COLUMBIA - Coaches are forever stressing the importance of a good first day at the state wrestling tournament.
Stressing is what the Blair Oaks Falcons won't be doing, because they had one of those good first days.
The Falcons won seven of eight first-round matches in the Class 1 Missouri State High School Activities Association Championships on Thursday at Mizzou Arena, getting off to a great start in the team race as a result.
The Falcons are in third place with 23 points, just half a point behind second-place Whitfield and two behind first-place Lawson.
"I was extremely happy with the momentum we got," Blair Oaks coach Tim Karsten said. "It sets us up well for (today), too. We couldn't think of a better round."
The Falcons might have had a feeling they were in for a pretty good day during their third match of the morning, as Alex Gaydos notched a 9-5 win against Whitfield's Kurtis Hahn in a 138-pound match.
"The match of the round was Alex Gaydos beating Kurtis Hahn, that's one we were really excited about," Karsten said. "That was huge."
Gaydos got off to a great start, getting the first takedown of the match and then getting three near-fall points for a 5-0 lead. An escape got Hahn to within 5-1 by the end of the period.
An escape for Hahn, a takedown for Gaydos and another Hahn escape made it 7-3 for the Blair Oaks wrestler heading to the final period.
After Gaydos got hit for stalling, making it 7-4, he got some breathing room with another takedown to put the lead at 9-4. A late escape for Hahn closed out the scoring.
"Alex lost to him earlier in the year and he came out and wrested a really smart, aggressive match," Karsten said. "That's the one that really sticks out for us."
It was another Gaydos, London, who got the day started with a 9-0 win at 120 pounds, as the freshman beat Principia senior Jason McEntire.
After a scoreless first period, the Falcon started down in the next one and after picking up a penalty point, got a reversal and three near-fall points to take a commanding 6-0 lead. Three more near-fall points in the third closed it out.
"As a freshman winning his first match, that was big," Karsten said. "Sometimes freshmen get the jitters, but he did a great job."
Frankie Falotico was up next for the Falcons at 126 pounds and he made quick work of Marceline's Alex Cupp, winning by fall in just 1:12. It was a similar story for Logan Mudd at 145 pounds, where he needed just 2:45 to pin Lathrop's Trent Scobee, and for Brad Thomas at 152, where he got a win by fall in 1:50 against Brentwood's Blake Kelly.
"Getting a pin is big with those bonus points you get," Karsten said.
At 170, Cole Kemna took on Polo's Jake Hicks and his 42-5 record. But Hicks never led, as Kemna raced out to a 7-0 lead and cruised to the win.
"Cole had a little trouble coming back (from an injury) at districts, but he's looking really sharp now, so we're happy about that," Karsten said.
Then came the Falcons' only first-round loss, as Corbin Singer lost by fall at 182 pounds to Brookfield's J.J. Abongo, who improved to 39-0 with the win.
Singer later saw his season come to a close with a hard-fought 3-2 loss to Lawson's Roy Garrett in wrestlebacks.
"Corbin had a tough first-round match with the guy I've picked to win his bracket," Karsten said. "Then he came back and wrestled a nice, tough match after that. He wasn't even seeded in districts, so he's done a heck of a job for us and we're proud of his efforts."
In the final first-round match for Blair Oaks, John Karsten won by fall at 285 pounds against Trenton's Terrin Ellis.
"Everybody has performed up to expectations and a little bit better, so we're happy," Tim Karsten said.
With Thursdays traditionally having the boost of the first-day energy and Saturdays being the days where medals are handed out, Fridays can be the toughest day to get up for at state. But Karsten's not worried about the Falcons heading into today.
"It's all different kinds of pressure in different rounds, you've just got to keep moving and doing the best you can in each round," he said. "And having all the guys in the winner's bracket is great for us. You win one more and you're in the semis."
Action resumes at 9:30 a.m. today.
As well as things went for the Falcons on Day 1, it was the opposite for the other area schools in the Class 1 tournament, who combined to go 3-12 in first-round matches.
The Fatima Comets did the best percentage-wise, as they won one of their two opening matches. Cody Huhn got the win at 120, as he won 9-7 in overtime against Jackson Evans of Centralia.
Caleb Schroeder, who lost his opening match at 126 pounds by fall to Nathaniel Alexander of Maryville, came back to beat Alex Kamau of Principia 8-4 in wrestlebacks.
It was a tale of two brackets for the Tipton Cardinals.
In the first round, the Cardinals lost all four of their matches. But in the wrestleback round, all four of the Cardinals posted wins and lived to fight another day. Jordan Barnhart (120), Wyatt Parker (145), Ryan Bruce (182) and Charles Walsh (195) will all compete in the second round of wrestlebacks today against competitors who lose in the quarterfinals.
Versailles, meanwhile, went just 2-7 in opening-round matches. However, the Tigers do still have six of their nine wrestlers still alive in the event.
Nathan Long (113) and Willie Schotte (170) both won their openers and will compete in the quarterfinals this morning.
Losing their first match before staying alive with wins in wrestlebacks are Konner Shewmaker (106), Adam Guinn (160), Dylan Ballew (182) and Rex Sheeley (220).
Losing two and getting eliminated were Kaden Wilson (120), Justin Bauer (138) and Marcus Vogt (152).
Versailles is in 11th place in the team race (15.5 points), while Tipton is tied for 21st (10) and Fatima is tied for 45th (3).
In the Class 2 event, School of the Osage is tied for 31st with four points after the first day. Smithville leads with 33 and Kirksville is second with 30.5.
Osage lost all three of its first-round matches, with Chris Johnson (132) and Bradley Russell winning in wrestlebacks. Hayden Carlson (106) dropped both of his matches and was eliminated.