The Missouri state high school wrestling meet is becoming less of a no-show for Public High League athletes in St. Louis city. Suffice to say, that's definitely a vast improvement from the last decade when you could usually count on one hand the number of schools which qualified weight class representatives: Sumner annually and another league school or two a given year.
Gone were the days of the 1970's when the old Northwest Blue Devils of the PHL actually won a few overall team titles. In recent years and decades, though, the PHL didn't always have a state qualifier in most of the weight classes.
Such was not the case this month at the state meet when a bevy of PHL grapplers, most notably from Sumner and Cleveland ROTC, advanced to the state's 'mat marathons' in Columbia, Missouri.
"The PHL made some noise," raved veteran Sumner Bulldogs coach Anthony Mitchell, whose club qualified DeAndre Ball (106 pounds), Corleon Thomas (113), Mikal Walters (152). Carvaughn Boyd (195) and Marvin Brown (220) for the state meet in the Class 2 bracket. "Even Roosevelt and Vashon (of the PHL) had wrestlers make it to state."
Indeed Roosevelt, which has revived its program under former Sumner wrestling star Sonchez Johnson as coach, sent Montel Maurice Maggit to state at 138 pounds while Vashon sent heavyweight (285 pounds) Denzel Warren to state both in Class 2. Rashaun Fenderson of Career Academy also qualified in the heavyweight division in Class 2.
Meanwhile in the Class 1 division from the PHL Cleveland ROTC qualified Demetrius Mondaine (145), Tishawn Jackson (162), Montez Latimore (170) and Keenan Carnes (220) for the meet.
As far as the PHL showings and results were concerned, there were mixed results with room for improvement: Sumner's DeAndre Ball, who's just a freshman, was pinned in just 30 seconds in his opening-round match at 106, then was pinned again in 1 minute, 30 seconds in the 'wrestleback' elimination rounds.
"I think he (Ball) got caught up in the bright lights of the big meet," said Mitchell. "He was nervous and scared and didn't wrestle his best."
But on the opposite end of the spectrum, Sumner's other light weight performer Corleon Thomas lost his his opening round at 113 but bymost a competitive 14-9 decision,. Then Thomas came back to pin a St. Louis-area wrestler, whom he had previously lost to this season: Darion Young of McCluer South-Berkeley to extend his survival's status a third match, and more importantly a second day.Thomas finally got eliminated when he lost by a majority decision to highly-regarded DeAndre White from Kansas City Center.
"He ( White) beat him, but he couldn't pin him," noted Mitchell. "This guy was 42-2, which tells you how good Corleon could be. Hopefully Corleon will be my next Donte Butler."
Donte Butler, who had a sensational run at Sumner from 2005-2007 in the lower weights as well, has been the most successful PHL wrestler the last 10-plus years:
Now a volunteer assistant at Sumner, during his reign with the Bulldogs, Butler finished third at state at 112 pounds as a sophomore, despite basically wrestling with torn tendons in his left hand. Then a fully recovered Butler, went on to win state medals as a runnerup champion at 112 pounds in 2006 and again as state runnerup champion at 119 pounds in 2007. (Starting last year the weight limits increased by a pound to 113 and 120,.)
As far as the 2013 state meet was concerned, in addition to Thomas, Carvaughn Boyd more than held his own at 195 pounds. He extended his foe Cole Stodhill of Odessa to a long 4 minutes 33 seconds before getting pinned.But Boyd was eliminated for good when Matt Oliver of Logan-Rogersville pinned him in 1 minute 51 seconds in the wrestlebacks.
"Carvaughn should have won his first match," said Mitchell. "He could have won his match. He could have beaten that kid. Carvaughn and Corleon really fought tough."
Sumner's Marvin Brown also acquitted himself quite well in defeat by forcing his opening-round opponent Kyle Cook of Boonville to push him to 5 minutes 19 seconds before securing a pin. But in Brown's follow-up wrestleback survivor's match, he was pinned by Alex Beck of St. Charles West in just 1:14.
To his credit, Mitchell believes Brown is tough and talented but currently just limited in his arsenal.
"Marvin Brown has just got to develop some more moves," explained Mitchell. "On that level the top state wrestlers in the heavier weights have more offensive moves. Brown is good with the head and arm (lock) but his only great move is the bear hug right now. That's probably not going to be enough for him to win a medal at state. He's going to have to specialize in more than that."
But overall Butler, who in addition to his many Missouri state honors, also took second place in a national freestyle and Greco-Roman meet at the United States Junior Nationals in Fargo, North Dakota, the summer before his senior year, likes the future of the Sumner team.
"They had a lot of young guys and they're going to get better," said Butler. "Ball was just a freshman and that's a good thing. Corleon is tough already. All of them will get better when they get more experience."
Other PHL wrestlers who won at least one round of competition were ROTC's trio of Mondaine, Jackson and Carnes and Vashon's Warren. But in terms of competitive defeats,Roosevelt's Maggit lost his only two matches but by very close 7-5 decisions.