By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
FAUCETT - Mid-Buchanan girls' wrestling has seen trailblazing athletes come through its program within the last couple of years alone.
Haley Sampson was the program's first ever state qualifier, qualifying all four years of her varsity career and medaling second in her senior season last year.
Layson Hafley became the first female state medalist in program history in 2021, medaling 5th as a junior and then 6th as a senior last year.
This season, the Dragons took it a step further. Starting the year with 11 wrestlers, Mid-Buchanan qualified three girls for the state wrestling meet on Feb. 22-23 at Mizzou Arena in Columbia.
At 105 pounds, sophomore Delanie Smith won her title match 6-1, becoming the Dragons' first ever female wrestler to win a state championship, and capping an outstanding 46-3 sophomore campaign.
"I was just really happy I could represent the school by winning," Smith said. "It's just nice to know that all of my hard work paid off and I was representing all of the people who helped get me there."
Mere minutes later, at 135 pounds, senior Kalli Schuster followed suit with a 7-0 decision in the title bout, ending her varsity career with a gold medal in her first appearance at the state wrestling meet.
"That was the main goal for all three years," Schuster said. "So, it was really nice to be able to get that."
The Dragons qualified three girls for state this year - Smith, Schuster and sophomore Molly Stanton, who was one match away from medaling.
Head coach Jake Rumpf, who just completed his fifth season with the Dragons, is proud of the work his team put in all season.
"This is a sport where you put a lot of work in," he said. "The girls put a lot of work in, and it's tough. I'm just proud of them for not being afraid to do something that's challenging, and to see their hard work pay off at the biggest stage at the state tournament and become state champs was really awesome."
"It's a great feeling as a coach to see your kids find success."
Schuster, a senior at North Platte, is no stranger to athletic success. She's a three-time state medalist in track, helping the Panthers to a state title last spring. She's won gold in both the 4x100 and 4x200 relays each of the last two years.
Winning gold in wrestling, Schuster says, was a bit more personally satisfying.
"Getting gold at wrestling is definitely a bigger deal for me," she said. "I haven't been doing it as long and it's more of an individual sport. I got gold for relays, but that's a team effort. This is like, just me. I went out there and did it myself."
Girls' wrestling, especially in the last few years, is rapidly expanding. While MSHSAA has sanctioned the sport since 2018, more and more states are doing the same, with 34 of them now officially offering girls' wrestling.
The numbers in girls' wrestling continue to grow for schools like Mid-Buchanan and others across the area. In St. Joseph for instance, Central's Hailie Wagner and Ashley Slade became the first female wrestlers in school history to qualify for state.
Rumpf sees no reason why the growth of the sport won't continue in the near future.
"I have a daughter who's about to be three," he said. "I hope one day she does it. There's a lot to be said for these ladies who are really kind of paving the way for this sport, and it's going to grow and only continue to get better. I really enjoy coaching it and am proud of how hard they work."
"It's nice to see the amount of girls wrestling grow," Smith added. "That's just more competition and more girls to make you better and it's also nice to see the sport that's given you so much just grow and give more people that."
Smith and Schuster won't soon forget Hafley and Sampson - two former teammates and fellow trailblazers, who helped show them that success at the highest level is possible, no matter who you are.
"Layson and Haley were really big role models for me," Schuster said. "Haley especially, because I knew her from track and wrestling. So, watching her grow, and being partners with Layson, really helped me become the wrestler I am."
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