Preview of Palmyra at the Class 1 state wrestling championships

In year two of existence, the Palmyra wrestling team took another impressive step forward last weekend.

The Panthers advanced four grapplers to this week’s state championships inside Mizzou Arena on the campus of the University of Missouri.

Connor Roberts makes a return trip to the Class 1 state meet, while freshmen Kaden Crane, Ross Arch and Peyton Timbrook will be first-timers.

Crane may have received the most brutal draw.

The freshman, who enters with a record of 32-11 on the year, will face Rock Port’s Ethan Wood in the opening round of the 106-pound bracket.

Wood finished the regular season ranked No. 5 with a record of 33-10. The junior qualified for the state meet last season and finished 1-2.

Should Crane survive his first-round battle, a potential matchup with No. 1-ranked Levi Connelly of Seneca awaits. Connelly was the state runner-up as a sophomore last season.

Buatte has confidence in his 106-pounder.

“He has been a great wrestler for us,” the Panthers coach said. “He has learned how to wrestle smarter as the year has gone on. He has also added more moves to his arsenal.

“The most amazing thing is how well he wrestles having the weight disadvantage most of the time.”

The Panthers have a highly-ranked wrestler on their team in the form of Arch.

The freshman finished the regular season ranked No. 3 at 138 and enters the state meet with a sparkling record of 32-1.

Hunter Hoelscher will be Arch’s first opponent. The senior from Lone Jack enters with a record of 34-15.

Lafayette County’s Ethan Skinner could possibly be an opponent for Arch in the quarterfinals. Skinner is ranked No. 5 with a record of 39-7.

Also in Arch’s half of the 138-pound bracket are No. 6-ranked Drayton Harris of Gallatin and honorable mention selection Braden Carpenter of Lawson.

Harris finished sixth in last year’s state meet at 132.

Although Arch will not have a cakewalk to the finals, the No. 1- and No. 2-ranked wrestlers are in the bottom half of the bracket.

Dalton Hembree, who is ranked No. 1, will be looking for his third state championship in as many years. The junior from Seneca won the 126-pound state championship last season and won the 120-pound title as a freshman.

Clayton Stallo, who is ranked No. 2, finished third last season at 138 and was the 126-pound runner-up the season prior.

Despite having only one loss on the winter, Buatte said Arch has improved all season.

“Most people wouldn’t think there would be much progress through a season for a kid like Ross Arch,” Buatte said. “But they couldn’t be more wrong. He is a kid that won’t settle, which is a great thing. He has learned new moves, new ways to do things and has fine-tuned what he has.”

At 152, Timbrook may have been the most pleasant surprise state finalist. The freshman was in and out of the lineup most of the season, but finally became healthy enough to wrestle his best when it mattered the most.

But like Crane, Timbrook has a tough road ahead of him. The freshman will start his tournament facing No. 4-ranked Tyson Thomas of Carrollton.

Thomas failed to make the state meet last year after a 2-2 record at 145 as a sophomore.

Should Timbrook survive against Thomas, Father Tolton’s Brock Mauller awaits in the second round.

Mauller is ranked No. 1 and will be looking for his fourth state championship in his fourth different weight class. Mauller won the 145-pound title last season, 132 as a sophomore and 126 as a freshman.

Buatte mentioned Timbrook (9-8) is one of the hardest workers for the Panthers.

“He has come a long way,” the Panthers coach said. “From only really having a few moves (early in the season) to now having a full arsenal. He’s worked extremely hard to get where he is now, especially since he was out a good portion of the year.”

At 160, Roberts will be looking to improve on his 0-2 performance at the state meet last season.

The sophomore, who enters with a record of 22-15, will face Chad Maupin of North Callaway.

Maupin, who is an honorable mention selection, entered the postseason with a record of 25-7.

Lexington’s Sean Emerson, ranked No. 5, would be a potential second-round matchup for Roberts.

“Connor has worked equally as hard in the wrestling room this season,” Buatte said. “He has made huge strides from last year to this year and from the beginning of this season. He moves much better and his scrambling, which he didn’t do much at all last year, has also improved.”

Buatte mentioned the four grapplers will not settle just for making the state meet.

“Obviously the goal is to go there and win,” he said. “That’s why we wrestle hard all year. I would love to come home with four medals, but at the very least we want to come home with some wins.”

Wrestling will commence Thursday at 10 a.m. with the first round and first-round wrestlebacks.