If Ladue boys basketball coach Chad Anderson is missing a power forward, then Kevin Clawson has found him -- and he's not giving him back.
Clawson, the Ladue wrestling coach, is piecing together an up-and-coming program. One of the bigger pieces is Chris Shirley. A 6-foot-4 senior, Shirley looks like he ought to be shooting baseline jumpers and chasing rebounds. He was one of the anchors of a solid team last year, but now he's the centerpiece of a team that is perfect through the first three weeks of the season.
Shirley has been as perfect as his team. With four more wins Saturday at the Red Devil Duals at Chaminade, he pushed his record to 18-0. Two of the victories came in decisions against state-ranked Peter Weingart of St. Mary's and Akintunde Odunleye of Hazelwood East.
Not bad for a guy who looks like he ought to be doing that 100-free-throws-a-day thing.
Funny thing, that basketball business. Clawson raises an eyebrow when Shirley and hoops are mentioned in the same sentence. Shirley goes a step further: He laughs are the idea.
"Obviously, I'm not the fastest guy," Shirley said. "I'm too slow."
"He's slow and methodical," Clawson said.
Methodical? "We try to throw in some positives," Clawson adds.
Speed was an issue when he arrived at Ladue in the fall of 2008. He wanted to play soccer. His size made him a tempting talent, but ...
"I was cut from the soccer team my freshman year because I couldn't run," Shirley said.
Soccer's loss has been wrestling's gain. Buddies talked him into giving wrestling a try after soccer sent him packing. Shirley has never looked back.
Wrestling doesn't put a premium on foot speed. It does, however, open doors for athletes who know the basics. And Shirley knew none of those his freshman year. He never had wrestled until those first preseason knock-around sessions as a freshman.
Shirley is one of wrestling's feel-good stories. He made himself not just a wrestler, but an outstanding wrestler. He went 37-14 and was a Class 3 state qualifier last year. As good as he was last year, he's better now.
"If you put in your time, this is a sport that rewards you," Clawson said.
Shirley has used his time to make up for his inexperience. He's used his time to learn to get around the issue of not being the fastest.
What Shirley does, aside from confounding opponents with the reach of a 6-4 athlete, is work out of a bag of tricks that are precise and polished. Wrestling tournaments overflow with athletes who count on muscle, on quickness, on experience. Shirley counters with technique.
"It's not just the biggest and strongest who win," Clawson said.
"If you have good technique you can win," the Ladue coach said. "He's learned to wrestle his style."
Shirley shrugs off the fact he does not fit the mold. "What works for one doesn't work for the next all the time," he said.
At 18-0, he has proven that.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE WEEKEND
• Northwest captured the 15-team Tiger Classic in Cape Girardeau, beating out Jackson, Summit and Francis Howell North.
Balance was key for the Lions, who finished in the top four in 12 weight classes. Northwest was paced by individual champions J.T. Tuck (145), Zack King (160) and Devin Cagle (220), as well as runners-up Jordan Starkey (126), Keith Hejnal (132), Cameron Noland (170) and Kyle Benz (182).
Other area champions were Howell North's Tyler Smith (126), University City's Tarique Jefferson (195) and Summit heavyweight Kris Bolton. Summit had three runners-up -- Mitch Mays (152), Ian McIntosh (160) and Spenser Matthews (220).
• Holt junior Clayton Ream was the top area finisher at the rugged Kansas City Classic, placing third at 145. Ream, already at two-time state medalist, placed third in Columbia as a freshman and fourth last season.
Granite City was the area's top team in the prestigious 37-team event, placing ninth.
Other top finishers from the area included two-time state champion Matt Kraus of Seckman (fourth at 132), Timberland's Devan Richter (fourth at 113), Fort Zumwalt West's James Krischke (fourth at 126) and the Granite City duo of Justin Valencia (fourth at 160) and Cole Whitfield (fourth at 285).
The Warriors' Josh Masters took fifth at 220.
• Two-time medalist and returning state champion Michael Slyman (160) of Lindbergh and Francis Howell's Conner Flynn (126) captured titles at the 18th annual Lee's Summit Christmas Tournament. Ozark took first in the 22-team event, with Fox (fifth) leading the way for area teams.
Other area finalists at Lee's Summit were CBC's Bay Roehr (106) and Francis Howell Central's Cole Anderson (195).
• Two-time state runner-up Mech Spraggins of Belleville West captured the title at 132 as the Maroons finished 10th as a team in the Rex Whitlach Invitational at Hinsdale Central High in suburban Chicago.
• Austin Rugraff, a state runner-up last season, was St. Charles West's lone champion as the Warriors placed 13th out of 39 teams at the Harrisonville Christmas Tournament. Rugraff won at 160, while West's Jarred Edwards was the runner-up at 113.
• Washington finished fifth and Pacific 10th at the Raytown South Holiday Tournament. Washington received championships from Parker Neptune (106) and Cole Harnai (132), with Kyle Summers placing second at 170.
Austin Repp led the way for Pacific, finishing at runner-up at 152.
• Sumner beat out host Gateway Tech to win the PHL Tournament. Individual champions from the 11-team event were Miller Career's Adrian Young (106), Sumner's Jevon Rogers (113), Sumner's Corey Morgan (120), Sumner's Dante Brownlee (126), Sumner's Courtney Williams (132), Sumner's Fred Claxton (138), Normandy's Devonti Hamilton (145), Miller's DeShaun Isaiah (152), 545), Cleveland's Monteze Latimore (160), Soldan's Marvin Bowden (170), Sumner's Daniel Johnson (182), Gateway Tech's Gabriel Davis (195), Normandy's Darrion Perkins (220) and Vashon's Diante Turner (285).
• Priory won the 10-team invitational at Brentwood, getting individual titles from Zach Lavalee (120) James Merenda (138), Zach Behnen (170) and heavyweight Taylor Boyce. Other local winners were Maplewood's Jonas Tiggs (113), Maplewood's Montel Maggitt (132), Brentwood's Mykell Hudspeth (145), Herculaneum's Nick Maxwell (152), Herculaneum's Billy Duncan (170), Clayton's Montel Harris (182), Clayton's Roger Taylor (220) and Herculaneum's Brian Duncan (285).