Pirates’ Essig puts knowledge to good use, dominates third period of state title match


Hannibal's Tristan Essig gets his arm raised as the 132-pound state champion in Class 3 on Saturday night at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Mo. | Photo courtesy Lisa Rigdon, Cheap Seats Photography

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Tristen Essig’s familiarity with his opponent in Saturday night’s 132-pound championship match at the Class 3 state wrestling tournament gave him a blueprint for succes.

“He knew I was going to be coming at him in neutral and pressuring forward,” Essig said of North Point’s Kaden Purler, who he had beaten twice this season. “He had good defense. I was finally able to break through and made it work.”

Essig trailed 1-0 going to the third period and chose to start the final two minutes on the bottom, using it to his advantage. A reversal led to a three-point nearfall as Essig finished his senior season with a 6-3 victory at Mizzou Arena.

It was his fourth state medal as he finished third as a junior at 126, third as a sophomore at 120 and fifth as a freshman at 113.

“It feels amazing,” Essig said. “You put in all the hard work, and whenever it pays off, it just makes it that much better.”

A bear hug from his coaches was the perfect in-the-moment celebration.

“Tons of emotion,” Essig said. “You can’t even really control it. It’s something I’ve dreamed about ever since I was a little kid.”

Essig, who finished the season with a 49-1 record, made certain his focus was good knowing Purler would want revenge. Essig beat Purler 5-3 in the district championship.

“About 20 minutes before my final match, I really dialed it in and made sure I was in the right headspace and ready for my match,” Essig said.

In the semifinals, Essig scored a takedown of Fort Zumwalt South’s Cameron Clark in the first period to grab a 2-0 lead. Clark chose to start the second period on the bottom, and Essig put him on his back and recorded the pin in 3:17.

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