Palmyra freshman Connor Roberts surprised a lot of people when he became the first wrestler from the school to qualify for the state meet.

Palmyra freshman Connor Roberts surprised a lot of people when he became the first wrestler from the school to qualify for the state meet.

The list included himself.

“I was really excited,” Roberts said. “I was honestly kind of surprised, but excited more than anything.”

At 138 pounds, Roberts placed fourth at the Class 1, District 1 meet to advance to the state tournament that starts Thursday at Mizzou Arena in Columbia.

The freshman is the lone representative from a Panthers program in its inaugural season.

“It's probably the best thing that could happen for this school and for this program — just getting one kid through,” Palmyra coach Josh Buatte said. 

Roberts (11-20) will face Maysville senior Kaleb Popplewell (51-2) in the first round Thursday morning.

“It'll be completely different than anything I've ever done before,” Roberts said. “It'll be very difficult. I'll have to push myself really hard.”

Buatte said the freshman, who started wrestling in elementary school with the Hannibal Youth Wrestling Club, has a motor that keeps going when he's on the mat. 

“He's a hard worker and he's very scrappy on the mat,” Buatte said of Roberts. “I think that's what wins him a lot of matches. He doesn't stop moving.”

Roberts said he was one of the first to sign up for the team when the school announced it would be starting this school year. Now he hopes to end his first season on a positive note. 

“It's a little bit of pressure because I don't want to mess up,” he said. “I just want to do the best I can and really make everybody proud.”