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by Mark Cheffey
The PHS girls and boys wrestling teams are hoping continue boosting their growing presence at the state tournament again this season.
The Panthers had their best showing at state last year with four athletes coming home with medals, and three of them are coming back to try for more.
“We pretty much have everybody back from last year, plus a lot of new faces, and they are wrestling extremely well so far,” said Coach Josh Buatte.
Colin Arch, who won a state title as a sophomore last is back along with seniors Brayden Stevens and Luke Triplett who brought home fourth and fifth-place medals.
They are joined by four other upperclassmen, Nolyn Richards, a senior, and juniors Ashden Hankins, Jayden Sparrow and Jose Juarez who hope to qualify for state this season.
New faces include sophomore Audrin McElvain, and freshmen Brayden Pillars, Daylen Stevens, Evan Pennewell, Hector Juarez, Jacob Cothurn and Luke Lawson.
Meanwhile, the girls team had its first and only state qualifier back from last year, Dyoni Mundy, a senior, who is joined by sophomores Grace Fessenden and Anna Ragar, who both wrestled last year, and freshmen, Ellyse Lorenson and Lily Smith, who come from Palmyra’s strong youth program.
“I know our youth group has a lot of girls in it, so they will be growing, and I look forward to that,” Buatte said.
Buatte is hopeful of at least coming close to filling all weight classes, but the roster is looking like it might be more top heavy than normal.
“As of now, it’s looking like we’re going to be the opposite of what we’ve been like with a lot of little guys and light on the heavy end,” Buatte said. “This year we’re looking more middle to heavy.
“But, who knows,” he added. “We have a couple of freshmen who could step in there and make a huge impact.”
The wrestling program has benefited from having a more normal off season than the last one disrupted by COVID-19.
Buatte was able to hold a summer camp, and he was encouraged by the number of wrestlers, both upper and lower classmen, who took advantage of open mat sessions during the off-season.
The camp featured a guest college coach who introduced a new style of wrestling to the team.
To the casual observer, there might not seem to be much of a difference, but Buatte said it represents a new wave for the future.
“It’s the same basic movement, but just a different way to go about it,” Buatte said in describing the style that includes different setups, moves and movement.
“It’s just a different philosophy on how to get into positions you need to be in,” he said, noting his summer was busy for himself just learning the new style so he could teach and coach it.
“I tried to put in a lot of work over the summer to learn how to do it in order to teach it,” he said, adding that it is important to keep up with how the sport is evolving.
“Once you think you know everything and once you think you know how to do everything, you probably should quit the sport,” Buatte said. “You’re never going to know everything, every move. It’s just a continually growing sport.”
With a new style and a strong veteran presence along with new faces, Buatte said he is energized about the new season ahead.
“I think the season is going to go very well,” he said. “Everybody in there is moving and healthy as of right now. And, then we have kids who can make an impact.
“They are good solid wrestlers, and you don’t know what they are capable of until they step on the mat, and I think a lot of them are going to surprise some people.”
The season opens at home Tuesday, Dec. 9 with a quad meet involving Macon, Camp Point (Ill.) and Quincy Notre Dame.
One other home match will be Tuesday, Jan. 18, against North Point, a new high school in Wentzville.
Since the event will take place during the Tony Lenzini Tournament, it will be held in the middle school gymnasium.
Buatte is glad for the return of many tournaments which were cancelled last year due to the pandemic.
“You get that tournament feel, so when we get into districts, they’ll be more prepared.” he said.
Buatte is also happy the state tournament moves back to Columbia this year, after it was moved to Independence last season.
This year, the Palmyra boys were assigned to Class 1 District 3 along with Brookfield, Carrollton, Centralia, Gallatin, Lafayette County, Lexington, Marceline, Missouri Military Academy, Penney, Polo, Richmond, South Harrison, St. Paul Lutheran (Concordia) and Trenton.
The host site of the district tournament has yet to be determined.
Girls wrestling has only one class divided into eight districts, with Palmyra assigned to District 3 along with Brentwood, Clayton, Francis Howell, Francis Howell Central, Francis Howell Nort, Ft. Zumwalt Eas, Ft. Zumwalt North, Ft. Zumwalt South, Ft. Zumwalt West, Holt, Ladue Horton Watkins, Liberty (Wentzville), McCluer, McCluer North, Orchard Farm, Pattonville, St. Charles, Timberland, Troy Buchanan, Winfield and Wright City.
Holt High School will be the host site for the tournament.
12/9 Palmyra Quad
12/10-11 Wentzville Tourn.
12/14 Blair Oaks/Fatima
12/17-18 Mo Valley Tourn.(B)
12/29-30 Battle Tourn. (G)
12/29 Hallsville Tourn. (B)
1/6 Brookfield Quad (B)
1/8 St. John Vianny Tourn. (B)
1/10 Hannibal Dual (B)
1/11 Moberly/Boonville (B)
1/14-15 QHS Tournament (B)
1/18 Home vs. N. Point
1/21-22 Brookfield Tourn.
1/25 Kirksville Quad
1/27 Macon Quad
1/29 QND Tourn. (B)
2/4-5 Districts (G)
2/11-12 Districts (B)
2/17-19 State (B&G)