By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
PLATTE CITY - Eleven athletes from six area schools qualified for the MSHSAA girls' state wrestling championships at the Class 1 Section 4 wrestling meet at Platte County High School Saturday.
In a new format for 2020-21, the top three girls from each weight class qualified for state, rather than the top four placers in districts.
Let's break down the area qualifiers by weight class.
Cameron junior Ashley Yamat lost a tough 9-6 decision in the first round to Liberty North's Angel Sanchez-Hernand, but stormed back with three straight pins, including a pin late in the second period against Mid-Buchanan's Loren' Patee in the third place match.
"I'm just super excited," Yamat said. "Every other year, I hadn't made it out of quarterfinals (at districts), and now, I took the district title, placed third at sectionals and hope to get a medal at state."
The lone representative for Lafayette, junior Isa'Bella Mendoza made the most of her opportunity to get back to state for the second year in a row.
After going 1-1 to start the day, Mendoza battled back with a couple of pins, including one over Smithville's Ruby Scarborough late in the first period of the third place match.
"(Isa'Bella) is the hardest working wrestler I have," Irish coach Josh Walters said. "She deserves every part of that. We are going back to state. This is her second time going, and we're going for a place."
Mendoza says her motivation mainly comes from those around her.
"My team and coaches motivate me a lot," she said. "And my mom is 100 percent the one who motivates me the most."
Fresh off of a district title, Benton's Lexi Petersen started off her day with a second period pin against Sadie Waller of Fort Osage, but then lost a 1-0 stalemate to Aiva Mayer of Carroll in the quarterfinals.
It wasn't easy, but Pedersen made it to the third place match after gutting out a 2-1 win over Marceline's Sarah Kussman.
Pedersen faced rather an unusual challenge in her third place bout against Mystyque Anderson of Park Hill South.
After grabbing an early 1-0 lead, Pedersen was awarded two points for her opponent's misconduct.
Anderson was heard cursing at Pedersen on several occasions, and then grabbed Pedersen's neck for several seconds after the match was whistled over. Officials and Park Hill South coaches had to pull Anderson off.
"That match was just crazy," Pedersen said after, overall not phased. "I've always been taught that there's no need to start a fight on the mat. Just go out there and wrestle like you're supposed to, and if they want to start something, back up and let them do them and the refs and coaches will handle it.
"I didn't want to ruin my senior season. I kept it all in, even though I was mad. Knowing that I made it to state and I'm following in the footsteps of (Benton's first girl to qualify for state) Brooklyn Rush, it feels really good to be able to do that. Just a lot of emotion."
Coach Brad Hubbard was surprised , like everyone else watching, that Pedersen's last match went the way it did, but he understands the emotions that go with winner take-all matches.
"These girls are wrestling for their season," he said. "Emotions are ramped up, and those things happen. You just hope that you've done enough for your athletes to make sure they keep their composure. (Lexi) did a good job. (Anderson) wrestled tough and had a good tournament. She just let her emotions get to her, and she'll learn from it."
District champion Haley Sampson had two pins in the winners' bracket to put herself in the championship match against Payton Weese of Marceline.
Both girls battled throughout and Sampson jumped out to an 11-4 lead in the second period, but Weese battled back in the closing seconds with a near fall, which broke the 11-11 tie and gave Weese a 14-11 victory.
Sampson (28-7), a district champion, will also wrestle at state.
Cameron's Christina Filley started her day with a pin in less than 40 seconds, and won her semifinal match by pinning Lathrop's McKayla Knight with 25 seconds remaining.
Filley's title match was a defensive battle, as Staley's Lexi Hatfield (33-0) held on for a 3-0 victory.
Filley (25-5), a district champion, advances to state.
After getting pinned in her first match of the day, Lathrop freshman Jordan Diercks followed that up with a 15-0 technical fall, a 4-2 decision and then an 8-3 victory over Excelsior Springs' Paige Barber in the third place match to punch her ticket to state.
Benton sophomore Tatum Levendahl lost her first match in a close 4-2 battle against to Lauren Hahne of Fort Osage. Levendahl responded with a 3-1 victory over Lawson's Katelyn Sales, an 8-3 win over Staley's Emily Colling and then a 5-0 victory against Cameron's MaKayla Provin.
"I'm proud of myself," Levendahl said. "It probably went the best it could have gone. This was my one goal for the season was to make it to state."
Coach Hubbard had full faith that Levendahl could accomplish that goal, watching her progress throughout the season.
"Tatum has just gotten better in every single match as the season has gone on," Hubbard said. "I'm happy for her. She's tough. She knocked off two girls she had never beaten in her career."
Lathrop senior Josie Wright had a pin and then a 6-3 decision in semifinals to qualify for state and get into the championship match. Her opponent, Maddie Kubicki of Park Hill South (36-0) proved to be formidable, and pinned Wright at the 1:48 mark of the first period.
In the third-place match of the 143-pound bracket, Mid-Buchanan's Layson Hafley battled back in style, pinning Veronica McNeece of Smithville in just 39 seconds.
"It was pretty incredible to able to place," Hafley said. "My season last year ended pretty badly. It's overwhelming. It's a tough bracket, but...I'm just happy."
Plattsburg's Payge Fuller (30-3) notched pins in the first and second round matches to qualify for state and reach the championship bout against Haley Ward of Fort Osage (30-1).
Fuller battled early, put was pinned late in the second period to finish second.
Cameron sophomore Hollie Hedgpath earned a couple of pins, which earned her a spot in the championship match of her bracket against Marshall's Raziyah Thomas (23-1). A senior, Thomas won via pin midway through the second period.
Girls' state wrestling takes place in Independence on March 9-13.
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