by Michael Smith
The Grain Valley wrestling team is making a name for itself as one of the top teams in Missouri.
After all, the Eagles are currently ranked as the sixth best team in Class 4 according to the poll at MissouriWrestling.com.
The team is loaded with talent that has wrestlers that have a legitimate chance of earning a state medal in 2023. That showed in the Greater Kansas City Tournament Saturday that featured 19 of the 28 teams that are in the Suburban Conference.
Grain Valley had three wrestlers win their weight division as it scored 199 points to take first place at the event at Belton High School. Liberty North was second with 184.5 points and Fort Osage was third with 178.5.
“That’s one of our goals this year is to win a state team trophy,” Grain Valley senior Dru Azcona said. “We have guys like Gavin Parks, Tyler Groves, Tanner Barker and Brock Smith, so I think we can do it. Colton Parks and Zac Bleess, we are loaded.”
Azcona, ranked No. 3 in Class 4 in his weight class, had a stiff challenge in the finals of the 132-pound weight bracket after rolling through the first two rounds. He got a 27-second pin in the quarterfinals and earned a 11-0 major decision against Raytown South senior Norman Schneider.
He was able to make a first-period takedown hold up in the championship match as he earned a 4-3 victory against Oak Park Jamison Tunstill, who suffered his first loss.
Azcona improved to 10-0 after coming back from a rib injury earlier in the month.
“At first the season was hard. I had a rib injury,” Azcona said. “I have come back fully healthy and have won two tournaments in a row, so I think I am getting back to where I was.”
Senior Tyler Groves (144) had less suspense in his championship match against Lee’s Summit West freshman Grady Mortensen. He used a head and arm hip toss to pin Mortensen in 1 minute and 40 seconds to take first place.
He also earned pins in his previous four matches.
“It feels great, man,” Groves said about his tournament win. “It’s all about your mentality and practice makes perfect. You just have to go out there and wrestle your hardest.”
That’s what Tanner Barker (165) did when he won his weight class for the Eagles as he recently came back to action after suffering a shoulder injury in the first tournament of the season in early December.
The senior had some competitive matches on Saturday. He defeated Toni Falubi of Park Hill South 10-4 in the semifinals before edging Lee’s Summit junior Jackson Jones 7-4 in the finals, using lightning–quick shots to get takedowns in his matches.
“I think I wrestled fine. My cardio was up,” Barker said. “Everything is feeling good. I did a lot of physical therapy and now I am 100 percent.”
Other Grain Valley wrestlers to finish in the top three of their weight class were Zac Bleess (113, third), Gavin Parks (120, third), Brock Smith (126, third) and Ethan Jones (138, second).
Grain Valley celebrates winning the Greatest Kansas City Tournament as the team finished first out of 19 teams with 199 points. Photo credit: Michael Smith
Grain Valley senior Tanner Barker looks to work a move from the top position against Lee's Summit's Jackson Jones in the championship match of the 165-pound weight division. Photo credit: Michael Smith
Grain Valley senior Tyler Groves won his weight division by getting pins in all four of his matches. Photo credit: Michael Smith
Grain Valley senior Dru Azcona looks for a half nelson from the top position against Oak Park senior Jamison Tunstill. Photo credit: Michael Smith