Eight Hannibal wrestlers punched their tickets to the Class 3 state championships on Saturday inside Korf Gymnasium.
To say Kaleb Greening had a good day on Saturday would be a huge understatement.
Last season as a junior, Greening came up just short of giving the Hannibal wrestling team nine grapplers in the Class 3 state championships.
His 7-4 loss in the district consolation semifinals made him work even harder in the offseason.
On Saturday inside Korf Gymnasium, the Pirate senior not only punched his ticket to Mizzou Arena, Greening captured the 145-pound district championship.
But the accomplishments did not end there.
His 6-1 championship win over Fort Zumwalt South’s Christian Null avenged a loss earlier in the season.
It also marked Greening’s 100th career win on the mats.
“After falling short last year I really just busted my butt over the summer,” the state-bound senior said. “I wanted to make the (state) tournament and also get to 100 wins. So I am really happy right now. It’s been a long time coming.”
Greening, who has already signed to continue his career at Hannibal-LaGrange University, improved to 36-15.
Greening will have seven of his teammates joining him at the state championships.
Freshman Tyler Leonard also claimed a district championship, while Austin Carroll and Chase Kirby fell short in their championship matches.
Tyler Wilson, Gavin Morawitz and Jameson White all came away with third-place finishes, while Vernell Hawkins placed fourth.
The top four finishers in each weight class qualified for the state meet, which begins Thursday on the campus of the University of Missouri.
Leonard improved to 48-3 on the season on his way to the 126-pound title.
The Pirate freshman admitted he was not surprised by winning.
“I had defeated all these guys earlier this season, so I knew coming in if I wrestled well I should win,” he said. “I have medaled at state the last five years in youth club, so I am hoping to do the same this year.”
Carroll ran into a buzzsaw in his 170-pound title match in the form of Ladue senior Jacob Orsay. Carroll managed three escapes but fell by a 12-3 major decision.
Orsay improved to 35-0 on the season and is currently ranked No. 3 in the state rankings.
In the semifinals, Carroll overcame a 6-1 deficit for a 7-6 win. He recorded a single-leg takedown with 15 seconds left to secure the victory.
At 220, Kirby cruised to the finals with an impressive 18-2 technical fall win in the semifinals.
In the championship match, the junior suffered a third-period pin.
The most exciting match of the day belonged to Hawkins. The 160-pound junior earned a thrilling 14-12 overtime win in the consolation semifinals to punch his ticket to the state championships.
Hawkins trailed 9-2 in the second period before he started his comeback.
The junior scored a reversal with 15 seconds left in the second period and then scored two more points on a near fall to have momentum going into the third.
“Those points were huge,” Hawkins said. “I was in do or die mode and I knew I just had to bust my butt even more if I wanted a chance to win.”
Hawkins started the third period on bottom and immediately scored on another reversal. After allowing an escape, he connected on a takedown to tie the match at 10.
He led 12-11 but allowed an escape in the final seconds to send the match into the extra 1-minute period.
“One setup, one shot and one takedown was my mindset in overtime,” Hawkins explained. “And when I got it, it was just like a dream come true.”
Hawkins would later suffer defeat in his third-place match.
Wilson and Morawitz bounced back from setbacks in the championship semifinals to pick up a pair of wins to earn third place at 132 and 138, respectively.
Wilson dominated his third-place match with an 11-0 major decision win, while Morawitz needed just 48 seconds to come away with a pin.
After losing in the quarterfinals, White bounced back with three straight wins for third place at 195.
Hannibal coach Derek Greening mentioned his wrestlers looked the best they have all season.
“I think this is the best we have wrestled all season,” the Pirates coach said. “And it came at the most important time of the year to do so. I couldn’t be more proud of the way the guys wrestled this weekend.
"We are happy right now, but come Monday it's back to business. We want to go down there and do something...win matches and bring back some medals.”
Host Hannibal finished third in the team standings with 154 points.
St. Charles won the team title with 225 points, while Fort Zumwalt South was second with 212 points.
First round action for the state championships will commence on Thursday.