Hard work personifies the wrestling program at Christian Brothers College High School, where five state medalists, including three state champions, led the team to a second-place finish overall at the Missouri Class 4 tournament.
All five have at least another year of eligibility. Last season, the team finished eighth.
Head coach Cornell Robinson is looking forward to next season, but his delight in the efforts of his wrestlers this season, which concluded Feb. 18, is obvious. "It's a good stepping stone to where we need to be, but I was proud of the kids overall," he said.
Highlights for Robinson included watching how much the wrestlers cared about winning a team trophy and how much they cared for and rooted for each other. Robinson and the team members enjoyed seeing some wrestlers who hadn't had as much success achieve goals. As an example, he said, the team embraced senior Andrew Gentry as he worked hard to make the state tournament.
CBC began practices Nov. 2, but the wrestlers began preparations for the season with conditioning and weight-room workouts much earlier. "Wrestling is a lot of work, a lot of tears, a lot of blood, a lot of arguing, you name it," Robinson said.
The coach stresses work habits as well as becoming "each other's brother's keeper. You're only as good as your training partner," Robinson said. "The more we realize that as a team, the better we are."
The school community builds an atmosphere of brotherhood as well, he said. "That was here before I got here. But that's awesome, so much pride in CBC," Robinson said.
Freshman Josh Saunders, a champion at the 132-pound weight class, started wrestling when he was 6. He was on a team coached by Robinson early on, and has thrived under his tutelage. He enjoys the trips the team takes and the victories. The sport has taught him about life — that it presents obstacles and you have to work hard and push through it. "If you work hard enough, you get rewarded," Saunders, 36-5 this season, said.
Sophomore Kyle Prewitt finished sixth in the 126-pound weight class, picking up his first state medal. Pruitt, 38-15, began wrestling at about age 7, tagging along with a friend. It's taught him how to accept losing and how to overcome difficulties. It's easy to excel at CBC, he said, because "there's always somebody good to practice with."
Junior Cevion Severado finished second in the 106-pound weight class, the second time he has medaled at state. He followed his brother into the sport at an early age. "It goes really good with my skills set," Severado, 44-4, said. "It worked out better than football, baseball and other sports. The individualness is a good thing."
Finishing second was disappointing, but he kept his head up, looking to improve next year. "We're building something great here. Our team is getting better and better, and I want to be a part of that," Severado said.
Junior DJ Shannon, 160-pound weight class, won his second state championship and third medal. He had a lot of energy when he was young, he said, and he needed to do something physical. Wrestling fit the bill. "Unlike most sports like football and basketball, you don't have to worry about others on the team," Shannon said. "If you are doing what you're supposed to do, everything should turn out good."
At the state tournament, "I think I did pretty good," Shannon, 48-0, said with a smile. "We wrestle for our team and our school, so it means a lot to us."
Junior Malik Johnson, 120-pound weight class, won his third state championship. He followed his brother into the sport. "I just like the feeling of winning," he said.
Johnson, 33-1, was confident heading to the state tournament because "I knew I put in the work. I knew no one else in the state was doing what I did to prepare myself for this tournament."
He credited his practice partner, Josh Saunders. "We had some battles back and forth," Johnson said. "Also, working out with DK (assistant coach Dennis Kakrah) helped me. Coach Robs helps me a lot. And I went home and practiced with my dad every single day."
Alec Maglione, a CBC graduate who was an academic all-state wrestler and state medalist, wrote a prayer for wrestlers, and Robinson "remixed it." During the season, bits were contributed to it by team members.
Saunders brings his faith to his sport through the music he listens to and by praying with his father before matches. Severado thinks of God being with him every match, and he thanks Him for giving him strength and speed. Johnson also said that he knows his talent comes from God. "Without God, I wouldn't be able to accomplish this," he said.
St. Joseph Academy's senior swimmer Anna Miller won state titles in the 50- and 100-yard freestyle races, setting a state record in the former event.
Cor Jesu Academy sophomore Karisa Franz won the 100 butterfly. She also took fourth in the 200-yard IM.
Other medalists included Ellie Wehrmann of Incarnate Word Academy, fifth in the 200-yard freestyle and third in the 100-yard freestyle. Visitation Academy's Alli Hanlon, Emily O'Connell, Corinne Michael and Christian Jurotich finished fourth in the 200-yard freestyle relay and sixth in the 400-yard freestyle relay.
In Class 4, besides the five CBC medalists, Danny Conley of Chaminade won in the 220-pound class and Cory Peterson of De Smet Jesuit High School finished second in the 160-pound class. In Class 3, Corbin Lee of St. Mary's High School won first place in the 285-pound class. In Class 2, Adam Helbusch of St. Francis Borgia finished sixth in the 113-pound class and teammate Dylan Hellebusch was fourth in the 138-pound class. Greg Rolwes of Priory was sixth in the 160-pound class and teammate Tony Kraus was fifth.
Christian Brothers College High School and St. Louis University High School will play for the Challenge Cup trophy in the Mid-States Hockey playoffs at 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 8, at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
CBC, 22-5, advanced to the finals with 4-3 and 6-1 victories over Edwardsville High School. St. Louis University won its first game against Oakville High School 5-1 before losing the second game 4-3. SLUH, 25-3, came back to win a deciding mini-game 2-0.
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