John Bamvakais

Seckman senior John Bamvakais won the Class 4 state championship at 157 pounds after beating Liberty freshman Trey Craig in a 4-1 decision.

Seckman just missed a team trophy in a crowded field at the Class 4 state wrestling championships Saturday in Columbia.

But the Jaguars didn’t come home empty-handed as senior John Bamvakais won the 157-pound title, becoming the eighth Seckman wrestler to claim a state championship, following Cody Greene, Frankie Valleroy, Matt Kraus, Brock Wingbermuehle, Weston Basler, Kai Orine and Cole Ruble. Kraus, Wingbermuehle and Orine were multiple winners, as is Ruble, who triumphed at 190 pounds Saturday after taking the 160-pound class a year ago.

Liberty scored 218 points to breeze to its fourth straight Class 4 championship, far ahead of runner-up Francis Howell Central with 90.5. After that it was a logjam: Staley of Kansas City third with 88 and Lafayette and Ozark tied for fourth with 81, with Seckman only six points further back to finish eighth.

Bamvakais (45-7) and Ruble (38-7) were Seckman’s only medalists among the team’s nine qualifiers. The Jaguars were second in Class 4 a year ago and 10th in 2021.

Last year Bamvakais placed fourth at 145 pounds. He took higher aim this time and started the tournament with a bang, pinning Liberty-Wentzville’s Justin Little in 13 seconds. He collected pins in the next two rounds to advance to the final, where he outpointed Liberty North freshman Alex Craig 3-1, scoring the winning points on a takedown in the third period.

The excitement on his face was obvious as Bamvakais accepted congratulations from teammates, coaches and wrestlers from other teams.

“It’s really cool to see everyone I’ve wrestled in the past thank me,” he said. “It was a tough match and close to the end, until I got a late takedown and rode him out. It’s something I’ll never forget. Every day I had a good mindset and that was huge. This year I wanted to wrestle and loved it.”

Ruble reminded everyone that while he’ll pursue football at his next stop, Southeast Missouri State in Cape Girardeau, he belongs in the pantheon of Seckman’s greatest on the mat as well as the gridiron. His path to the 190 crown, however, was a tougher slog than Bamvakais experienced.

Ruble opened with a pair of decisions (9-5 and 5-2) sandwiched around a second-period pin. That put him in the final against his nemesis, Lafayette junior Andrew Wier (37-5), who already had dealt Ruble three of his seven losses this season, including the District 1 final a week earlier. The rivals tangled for the full six minutes, each scoring on multiple escapes. A takedown by Ruble in the third period was the difference in a 6-5 decision.

Jaguar senior Xander Harris (113) made it to the third round of wrestlebacks (the “bubble match”) for the second straight year but was eliminated there. And after finishing second in the state at 113 last year, Seckman junior Matthew Cook (120) also lost in the bubble match in a 6-2 decision.

Northwest sophomore Lucas Meier (106) won the only medal for the Lions, battling through six matches to take third place and finish 34-6 on the season. He won his first match by technical fall (17-0 at 3:46) before being pinned in the quarterfinals by Parker Leverknight, a finalist from Staley. Meier took a 5-2 decision in his bubble match before beating Liberty freshman Cade Dunn 6-3 for third place.

“We were the underdog in that (third place) match, so that was a nice win for Lucas,” Northwest head coach Ron Wilhelm said. “Our sport rewards hard workers. I’ve said that about him this year.”

A state qualifier at 160 last year, this time Northwest senior Tristan Staat (36-6) exited in the second round of the 175-pound wrestlebacks.

“We knew his bracket was very tough,” Wilhelm said. “We got caught in his first match, won the second match, and got caught again. It doesn’t take anything away from his season. He was our leader and senior captain. He led us in wins and pins and three matches at state won’t determine his career.”

Chandler, Karagiannis medal for Class 2 girls

Seckman senior Andrea Karagiannis broke her elbow two years ago in her first wrestling match.

She came back her junior year and fell one match short of qualifying for state.

She was all smiles Saturday at the girls Class 2 championships after taking fourth place at 105 pounds. She made it to the semifinals on a 4-2 quarterfinal victory over sophomore Bailey Burbes of Francis Howell, getting a reversal in the third period.

“I knew she was really tough, and I was on bottom most of the first period,” said Karagiannis (38-13), who will wrestle and play soccer at Missouri Baptist University. “But after winning, hugging my coaches, I’ll never forget that moment. This was the cherry on top of my season.”

Her close friend and senior teammate Lily Shaffrey (37-6), one of four Lions to qualify for state, was looking to recapture the magic of her third-place finish as a freshman in 2020. But she lost a tough 1-0 decision to Belton sophomore Louise Juitt in the 145 quarterfinals and came up short 6-2 in the bubble match.

Karagiannis said she wouldn’t be wrestling without Shaffrey’s influence.

“She played soccer with me and she and her dad talked me into (wrestling),” Karagiannis said. “And at first, I was like, no way, that’s weird. But it’s changed my life and I’m so thankful I did it. I told her I’d give it a week and if I hated it, I’d quit. After the first practice, I begged my mom to go get me shoes. I was so excited.”

Northwest junior Abby Chandler (39-4) won her second state medal (she was fourth at 194 in 2022), taking third at 190. She won her first two matches by fall in a minute apiece before eventual champion Mariyah Brumley of Lebanon pinned her in the third period of their semifinal bout. Chandler got a consolation pin to advance to the third-place match, where she beat Lafayette senior Dashiya Houston 5-2.

“We hope that she keeps climbing,” Wilhelm said. “We thought she had a chance to make the state finals but she lost a tough one in the semifinals. One of the hardest things to do is to come back from that semifinal loss and take third, especially when you have your sights on the championship.”