“I got that takedown and from there I was pretty comfortable,” Strope said. “At no point did I feel like he was ever about to score on me, so I felt comfortable the whole time.”
The championship seemed part of a natural progression, as Strope finished third at 103 pounds as a freshman, second at 112 as a sophomore and third at 120 last year. But he said he wasn’t taking anything for granted.
“Going through my mind the whole tournament was never underestimate a single opponent, take everyone serious, because of the years of experience, I knew no opponent was easy,” Strope said. “You’re never going to have a walkthrough at state.”
Making the accomplishment even more special was the fact Strope did it in front of his brother, Kurt, who serves as Fatima’s coach. A multiple-time state qualifier who earned a medal by finishing fifth at 119 pounds in 2008, Kurt Strope provided some inspiration for his younger brother.
“From watching him, I know he’s been through everything I’ve been through,” Ryan Strope said. “I understand him and listen to him, and he understands me really well, so it makes everything a lot easier.”
The state champion said he hopes this is just the beginning of something great.
“It feels good,” Strope said. “I’m hoping it opens up the school’s eyes to see this sport as a top one for the school and get some more support going for it.”
Strope’s performance was part of a big weekend for the entire Fatima squad. The Comets had two other wrestlers earn medals, and Fatima finished 13th in the team competition with 57.5 points.
“It’s amazing to see,” Strope said. “They deserve what they’ve done because they have put in the time and work into it and worked just as hard as I did in practice.”
Freshman Cody Huhn advanced all the way to the championship match at 106 pounds before falling 7-0 to Marceline freshman Dalton Fisher.
Fisher got a takedown midway through the opening period to lead 2-0 after the first. A reversal and a penalty point assessed to Huhn for clasped hands made it 5-0 after two. Fisher then got a takedown in the third quarter to close out the scoring.
“For a freshman to have (Huhn’s) record and have his kind of year, that’s unbelievable,” Kurt Strope said. “He’s got to take that and carry it into next year. He got some good experience on the mat that will be big for him in the years to come.”
Earlier on Saturday, senior Luke DeOrnellis took sixth at 145 pounds.
After dropping a 2-0 decision to Plattsburg freshman Cody Hartman in the wrestlebacks, DeOrnellis lost the fifth-place match by a 13-2 score to Holden junior Auston Gerth.
“At the beginning of the year, everybody’s like, ‘I want to be a medalist,’” Kurt Strope said. “He won in the quarters to get into the semis (Friday) and then you’re like, ‘I’m right there.’ So while you’ve got your medal, you’re not satisfied with just that. But at the beginning of the year, you’d take whatever medal you could get. So I think he’ll be pretty happy at the end of the day (finishing sixth).”
All in all, the five-man contingent Fatima brought to state had an enjoyable three-day stretch in Columbia.
“Before, we were only coming up here with one or two guys, kind of outsiders,” Kurt Strope said. “Now you look at it and (Friday) night we moved up to fourth (in the team standings) for a little bit before moving back. We put ourselves on the map a little bit. People may start taking us a little more seriously, I would think.”