WARDSVILLE, Mo. -There's not always strength in numbers.
That proved to be a blessing for the Blair Oaks wrestling team in the Class 1 District 2 Tournament that wrapped up Saturday.
While the Versailles Tigers emerged with more qualifiers than Blair Oaks for the upcoming state tournament, the Falcons got better finishes from their wrestlers across the board and were able to capture the district title in their home gym.
Blair Oaks finished the two-day event with a total of 166.5 points and eight state qualifiers, while Versailles was second with 158 points thanks to their nine state qualifiers.
"Versailles came on strong there, but we were able to hold them off," Blair Oaks coach Tim Karsten said. "... They did a great job, and our kids wrestled real well. I knew it was going to be a tough day."
Also in the mix were Seneca (145) and Holden (141), while Adrian wasn't far back (126). The rest of the 15-team field included Warsaw (94), Tipton (79.5), Butler (69), Knob Noster (65), Sherwood (55.5), Fatima (45), El Dorado Springs (39), Diamond (25.5), Springfield Catholic (23.5) and Hollister (19).
"It was a tough tournament in the quarterfinals, in the wrestlebacks, everywhere," Karsten said. "It was a nice, solid tournament. Everybody had to wrestle well, and everybody but Hollister, which just started wrestling this year, had a state qualifier."
Leading the way for Blair Oaks were two tournament champions, Frankie Falotico at 126 pounds and Logan Mudd at 145.
Mudd found himself in perhaps the most pressure-packed match of the day for the Blair Oaks faithful, that coming in the title match against Holden's Auston Gerth.
After getting a first-period takedown to assume control, it stayed 2-0 in favor of Mudd heading into the second and his lead was 4-3 heading into the final period.
"The key is confidence," Mudd said. "I went in pretty confident and then he hit me like a train. He just kept wrestling."
The senior upped his lead to 7-3 before a reversal and three near-fall points for Gerth put Mudd in an 8-7 hole as the time dwindled.
But following a restart with :27 left, Mudd got an immediate reversal and held on from there for a 9-8 win.
"You can't stop," Mudd said of the late adversity. "No matter what, you can't give up, you've got to keep your head up."
It's no surprise it was close, seeing as how Mudd is now 41-1 on the season and Gerth is 40-6.
"That was an outstanding match," Karsten said. "Logan always knows the score, always knows where he is and is always thinking about what he's going to do. He's one you can trust to do his best and I'm glad he came out ahead."
It was a completely different story for Falotico in his match with Adrian's Dakota Jones. The Blair Oaks sophomore got a takedown and three near-fall points in the first period, then three more near-fall points in the second to go up 8-0 before Jones got on the board with an escape.
It was 8-1 heading to the final period, where a reversal by Falotico, an escape by Jones and takedown for Falotico ended up in a 12-2 win for the Falcons.
"It felt great," Falotico said. "I just went out and had fun and did my best to put on a show for everybody. I just had fun with it.
"We've wrestled a couple times before and it's always been close. I feel like I really wrestled well against him this time."
It was another commanding performance for Falotico, who won his first two matches in the tournament with pins Friday before getting a 6-2 win earlier Saturday.
"Lately I've been working on staying in control of my matches and it's been working," he said.
The Falcons had chances to win three other titles, but settled for second-place finishes from London Gaydos (120), Brad Thomas (152) and John Karsten (285) after losses in the finals.
But the silver lining is those second-place finishers will still be favored in their first-round matches at the state meet, where they will draw third-place finishers from other districts.
"First and second place is huge, it sets you up for that first match," Tim Karsten said. "And while you don't know where things are going to go from there, it's good to know you're coming in as a finalist."
Also for Blair Oaks, Alex Gaydos (138) and Cole Kemna (170) placed third, while Corbin Singer (182) came in fourth.
"We were consistent through all the rounds, which is what you need to be," Tim Karsten said. "You can't have big rounds and then nothing, you've got to have something in every round, and it will be the same way at the state tournament."
The top four finishers in each weight class advanced to the state tournament, which will be held Thursday through Saturday at Mizzou Arena.
As previously mentioned, Versailles will have nine wrestlers moving on, led by title winners Willie Schotte (170) and Dylan Ballew (182). Nathan Long (113) placed second, while Konner Shewmaker (106) and Marcus Vogt (152) were both third. Coming in fourth were Kaden Wilson (120), Justin Bauer (138), Adam Guinn (160) and Rex Sheeley (220).
The Tipton Cardinals will have four state participants, as Jordan Barnhart (120), Wyatt Parker (145), Ryan Bruce (182) and Charles Walsh (195) all placed third.
Two Fatima Comets will take part in state meet, as Cody Huhn qualified after winning at 120 pounds, while Caleb Schroeder was fourth at 126.