WARDSVILLE -- The Blair Oaks girls wrestling program has taken steps forward every year.
Getting the Lady Falcons’ first state medalist last season was a big step. They’re looking to take more steps when Year 5 begins today in the Versailles Invitational.
“We have to keep on building,” said Blair Oaks coach Tim Karsten, whose team returns three state qualifiers.
Halie Eaton, a senior this season, took fourth place at 155 pounds last season in the Class 1 state wrestling championships, finishing with a 46-9 record.
“She’s doing a great job being a leader,” Karsten said. “She’s cheering the other girls on, showing them a lot of moves. It’s great to have that leadership around.
“She’s picking up where she left off.”
Junior Brookelynn Meeks went 1-2 at 125 at state to end last season with a 37-16 record. Karsten’s goal is for each state wrestler to return home with at least one win.
“If you get the first two wins and medal, that’s awesome,” Karsten said. “She will have that as a goal this year.”
Blair Oaks’ third returning state medalist is Sam Lage, who qualified for state last season as a freshman at 145 and posted a 26-20 record.
“She started out at zero and went to state qualifier in one year, and that doesn’t usually happen,” Karsten said.
Four more returners for the Lady Falcons participated in the district tournament last season: senior Jazmin Birky at 110, junior Hailey Collins at 120, senior Skye Schubert at 130 and sophomore Roslyn Crane at 190.
“Jazmin and Hailey made it to the elimination round,” Karsten said. “That is always my goal, to get as many to the elimination round as possible, so they can feel that pressure. Then the next year, there isn’t so much pressure.”
Rounding out the Blair Oaks roster are junior Loghan Sumner, sophomores Madalynn Cain, Nichole Gibson and Annie Stewart and freshman Clara Warner.
Karsten said Warner medaled in the freestyle state tournament this past summer.
“She’s got that first match out of the way,” Karsten said of his only freshman on the roster.
Today’s tournament in Versailles is the first of 10 tournaments on Blair Oaks’ schedule.
“The state has changed its stance on tournaments, you can have as many as you want,” Karsten said. “We’re top-heavy with tournaments.”
The Lady Falcons are also going to tournaments at Pleasant Hill, Rolla, Eldon, Jefferson City, Battle, Brookfield and Buffalo. The Tri-County Conference Tournament is Jan. 5 at Hallsville.
Blair Oaks is the reigning Tri-County champion, but Southern Boone was right there with the Lady Falcons.
“I’m prepared to say they are probably a couple of points ahead of us,” Karsten said of the Lady Eagles. “We’ll have to have everybody do their best.”
Blair Oaks will host a mid-week, one-day tournament Dec. 13.
“We’ve had our girls tournament for a couple years now,” Karsten said. “It was a lot tougher last year, we had some teams come in that were really solid.”
Blair Oaks has duals Jan. 3 at Capital City, Jan. 8 at Centralia and Jan. 30 at home against Washington.
“The duals are going out, which is kind of sad,” Karsten said. “I always liked duals against teams like Fatima and Versailles because they were long-time rivals.”
Blair Oaks is one of 34 teams assigned to Class 1 District 2. The district tournament is Feb. 9-10 at a location still to be determined.
The state tournament is the following week at Mizzou Arena in Columbia.
“I think we have the ability to be in the top 10,” Karsten said. “With the girls’ numbers, if you get three that score and two that place, you’re right in there. That’s what we’ve got to do.”