WARDSVILLE, Mo. - Don't be surprised if the standings of the Class 1 state wrestling tournament are close after today. And after Friday. And after Saturday night's championship round.
That's because there appears to be a handful of teams who are very evenly matched that will compete for a state title starting at 10 a.m. today at Mizzou Arena.
And if that's the case, it could play right into the hand of the Blair Oaks Falcons.
"I think I'm going to get what we need, and that's everybody keeping it real tight and having a real competitive state tournament," Blair Oaks coach Tim Karsten said. "If we have four teams around 100 points, I think we can be one of them. We're capable of being in the top four and if we get on a roll, we can be in good shape. We want to hit our stride at the right time and hopefully have some of those other teams not develop.
"Whitfield's got nine qualifiers, Plattsburg's got nine qualifiers, we've got eight. If you've got nine, it really helps you out. At eight, you're probably going to need about six placers to win it. That's what we've got to do and that's a tall order."
Other schools with nine qualifiers are Versailles, Principia and Lawson.
"I really can't pick it," Karsten said when asked if there was a clear favorite. "We've got to have that goal of everybody making it through the first day and then keep the momentum going. That's what we've had in the past, points in every round, and that's what we really need."
The Falcons came close to matching that total of nine at last week's district tournament, but came up a little short.
"I always want that extra guy in there, but eight was where I thought we'd be," Karsten said. "I was hoping Corbin (Singer) or one of the guys like him would make it, and Corbin did, but one of the others I expected didn't make it. That usually happens - you get one surprise and then you get surprised by somebody else.
"There were a lot of tough matches. It was a good, solid district and that will pay off for us at state because we'll be a little bit tougher."
It looks like a mixed bag for the Falcons when it comes to the draws they got for state.
"We've got some good ones and some not as good, that's part of it," Karsten said. "You've got to fight, whether you're on the front side or the back side (of the bracket). You can get to where you want to be on both sides."
At 120 pounds, freshman London Gaydos gets things started for the Falcons by facing Jason McEntire of Principia. Gaydos is one of three underclassmen who have qualified for Blair Oaks, joining sophomore Frankie Falotico (126) and junior Alex Gaydos (138).
"Going on common opponents, London has beaten some people (McEntire) has lost to," Karsten said. "He's a senior, so that's always a concern when you've got a freshman wrestling him. Seniors always have little tricks they're saving up for this. London hit his stride (at districts), he's right where we want him to be."
At 126, Falotico opens against Alex Cupp of Marceline.
"I'm not sure if they've ever wrestled before, but that's one Frankie should get," Karsten said. "And then against (Colman) Kennedy (of Plattsburg) in the next round, Frankie has beaten him before, but that's a kid you can't take lightly.
"Then he'll probably have another kid he's wrestled before in the semis. I think he's got a good shot at getting to the finals, and then he'd likely have the Whitfield kid (Derrick Swaney). That would be a nice, interesting match. They're two athletic, great wrestlers and it would be a good show."
The other Gaydos, Alex, will start at 138 against Whitfield's Kurtis Hahn.
"Alex got a tough draw there," Karsten said. "We lost to (Hahn) earlier in the year. ... It wasn't a terrible loss, Alex was in it until he did something in desperation at the end. Maybe he can put it all together and if Hahn has a bad day, maybe he can get there. Alex has a road through the back side if he doesn't."
Then come the five seniors for the Falcons, starting with one of the favorites for the title at 145, Logan Mudd.
"He has wrestled most of the people on his side and he should be in the finals," Karsten said.
Brad Thomas opens up at 152 against Brentwood's Blake Kelley.
"His first one I think he'll be fine," Karsten said. "He's wrestled (likely next opponent) Nate Florine from Marceline before and it went down to the last little bit. It will be a close one.
"Brad is always in close ones, I can never tell which Brad will show up. I think he's got a definite possibility of medaling."
Another Falcon likely facing some tough matches is Cole Kemna at 170.
"Cole has got two solid wrestlers along with him on his side of the bracket, he's going to have to wrestle well," Karsten said. "I think he's pretty well over his (knee) injury, but one little twist and it could be a bad day.
"He's just got to have nice, clean matches and use power moves and stick in there. He's capable of doing it."
The toughest first-round match for any Falcon appears to be that facing Singer at 182, where he squares off with undefeated's J.J. Abongo of Brookfield.
"Corbin has a tough bracket," Karsten said. "Abongo is one of the top-rated guys at 182, so we'll see how Corbin does on the back side. I'm real proud of him for making it to state and he needs to make sure he scores some points up there. It's definitely possible for him."
Finally, John Karsten at 285 pounds opens with Trenton's Terrin Ellis.
"John's got a nice portion of the bracket," Tim Karsten said. "He can definitely make it to the semis, and that needs to be his goal."
The Versailles contingent spans all variety of ages, as the Tigers boast two freshmen, two sophomores, three juniors and and two seniors. Their opening-round matchups include:
• Konner Shewmaker (106) vs. Marceline's Dylan Wheeler.
• Nathan Long (113) vs. Penney's Cameron Butterworth.
• Kaden Wilson (120) vs. Maplewood's Romelle Person.
• Justin Bauer (138) vs. Father Tolton's Jaydin Clayton.
• Marcus Vogt (152) vs. Whitfield's Conrad Chadwick.
• Adam Guinn (160) vs. O'Hara's Maverick Griffin.
• Willie Schotte (170) vs. Richmond's Wyatt Bulk.
• Dylan Ballew (182) vs. Albany's Duncan Payne.
• Rex Sheeley (220) vs. Lawson's Austin Eskew.
Two other area teams will be represented at the event, as Tipton will take four juniors and Fatima will have two sophomores.
For Tipton, Jordan Barnhart (120) will open against Brentwood's Lucas Jones, Wyatt Parker (145) will take on Lawson's Dakota Smidt, Ryan Bruce (182) will wrestle Gallatin's Michael Stanley and Charles Walsh (195) will face off with Bradley Williams of Lutheran: St. Peters.
For Fatima, Cody Huhn (120) starts off with Centralia's Jackson Evans and Caleb Schroeder (126) will begin against Maryville's Nathaniel Alexander.