CBC freshman Santino Robinson showed coach Cornell Robinson he has the right stuff.
Robinson (35-4) won the Class 4 championship at 113 pounds in the 90th Missouri Boys Wrestling State Championships at Mizzou Arena. He won by a 4-2 decision over Carter Mccallister, of Rock Bridge. It was Mccallister’s first loss after winning his first 32 matches of the season.
“That’s the third time a freshman has won at the state meet for us,” said Cornell Robinson, who is no relation to Santino. “You know, he’s on the right track.”
CBC finished fourth in the team competition. The Cadets compiled 106.5 points to finish as the top St. Louis area school. Teams from the Kansas City area took the top three spots — Liberty (241), Park Hill (146.5) and Staley (121).
The fourth-place finished snapped a three-year span in which the Cadets won state in 2018 and 2019 after coming in second in 2017.
“You’re never happy about taking fourth,” Cornell Robinson said. “But it’s OK. It’s about where we should have finished. You get what you deserve. There was a lot of adversity this year with the mood and team chemistry. We had people getting hurt and (senior) Josh (Saunders) did not come back. Morale was hurt a little bit about that.”
Saunders won state in each of his first three years. He led CBC after the first semester. Saunders, who will wrestle at Cornell this fall in college, has been training at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Saunders chose to focus on his Olympic training, Cornell Robinson said.
“We can’t worry about who we don’t have,” Cornell Robinson said. “We go with how we have.”
Santino was the lone Cadet to win a weight class.
Santino Robinson won by a 16-7 major decision over Jakob Wooten, of Oak Park, in his first match. In the quarterfinal, he also won by major decision. This time it was a 12-2 decision over Peyton Moore, of Nixa.
“He looked real good. I wanted more from him but he won both,” Cornell Robinson said. “I think he came through the hard side of the bracket to get where he was. So it was good.”
Santino Robinson scored a sudden victory in semifinal. He won over Easton Hilton, of Liberty, 9-7.
“He gave up a late takedown. The kid from Liberty was pushing the pace,” Cornell Robinson said. “We were circling out and not controlling the distance as good as we had been. The takedown changed the whole tempo. We had to go into overtime.
“The champion always has to appear when the going gets tough. You have to stand up and prove you are the champ. He’s a true champion. He got the takedown and got the win.”
In the final, Santino Robinson won the solid decision over Mccallister.
“We controlled that whole match from the beginning to the end,” Cornell Robinson said. “They had a good game plan us. Their kid had to try and score on Santino and that opened it up for Santino.”
After he won, Cornell Robinson said his freshman reacted differently than he expected.
“He doesn’t show too many emotions,” Cornell Robinson said. “Besides the semifinal win, this was the most I ever saw him get emotional. It was pretty cool stuff. I’m very happy for him. It’s fun times from now on. I’m happy for him and his family.”
Cornell Robinson expects to see improvement in the next three years from his young matman.
“He has a lot of upside. There’s a lot of room for technical improvements,” Cornell Robinson said. “He can get stronger in the mental stuff. But he’s got one thing that’s important.
“The fight that’s in him, he’s got that. You have to have that and he does.”
Coming up in April, Santino Robinson will be getting ready to compete in the World and Cadet trials.
Sophomore Jack Darrah (32-5) finished second at 182. Liberty’s Greyden Penner scored a 10-4 decision to finish unbeaten at 29-0.
“It was a great state meet for him. He was right there,” Cornell Robinson said. “He had a great match for his finals match. The other guy was a little better on his feet. He’s one of the best kids in the nation. He’s going to Oklahoma. He’s won some big tournaments around the country. This was his third state title. That guy is pretty tough. Jack was game.”
Darrah, who took fifth last year as a freshman, won his first three matches on a fall and two decisions.
“He look really good,” Cornell Robinson said. “The quarterfinal match (a 3-1 decision over Cameron Gillespie off Park Hill South) was a tough one. He dominated from the beginning to the end. He got a take down and rode him out. he did that.”
Darrah has two years remaining and Cornell Robinson said a state title is possible.
“I hope so. He knows what it takes,” Cornell Robinson said. “Finishing second leaves a deep pain that never leaves. Hopefully it will drive him to do something special in the next two years.”
Junior Vincent Zerban took third at 160 after winning state last year. Zerban (35-5) won an 8-0 major decision over Aaron McDaniel, of Waynesville.
Drake Smith, of Liberty, won by 2-1 decision over Zerban in the semifinal.
“He lost in the semifinal and that was probably the most hurtful,” Cornell Robinson said. “Sometimes these guys shut you down and this guy had him figured out. Vinnie needed to win a one-point match and didn’t. He fought his way back to third. That’s what a champion is supposed to do.”
Cornell Robinson also pointed out three other Cadets finished fifth. Junior Lucas White (34-8) won by fall over Kelten Campbell, of Carthage, in 25 seconds at 170. Senior Luke Ebers also finished fifth at 195. Ebers (29-13) won by a 9-4 decision over Thomas Brown, Lee`s Summit West. Senior Alex Flerlage (25-12) won by fall over Jojo Camacho, of Northwest, in 2:16.
“Lucas wrestled a great tournament,” Cornell Robinson said. “Lucas lost to the eventual runner-up in the semifinals.”
The two seniors will be missed, Cornell Robinson said.
Luke lost to the eventual state champ (Staley’s undefeated Rocky Elam). We’re going to miss him the program. Lucas didn’t start wrestling until he was a freshman. It’s not easy to do that as a freshman and be able to compete at state in a short time.
“Alex has been a good leader and a captain for us. Both of these seniors have added a lot to our program and we’re going to miss having them around. I was good to see them both earn medals in their last state meet.”
Cornell Robinson is optimistic about the future of the program.
“I think we’re good, “he said. “We’re right back in it with the younger guys and the ones we have coming in. I’m looking forward to getting back at it.”