Preview of Hannibal at the Class 3 state wrestling championships

Despite a new cast of characters, the Hannibal wrestling team has still duplicated success of seasons past.

For the second straight winter, eight Pirate grapplers will be wrapping up their season inside Mizzou Arena for the Class 3 state championships.

Seven of the eight state finalists are first-timers as senior Austin Carroll makes his second straight appearance.

Joining Carroll will be fellow senior Kaleb Greening, juniors Chase Kirby and Vernell Hawkins, sophomores Jameson White and Tyler Wilson and freshmen Tyler Leonard and Gavin Morawitz.

Leonard, who picked up his sixth tournament win last weekend by capturing the 126-pound district championship, enters with a 47-3 record on the year.

His first-round opponent is Jared Thornbrugh (31-16) of Smithville.

Should Leonard pick up wins in his first two matches, top-ranked Cody Phippen of LaPlate County could be waiting. Phippen, a senior, has two state championships to his name — 113 last season and 106 two years ago — as well as a runner-up finish in Class 4 in the Kansas state championships as a freshman.

Hannibal head coach Derek Greening knows his freshman will be ready for any test he receives this week.

“He’s had a great freshman year,” the Pirates coach said. “He’s worked very hard and has been a very intense wrestler all year. Tyler is very tough in all positions and wrestles with a lot of intensity.”

Wilson enters the 132-pound bracket with a 26-14 record on the year.

His first-round opponent is No. 4-ranked Gage Kassing (36-6) of Pacific. Kassing was a state finalist last season but did not place.

Top-ranked Trenton Young of Neosho would be a possible quarterfinal opponent. Young placed third at 126 last season and second at 113 two years ago.

Greening noted his sophomore has made the necessary adjustments from last season.

“He had a rough year last season but he has improved tremendously this year,” Greening said of Wilson. “He has really come on at the end of the year, which is what you want to see.”

At 138, Gavin Morawitz has a tough draw as he faces No. 1-ranked Braxton Barnes (43-6) of Neosho.

Barnes was upset in his district championship match last weekend by No. 4-ranked Coleman Brainard of Rolla.

Barnes finished fourth last season, while Brainard finished sixth.

Greening noted Morawitz (32-20) does not get intimidated by competing against top-notch wrestlers.

“He is always very cool and confident in all his matches,” the Pirates coach said. “That demeanor has really helped him in a lot of matches and situations this season. He has had a great first year of varsity wrestling.”

At 145, the newest member of the 100-win club makes his state meet debut as Kaleb Greening enters with a record of 34-15 on the year.

Greening, who notched career win No. 100 in the district championship, will face McDonald’s Jack Teague (32-18).

Should Greening pick up wins in his first two matches, he would face top-ranked Alex Garrett of Willard. Garrett enters with a 51-1 record and placed third at 132 last season and fifth at 120 two years ago.

The Hannibal coach mentioned his son is another wrestler who has turned it up a notch at the end of the season.

“He has really started to wrestle with a different intensity and mindset, which has really driven the success he has had,” the Pirates coach said of Kaleb.

At 160, Hawkins (13-11) will face Dylan Allen (47-5) of Farmington.

Allen was a state finalist a season ago, but did not place.

“Vernell has done a really nice job of dealing with some injury setbacks,” Greening mentioned of his junior. “He basically missed the entire month of January due to injuries. But he never lost faith in himself and kept himself in position to return once he healed up.”

Carroll makes his second straight trip to the state meet at 170. The Pirate senior enters with a record of 36-15 and will face Ryder Kuenzel (34-17) of Union.

A first-round win would most likely give Carroll a match with top-ranked Robert Weber of Belton.

Weber claimed the 152 state title last season and was runner up at 138 two years ago as a freshman.

“Austin is hard to score on in matches,” the Pirates coach said of his senior. “He battles through every situation and a lot of times he comes out on top when it looks like he is going to get scored on.”

Despite an even record, White was able to win when it mattered most to make the state meet at 195. The sophomore enters the meet with a record of 26-26 and will face freshman Jesse Cassatt of Carl Junction.

“Jameson has improved his wrestling ability in all positions and that has really helped him have more success this year, especially at the district,” Greening said.

Kirby dropped 30 pounds since the start of the season to move down to 220.

The junior enters his first state championships with a record of 29-14 and will face No. 5-ranked Jaden Worthington (21-4) of Grain Valley.

“Chase has really come on at the end of the year,” the Pirates coach said. “He started to be really physical and intense in the practice room and that has definitely transferred over into his matches.”

Greening mentioned all eight wrestlers enjoyed advancing over the weekend but started working hard again on Monday.

“It’s back to business,” the coach said. “I think all of our kids can win their first match and really we are not looking past those first-round matches. The boys have really worked hard all year and they are now reaping the rewards from their work.”

The Class 3 first round will commence at 5 p.m. on Thursday.