By DAN FOX
The first-ever Girls GAC Varsity Wrestling Championship starts this week on Jan. 9, and Winfield coach Trevor Locke said since this is the first year for Missouri opening up girls wrestling as its own sport, the championship is a bit of an unknown.
“It’s the first one for everybody, so no idea what it’ll look like but I’m sure it’ll be interesting because it’ll be all the girls’ first conference tournament as well,” Locke said. “We’re all excited to do it, everyone’s kind of running on all cylinders coming out of our last tournament – we had some good success – so I know we’re looking to carry it on to this one.”
Traditionally, the Boys GAC brings together lots of schools with competitive wrestling programs: Holt, Francis Howell and Fort Zumwalt are all dangerous opponents.
“As Coach Payne put it to me earlier in the season, he goes, ‘this is just as tough, if not tougher, than our state tournament,’” Locke said.
“There’s so many tough kids that make things a little bit hairy for us,” he added.
Troy wrestling coach Pat Nichols said his team has wrestled several of the schools competing at the girls GAC already.
“So the ones that have had success against those schools I’m sure are going to continue to have some success, and the ones that have fallen short are going to have to do something to even the score,” Nichols said.
The conference has always been a tough one at the boys level, Nichols said, with experienced and knowledgeable coaches doing a “phenomenal job” preparing their kids for the next level.
“You have to try to do the same yourself, and if you’re not doing the same, they’re going to put a whooping on you,” Nichols said.
At Winfield, Remi Taylor is one of the standout female wrestlers. She won all her matches at the last tournament she competed in, and was a first-place finisher.
“Remi Taylor wrestled real well at Troy, and is looking to carry out her success moving forward,” Locke said.
For Troy, Autumn Flanigan is still undefeated.
“She’s pretty savvy, a veteran at what she’s doing,” Nichols said. “Right now she works out with the guys every day and she’s very well-rounded.”
Another Troy standout, Ally Burt, dropped down a weight class, which Nichols said will really help and hopefully get her to the state tournament alongside Flanigan.
The Boys GAC tourney happened over the weekend, and Winfield only took two of its varsity wrestlers to that competition. Brennan Hornbeck and Clark Rogers are competing
“Our reasonably small lineup that we usually have is not depleted, but we’re choosing to leave some kids out, just due to how tough the tournament is,” Locke said.
Both the boys and girls for both schools will be heading to St. Charles on Jan. 11-12. From his boys, Nichols said he’s been seeing good work from Seth Littrell, who’s 12-3 for the season; Jon Hepburn, 15-3; Collin Nichols, 15-5 and Andrew Bergfeld, 10-3.
The rest of January is going to be a gauntlet of tournaments and competitions, Nichols said, with bouts every Wednesday and weekend through the entire month.
“It’s going to be a grind on them, and hopefully they’re prepared for it and ready to go,” Nichols said.