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All-Metro boys wrestler of the year: Lafayette's Hagan records undefeated season of dominance

From the 2022 All-Metro boys wrestling series
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The camera work is sometimes shaky and the lighting is less than ideal, but Lafayette senior Tommy Hagan does not mind. He still enjoys looking back at the videos he recorded upon his arrival at 6 a.m. weightlifting sessions or his departure from late-night workouts.

“It’s just cool to look back and hear the times when I said, ‘This is all going to pay off,’ when it was dark out and no one was there,” Hagan said.

With thousands packed into Mizzou Arena on Feb. 19 and with a comfortable lead in his Class 4, 220-pound state title match, Hagan once again looked back. He glimpsed over his shoulder at the score and time with the knowledge that those words recorded on video were coming true.

Hagan is the Post-Dispatch All-Metro boys wrestler of the year.

Ranked the No. 18 wrestler in the nation at 220 pounds by Wrestling Insider Magazine (WIN) and signed to wrestle at the University of Missouri, Hagan (46-0) found his journey to becoming a state champion dotted with successes and heartaches.

A four-time state qualifier, Hagan’s run of tournament success began as a sophomore with a string of upsets to earn a Class 4 third-place medal at 170 pounds.

“He caught one kid in a move called an elbow trap that we maybe worked on one time at practice,” Lafayette coach Joe Wier said. “I knew right then that he was not just a competitive wrestler, but a smart wrestler. And he liked the big lights.”

The lights were even bigger when Hagan reached the state title match at 182 pounds as a junior, but he lost 7-2 to two-time champion Wentric Williams III of Liberty-KC and placed second.

Owning a third-place and second-place medal only fueled Hagan’s desire to stand atop the podium as a senior.

“I remember coaches telling me that the pain of regret is like no other, and I didn’t want any regrets,” Hagan said. “I started hanging out with the right people, giving my body what it needed, cutting out what it didn’t, making sure I was getting the right amount of sleep, doing everything right.”

Hagan could do nothing wrong to begin his senior season. He was 15-0 with 15 pins when he reached the 220-pound title match at the Red Schmitt Holiday Classic in Granite City, a tournament he and his father Brian watched together when Tommy was younger.

“I remember him being in awe at how good the wrestling was,” Hagan said.

Hagan defeated Illinois state qualifier Sean Scheck by major decision to win a meaningful championship Hagan called “surreal,” but in that victory, Hagan identified some deficiencies.

“I thought I wrestled a good match for four minutes and then I don’t know what happened,” Hagan said. “I wasn’t happy with the final two, but I think that made my season better. I finally saw what I had to work on, and in the long run it made me a better wrestler.”

Tommy Hagan, Lafayette wrestling

Lafayette senior Tommy Hagan is the Post-Dispatch All-Metro boys wrestler of the year. The University of Missouri recruit posted a 46-0 record, highlighted by the Class 4 state title at 220 pounds. He was Lafayette's first boys state champion since 2004. Randy Kemp | Special to STLhighschoolsports.com

Hagan was ranked No. 1 in Missouri when No. 2-ranked John Gholson of Nixa, the third-place medalist at 220 pounds the previous season, arrived at Lafayette for the Fred Ross Invitational.

In the Fred Ross championship match, Hagan took down Gholson four times and then pinned him in the second period.

“That’s the match that really changed my mindset of who I was as a wrestler,” Hagan said. “I realized that day that I was going to be a state champion and there was nobody that was going to stop me from doing it.”

At the Winnetonka tournament, Hagan faced undefeated Park Hill South senior Lucas Oitker, who entered with a 30-0 record. Hagan controlled the match from start to finish and won by third period pin.

“That match was more about establishing dominance, being kind of the villain in the state for that weight class and letting everybody know that it didn’t matter who you were, it was my weight,” Hagan said.

If it was his weight, nobody told those who seeded him No. 2 at the district tournament behind another undefeated challenger — Oakville sophomore Ethan Venable.

In the district title match, Hagan struggled to move Venable and led only 4-1 after the first period before taking him down and pinning him midway through the second period.

“(Venable) was insanely athletic,” Hagan said. “I did a lot in that match that, in hindsight, I didn’t know any better. I didn’t know he was going to have the strongest hips in the state.”

The state bracket was rounding into form. Hagan was the top seed, Gholson had moved to heavyweight, and when Venable defeated Oitker 4-3 in the state semifinal, a rematch between Hagan and Venable would decide the 220-pound championship.

That night, Hagan internalized the gravity of the moment.

“I was lying in bed thinking, ‘One more match. Everything I’ve done has led me to this point,’ and it kept me awake," Hagan said. "I finally went to sleep around 3:30 a.m.”

The earlier meeting with Venable provided all the information he needed. A new game plan helped Hagan take a 16-5 lead late in the third period, and when he glanced at the clock, 40 seconds remained.

“I remember the entire match, the buildup for it all, but the thing that sticks with me is looking up at my family, my friends and coaches and realizing that everything I’ve done for the past six months is now coming down to these final 40 seconds,” Hagan said.

Tommy Hagan, Lafayette wrestling

Lafayette senior Tommy Hagan is the Post-Dispatch All-Metro boys wrestler of the year. The University of Missouri recruit posted a 46-0 record, highlighted by the Class 4 state title at 220 pounds. He was Lafayette's first boys state champion since 2004. Randy Kemp | Special to STLhighschoolsports.com

With his victory, Hagan became the first Lafayette boys wrestler to win a state championship since current Lafayette assistant coach Brian Sanguinet won the 130-pound title in 2004.

“The coaches here at Lafayette have changed my life, and there’s no better feeling than being able to repay them with a state championship,” Hagan said.

For Wier, the progression of Hagan into a state champion was accomplished through consistent determination and effort.

“He really worked his way to success. It wasn’t by accident. Everybody wants the magic potion and there is no magic potion and Tommy figured that out early,” Wier said. “He is a product of doing everything you can when you have the moment.”

Opportunities and accolades quickly followed.

Nine days after his state title, Hagan committed to wrestle at the University of Missouri — an opportunity he did not think was possible at season’s start.

“They’re producing All-Americans, national champions, and if I’m being honest, I didn’t think I was quite at that level, but as the season progressed and relationships were built, I started seeing it as a real possibility,” Hagan said.

On March 1, Hagan received his first national ranking when WIN magazine listed him as the No. 18 wrestler in the country at 220 pounds.

“I woke up with my name in a magazine,” Hagan said. “It’s a super cool blessing. Everyone on that list is insane in their own right. I’m just blessed to be on the same page as those guys.”

But the story of Hagan’s championship season will not be found in pages, but rather in videos, with icy, rainy and pitch-black backgrounds.

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