Tyler Leonard brings a 44-3 record into the Class 3 District 2 Tournament this weekend for the Hannibal wrestling team.
Look no further than Tyler Leonard's first match of the season for the precursor to his standout freshman campaign with the Hannibal wrestling team.
Leonard made his grand entrance to the high school level by handing Helias junior and two-time state medalist Evan Winder a 3-1 decision on Wednesday, Nov. 29.
“In my first match, I beat a kid who had medaled at state twice and I had wrestled in club years prior too, and I knew he was real good,” Leonard said.
The 126-pound Hannibal standout showed that same poise the remainder of the regular season. Leonard is 44-3 entering the Class 3 District 2 Tournament, which begins Friday night and concludes Saturday at Korf Gymnasium.
The freshman grappler is undefeated in matches against district opponents this winter, giving him confidence that a trip to the state championships could be on the horizon.
The top four finishers in each weight class at districts advance to compete at Mizzou Arena next week.
“Just knowing that I've beat 'em all, there's no reason why I shouldn't beat them this weekend,” Leonard said of his district foes. “But I still wrestle to my full potential against anybody.”
Hannibal coach Derek Greening mentioned he has been pleased but not surprised by his freshman's consistency.
Greening said Leonard has a similar amount of potential to former Hannibal greats such as Chandler Fohey, who won three state titles from 2013-15.
“We have been very blessed with talent here, and Tyler fits right into that mold,” Greening said. “The thing that impresses me about Tyler is he has this other level in matches, and when he hits that level, he's really looked unstoppable this year. He's so intense when it comes to matches — on his feet, top, bottom, wherever it is. He's hard to control.”
Leonard, who is a five-time medalist in club at the Missouri USA state championships, has only improved since transitioning to the high school mats.
The freshman won five tournament titles this season and was ranked as high as sixth in the state poll at 126.
Greening noted Leonard has become a leader for the Hannibal squad.
“Especially with the smaller guys he wrestles every day, Tyler will work with them and talk through situations,” the Pirates coach said. “That's what's nice about all these guys. They're all like that with each other, which is pretty neat. He's a quiet leader.”
Leonard admits he is “a little bit surprised” by his dominant record this season but gave credit to his father, Chris Leonard, and coaches for helping him have success.
Chris was a three-time state medalist during his career at Hannibal.
“My dad is always up there pushing me every time I work out, and so are my coaches,” Tyler said. “I always try to win for myself, but it's a plus when they're happy.”
Tyler hasn't been intimidated even as the spotlight shines brighter.
“Honestly, he hasn't seemed like he's had any nerves at all,” Greening said of his freshman. “If there's a good kid here or there, he wants to wrestle the good kid. A lot of people shy away from that, but not him.”