Youth was served for the St. Clair wrestling Bulldogs this winter.
The Bulldogs’ season was not only highlighted by success in the here and now with a total of eight state qualifiers between the boys and girls programs, but was also a spotlight shined on the future.
Of those eight state qualifiers, only two were seniors and four were just starting their varsity run as freshmen.
“This is the first time in school history we have had three freshman state medalists,” St. Clair Head Coach Mel Hughes said.
All three of St. Clair’s top state performers this season came from the freshman class — Ryan Meek (106 pounds), Brock Woodcock (120) and Cameron Simcox (138). All three ended the season with a state medal.
Woodcock lost just twice all season, placing third in the state in Class 2 with a 45-2 record.
Meek (44-6) was the fourth-place finisher at his weight and Simcox (47-4) placed fifth.
“Without a finalist, we still won enough bouts many with bonus points to be only 6.5 points out of the top 10 teams in the state meet,” Hughes said.
The Bulldogs were better suited to compete in tournaments this season than in duals, going without wrestlers in the heavier weight classes for much of the season.
St. Clair recorded just a 2-3 record in Four Rivers Conference duals, but finished 14th in the state in Class 2.
The Bulldogs placed second at the Westminster Tournament early in the season and earned a trove of fifth-place finishes at Union, St. Charles, their home tournament and the Class 2 District 1 Tournament.
While freshmen grabbed most of the top honors for the program this season, senior Dalton Thompson closed out his high school career as a four-time state qualifier and two-time state medalist.
Thompson (152) went 39-9 this winter. His state medals came as a freshman in 2017 and a junior last winter.
Hughes said Thompson left his mark on the program.
“Winning over 150 matches, a four time state qualifier, and two time state medalist, Dalton is clearly one of the most successful wrestlers in St. Clair school history,” Hughes said. “Dalton will realize great success in the future no matter what he chooses to do because of his talent, drive and discipline.”
Freshman Gabe Martinez (113) went 27-17 and was the fourth freshman on this year’s team to make the state tournament.
The Lady Bulldogs were in contention for tournament crowns all season long.
St. Clair placed fifth in Class 1 District 1, but placed in the top three in five regular season tournaments.
“Our girls team was undefeated in dual meets this year,” Hughes said. “These girls were our first state qualifiers in the era since girls championships began last season.”
The Lady Bulldogs took second at Union, Ft. Zumwalt East and St. Charles and finished just 2.5 points away from winning their own tournament. St. Clair additionally placed third at the Lafayette Tournament.
Juniors Makayla Johnson (135, 38-11) and Elexis Wohlgemuth (142, 36-13), and senior Makenzie Turner (235, 36-10) became the program’s first female state qualifiers since MSHSAA introduced girls wrestling as its own separate sport last year.
In addition to those three, St. Clair had three more girls win 20 or more matches during the season — Emma Davis (120, 29-11), Kaitlyn Janson (130, 29-17) and Hannah Thacker (125, 23-19).
“At St. Clair, our philosophy is that we have one team, just two divisions, boys and girls,” Hughes said. “We all coach all the student athletes and we believe that the camaraderie and excitement for our success is better for that.”
Hughes praised the work of his coaching staff.
“My coaching staff, Matt Woodcock, Michael Rodgers, Matt Gordon and Dakota Bush, did an amazing job again this season,” Hughes said. “Managing both the boys and girls teams and covering all our events was tricky at times but they all came together and gave their all to the success of our team, boys and girls.”