‘I’m overcome with happiness and joy’: Hannibal wrestlers win Class 3 state championship


The Hannibal wrestlers celebrate winning the Class 3 state championship — the first fior any Hannibal boys athletic program in nearly a century — on Saturday at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Mo. | Photo courtesy Ron Rigdon, Cheap Seats Photography

COLUMBIA, Mo. — A perfect day with a perfect ending.

A perfect place in history accompanied it, too.

That’s what the Hannibal wrestling team earned Saturday.

The Pirates had eight grapplers earn individual medals — three won championships — at the Class 3 state tournament at Mizzou Arena, enabling them to pile up an insurmountable number of points and capture the program’s first team state title and the first for any Hannibal boys athletic program in nearly a century.

“I’m overcome with happiness and joy,” said senior Tristen Essig, who won an individual championship at 132 pounds. “It’s just amazing.”

Hannibal senior Cody Culp echoed that.

“It’s crazy,” said Culp, the undefeated state champion at 144 pounds. “It feels better, way better than I ever imagined.”

Hannibal hadn’t won a state championship in a boys sport since the indoor track title in 1930.

“I don’t even have words for it,” Hannibal coach Jake Borgmeyer said. “They busted their butt for four years. Some of them have been wrestling for 10 or 12 years together. To have it come together on one weekend in February, it just doesn’t happen. It’s not common for all of the things to line up.

“We always make statements throughout the year as a coaching staff, in order to win a state title like this, the stars have to align. And they did. Every little thing that we could have had go right actually did.”

Essig and Culp linked the Pirates’ good fortune — Hannibal finished with 156.5 team points as Hillsboro was second with 132 — to a common bond and work ethic shared throughout the wrestling room.

“It’s family,” Culp said. “We grew up together. We wanted it enough to get it. That’s all it came down to. We wanted it more and we showed it.”

Said Essig, “We’re family. In and out of the room, we’re family. We know if we work together we can accomplish anything.”

The Hannibal wrestlers celebrate winning the Class 3 state championship Saturday night at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Mo. | Photo courtesy Ron Rigdon, Cheap Seats Photography

Hearing how his wrestlers characterized the program made an emotional Hannibal coach Jake Borgmeyer choke up.

“We’ve preached that all year,” Borgmeyer said. “Our chemistry as a team remains second to none. The way that they battle for each other, support each other, argue with each other, you just realize this team is different. We knew all weekend this team is different. These kids were competing different.”

The Pirates led the Class 3 field in points following Friday’s action, advancing eight of their 10 wrestlers to the second day with six having qualified for the semifinals. Four of those won to earn a shot at a state title, while every wrestler still alive won at least one match on the final day.

Four Hannibal wrestlers each reached the podium through the wrestlebacks with senior Ryan Ross at 285 pounds and sophomore Drake Brinkley at 138 pounds each finishing fourth. Senior Reign Creech took fifth at 120 and sophomore Korbin Howe was sixth at 126. Meanwhile, senior Koen Ramage took second at 157 pounds.

The titleists put the Pirates over the top.

At 113 pounds, sophomore Austin Brown went to the second period tied Carl Junction junior Carter Foglesong at 2, but Brown started on the bottom and earned two reversal points. He put Foglesong on his back and recorded a pin in 3 minutes, 9 seconds.

“It means a lot to see those seniors go out with a state title,” Brown said. “I had to do it for them.”

Those seniors took care of business, too.

Essig trailed North Point’s Kaden Purler 1-0 going to the third period of their 132-pound title match, but a reversal and a three-point nearfall gave him control. He finished off a 6-3 victory to put a stamp on a 49-1 season.

Culp followed suit, turning an escape to start the second period into a takedown and a three-point nearfall against Bolivar’s Cooper Moore. Another takedown in the third period cemented an 11-0 victory to complete a 33-0 season.

The team championship made it even more perfect because Culp was able to celebrate with his brothers.

“It’s always about family with us,” he said.

That brought tears to Borgmeyer’s eyes.

“That was the No. 1 thing I wanted to establish during my time as head coach,” Borgmeyer said. “We were going to have a culture of kids who fought for each other and a community that supported each other and grow this into a program that does that consistently.

“We have such a rich history and we have such a good community behind us for the last 30 years, but the way this group battled and competed and the way they all truly love each other and the coaches, it’s unbelievable.

“It’s incredible how they can wrestle and how well they can compete when that’s the focus. When you love what you do and you love who you’re doing it with, really good things can happen. That’s what happened.”

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