Going from district runner-up to state runner-up, Pacific junior Ben Courtney was pleased with his progress at this year’s MSHSAA Wrestling Championships.
“It feels good,” Courtney said. “It was what I was going for this year. First would have been nice, but I’m perfectly content with second. I’m going to come back next year better and go for the gold.”
Courtney ended his season with a 46-5 record and a spot on the second-highest podium step following his run to the title match. He lost to Belton’s Joe Biondo in the title match, 6-2.
“I was having a pretty good game plan,” Courtney said about the title bout. “In the third, I chose neutral and I got taken down. There wasn’t much I could do with that. I knew he was going to be tough on top and I couldn’t get up. That was the match.”
A state qualifier last season, Courtney saw his sophomore run at 138 ended after two matches. He know he could reach the medal matches this season.
“I was going for the higher places, but I was surprised to be in the finals,” Courtney said. “I had a good tournament and worked hard this year.”
Courtney came into the state tournament after finishing second to Windsor’s Jacob Warren in the Class 3 District 1 championship match in Farmington, 7-3. Warren, the state champion at 145 pounds last year, was one of the favorites for this year’s title.
Courtney felt Warren was a potential opponent again at the state level.
At the state tournament, Courtney opened with a 10-4 decision over Webb City’s Kade Hicks to move into Friday’s matches. He then topped Caleb Knobel of Ft. Zumwalt South, 9-2, to reach the medal matches.
In the semifinals, Courtney edged Smithville’s Nick Bollinger, 2-1. He called that his favorite match in the tournament.
“I would say my semifinal match against Bollinger was my favorite because of the high stakes,” Courtney said. “It was a tough match. I went out there and got the job done. It was a great feeling to be in the finals.”
He was surprised when he saw Belton’s Biondo had pinned Warren in 3:32 in the other semifinal. There would be no rematch for the championship.
“Joe (Biondo) proved everybody wrong and beat Warren, pinned him,” Courtney said.
A few matches later, Courtney was joined by teammate James Anding in the championship matches after Anding advanced at 170 pounds.
“We all went out and made statements, Jay and me both,” Courtney said.
Courtney was happy to have a teammate going out to wrestle in Saturday night’s championship bouts.
“I wasn’t thinking that we were both going to be in the championship matches,” Courtney said. “I knew Jay had it in him, but I wasn’t completely sure if I was going to be. I just cleared my mind, went out there and wrestled. I didn’t think about who was supposed to get what.”
Both Courtney and Anding are juniors this season and six of Pacific’s nine state qualifiers are returning next season. Courtney sees a bright future for the Four Rivers Conference champs.
“We had a lot of people working in the offseason and that made the biggest difference,” Courtney said about the team’s rise this season. “We’ve got some good up-and-comers and some returners who were real solid.”
Courtney knows if the team continues to work, the future can be even better.
“We’ve always had some solid lightweights and some of our heavier weights have started to step up, too,” he said. “We had two bigger guys qualify. I’m happy about that.”