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All-Decade boys wrestling spotlight: Area's four-time champion club doubled in recent seasons

All-Decade boys wrestling spotlight: Area's four-time champion club doubled in recent seasons

From the All-Decade boys wrestling series
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The state of Missouri first started holding wrestling championships in 1931. There was one classification, and the tournament was held at Rothwell Gym on the University of Missouri campus in Columbia.

The tournament went to two classes in 1971, with the small/medium competition held at Excelsior Springs High near Kansas City and the large-school meet at Forest Park Community College in St. Louis. In 1984, with the competition at the Hearnes Center in Columbia, the field was divided into three classes — 1A-2A, 3A and 4A.

In 2005, Missouri went to a four-class wrestling tournament. And in 2019, the girls’ competition was added.

According to the Illinois High School Association website, the individual state tournament in Illinois began in 1936 and the dual team competition in Class A and Class AA was added in the 1983-84 school year. In 2009, Illinois went to its current Class 1A, Class 2A and Class 3A format.

In Illinois, there have been 14 four-time champions, with none coming from the St. Louis region. Civic Memorial’s Kip Kristoff became the first freshman to win a Class AA title in 1982 and went on to capture state titles again to finish his sophomore and senior seasons. Kristoff, who placed third as a junior, went 161-3 with 114 pins in his high school career and went on to wrestle for his father, Larry, at SIU Edwardsville.

For the Cougars, Kristoff was a four-time Division II All-American, winning the title at 142 in 1987. He was a national runner-up in 1988 and 1990 and placed seventh nationally as a freshman in 1986, when SIUE won the national championship.

In Missouri, there have been 32 four-time champions, with just two of those — Normandy’s Vernon “Hap” Whitney, who went 79-2 from 1949-52; and Ritenour’s Ray “Buzzy” Bergfeld, who went 75-1 from 1951-54 — coming before 1994.

In addition to that pair, St. Louis’ other four-timers are Parkway Central’s Scott Schatzman, who went 149-0 from 1992-95; Whitfield’s Rodney Hahn, who went 197-11 from 2011-14; Whitfield’s Mike McAteer, who went 191-10 from 2015-18; and CBC’s Malik Johnson, who went 139-11 from 2015-18.

Jaydin Clayton, who now goes by Jaydin Eierman, from Father Tolton Regional Catholic High in Columbia, is the only other Show-Me state wrestler to join Schatzman by going unbeaten in high school. He won 158 consecutive matches from 2012 through 2015.

Eierman, who finished fifth, fourth and third in three NCAA appearances for Mizzou, transferred prior to the 2020 season and will finish out his college career at the University of Iowa.

CBC’s Joshua Saunders won state titles to cap his freshman, sophomore and junior seasons but decided to bypass most of his senior season this winter and spend substantial time at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Saunders, who had a record of 117-10 with the Cadets, has a scholarship to Cornell University.

Missouri Class 4 District 1 wrestling

CBC's Malik Johnson controls the head of Seckman's Cameron Fusco in the 126-pound championship match during the Missouri Class 4 District 1 wrestling tournament on Saturday, Febraury 10, 2018 at Lindbergh High School in Sappington, Missouri. Ben Loewnau, STLhighschoolsports.com

JOHNSON ON THE MOVE?

The Post-Dispatch boys wrestler of the decade, Johnson helped CBC capture the school’s first team wrestling title in 2018 as a senior. He was the Post-Dispatch All-Metro wrestler of the year that season.

Johnson won at 106 as a freshman, at 113 as a sophomore, at 120 as a junior and at 126 as a senior, beating the same competitor, Seckman’s Cameron Fusco, in four consecutive district championship and state championship matches.

“When you look at what he’s accomplished over the last four years — four-time state champion, winning the Ironman, winning at Fargo, winning two Greco-Roman national titles and going to represent the U.S. at the Junior World Championships twice — I think you can make a pretty good argument for Malik being the best high school wrestler Missouri has seen,’’ CBC coach Cornell Robinson said in March of 2018.

Johnson started his college career at Missouri and went 9-2 as a redshirt freshman in 2019. But he’s no longer with the Tigers.

“It looks like he’s going to wrestle for Central Methodist,’’ Robinson said earlier this week. The new NAIA program in Fayette, Mo., is coached by Terrel Wilbourn, a three-time state champ at Francis Howell Central High who went on to win an NJCAA title at Iowa Central Community College before finishing third, second and first, going 25-0 as a 157-pound senior, for Lindenwood University.

“I’ve coached some good ones, but Malik was as good as I’ve seen at the high school level,’’ Robinson said. “He was smart and athletic and always seemed to know exactly what he needed to do to get results. He’s very competitive and blessed with a lot of natural ability.”

Whitfield’s Mike McAteer happened to win his four consecutive championships in the same four years as Johnson.

McAteer, who won Class 1 titles at 106 as a freshman (49-0), at 113 as a sophomore (44-5), at 120 as a junior (47-3) and at 126 as a senior (51-2), finished with an overall record of 191-10 that included 14 pins in 16 career matches at Mizzou Arena. He’s now wrestling for Army at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

ALL-DECADE FIRST TEAM

ALL-DECADE SECOND TEAM

ALL-DECADE THIRD TEAM

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