The Jefferson City Jays have a simple goal in today's inaugural GFI Digital Duals Tournament.
"Win the tournament, that would be a good Saturday," Jays wrestling coach Phil Cagle said as Jefferson City prepared to host five other teams in the event at Fleming Fieldhouse.
In the past, Jefferson City has participated in the Hazelwood Central Tournament this weekend. But the host school is now in the Suburban Conference Tournament in St. Louis, so Jefferson City opted to start its own event.
"It's good to have a one-day tournament where you can get in five matches," Cagle said.
Four other Class 4 schools - Nixa, Lee's Summit North, Lee's Summit West and Lindbergh - will join Class 3 school Cape Girardeau Central in the field.
"Nixa has to be the favorite, they've got a really solid dual team," Cagle said.
The five Class 4 teams wrestling today all were in last month's Lee's Summit Tournament. Jefferson City finished third with 280.5 points, while Nixa finished sixth in the 24-team field with 239. Lindbergh was 10th (184), Lee's Summit North finished 13th (152.5) and Lee's Summit West was 18th (116.5).
Nixa's top wrestler is Cameron White, ranked No. 6 at 112 pounds by MissouriWrestling.com.
The Jays are ranked fifth as a team by the website. Two Jays - Cole Baumgartner at 119 and Jared Johnson at 189 - are No. 1 in their weight class. Hunter Neighbors is No. 2 at 112, while J.J. Johnson is No. 7 at 285.
Other ranked wrestlers participating today include Lee's Summit West teammates Matthew Lemanowicz (No. 7 at 140) and Evan Boehm (No. 4 at 285), and Cape Girardeau Central's Austin Martin (No. 3 at 140), Jawaun Howard (No. 8 at 145) and Kevin Flesher (No. 9 at 215).
This is Jefferson City's second duals tournament this season. The Jays were fifth in last month's Missouri Duals, finishing with a 5-2 record in the two-day event. Those are the only two dual losses this season for the team, which is 9-2 after a 41-15 win Wednesday at Rolla.
"We've shown we can be a pretty good dual team," Cagle said. "It was a great first half of the season, the kids did a great job."
January will be a busy month for the Jays, who have at least one dual and one tournament each week. With that in mind, the team spent much of the holiday break working on conditioning.
"We know we're not going to have a lot of time in the practice room, so we're going to have to be very specific on what we work on from here on out," Cagle said.
Last Monday, everyone on the team wrestled 10 six-minute matches.
"We got their weight down, plus we got the experience to know we can go six-minute matches," Cagle said.
The tournament champion will be decided by overall record in its five duals. In case of a two-way tie, the head-to-head result will be used to determine the order of finish.
Action begins at 11 a.m. today. There will be six mats used, three for the varsity and three for the junior varsity.