Jefferson City's wrestlers are short on experience when it comes to the state wrestling tournament.
That simply means they are extra motivated to make a good showing.
Four Jays will compete in the Class 4 tournament beginning today at Mizzou Arena, three of them for the first time.
"They are highly motivated," Jefferson City wrestling coach Phil Cagle said. "They've got some tough kids. Hey, our kids are tough too. I've got to figure whoever is facing us is facing a tough kid too, because our kids got to state."
Of the four who made it through districts, only John Carter at 285 pounds has reached the state tournament before. He did not place last year while battling through illness.
It's likely to be tough again for Carter (40-4).
If he wins his first match against Ruskin sophomore Jamal Karriem (37-15), he would likely have to face Mehlville senior Jimmy Sellers (30-5), who defeated Carter earlier this year. Down the road he could get Waynesville's Jacob Semple (40-3), who beat Carter at districts, and three-time state champion J'Den Cox (52-0) of Hickman.
"I think that will motivate him," Cagle said of the tough matchups.
New to the party this year are senior Rodney Webbe (145), freshman Logan Moriarity (120) and sophomore Corbin Howard (113).
Webbe (42-5) opens his tournament against Seckman's Chad Lowe (34-13). But Webbe has been dealing with an ankle injury that forced him to injury default in his semifinal match Saturday at the district tournament. Webbe bounced back to take third.
"It's a day-by-day thing," Cagle said. "Yesterday, all we did was treat it. That's probably what we're going to do all week long if we can get there. We just do treatment and rehab, and try to get him ready to win those first couple of matches."
A win for Webbe in the first round means he could face Darick Lapaglia of Blue Springs in the second round. Lapaglia sports a 40-1 mark and is the defending state champion at 138.
Moriarity, who is 40-5 this season, opens the tournament against Lafayette's Kirk Bradley. Bradley, a senior, is 39-11 this year.
Moriarity finished second at the district tournament, losing his title match to Lee's Summit West's Austin Eveler by fall. Tough possible matchups on Moriarity's side of the bracket include Park Hill's Erneste Williams (39-4) and Waynesville's Andrew Wallace (40-7). Williams was second last year and Wallace also owns a second-place finish in his career.
Cagle isn't too worried about the experience factor in Moriarity's bracket, though.
"He's very mature for a freshman, he has a lot of goals," Cagle said. "And so he's in the pursuit of reaching those goals, so he's done a good job."
Howard (32-5), who took fourth at districts, opens against Francis Howell Central's Jacob Gajewski (26-10). A win could mean a matchup with Blue Springs South freshman Sam Hampton (47-4). He finished fourth in his district last weekend.
"There is no easy road to the finals," Cagle said. "There's just none. Every kid there is hopefully trying to do his best. You can't afford to overlook anybody."
As far as the inexperience factor, Cagle told his team to imagine Mizzou Arena is just a big barn.
"We just tell the kids you've got to look at that building and it's a big barn and it can hold a lot of hay," Cagle joked. "We're there to do one thing and that's to wrestle the best we can at the end of the year."
Class 4 action gets underway at 5 p.m. with first-round matches and the first round of wrestlebacks.
With four wrestlers, it's unlikely Jefferson City will be in contention for a team trophy. In what has become the norm the last few years, Park Hill and Blue Springs will likely battle it out for the team title. Blue Springs has won two straight titles while Park Hill won the previous two. Park Hill defeated Blue Springs handily in the Class 4 District 4 Tournament last weekend.