Reilly Baughman, Windsor; Kristen Klein, Festus 110.jpg

Jake Warren won Windsor’s first state wrestling championship in 2017 when he captured the Class 3 title at 145 pounds.

A year later, Ryan Yarnell won the state final at 182 and the Owls were flush with two champions in two years.

Grant Pauli qualified for state both of those seasons for Windsor and appeared to be on track to claim the school’s third state crown. But the three-time state qualifier and medalist at 145 in 2018 is no longer on the team as of last week.

Windsor head coach Ryan Bollinger said Pauli’s absence from the team is a personal issue and declined to discuss the matter any further.

The Owls hosted a boys and girls Jefferson County Activities Association triangular meet on Jan. 9 against Festus and Herculaneum.

On the boys side, the Tigers started 2-0 in the conference after beating the Blackcats 72-6 and the Owls 48-33. Windsor topped Herculaneum 64-9.

There were just two girls matches during the night. Windsor’s Reilly Baughman improved to 10-0 with a 12-0 major decision against Festus’s Kirsten Klein at 110 pounds, and Lauren Mills of Festus pinned Herculaneum’s Julie Britton in 2:31 at 120.

Baughman, a junior, has been wrestling at Windsor since she was in middle school and with the departure of Pauli has the most varsity mat time among current Owl wrestlers. She qualified for the first girls state tournament last season at 110 pounds and made it to the third round of wrestlebacks.

“I want to go back to state and try to get a medal. I don’t care if it’s first place,” Baughman said.

“Her season’s rocking,” Bollinger said.

The number of girls wrestling this year has surpassed 1,500. At its current rate of growth, girls wrestling will soon be divided into two classes.

“It is so amazing that many girls wanting to wrestle,” said Baughman, who changed her hairstyle to a short, spiked blonde.

“I got tired of people grabbing it. I was like, you know what, I’m getting a haircut,” she said.

Girls wrestling is slowly gaining traction in the county. Northwest has two dozen girls wrestling, the most of any team in the county by far.

Britton, a freshman, is the Blackcats’ only female wrestler. Britton won the Brentwood Tournament this year and she wrestled in junior high.

“She’s a little too nice in the first period, but once she gets ticked off, she’s a better wrestler,” Herculaneum head coach Cody Hunter said.

After both missing wrestling season last year, senior Seif Elkhashab and junior Chris Butts returned to the mat for the Owls. Wrestling at 195 in the tri-meet, he won by forfeit against Herculaneum and won by fall in 1:39 against Justus Labrayere of Festus.

After qualifying for the state wrestling tournament as a freshman, Butts broke an ankle during football season in 2018 and the injury kept him off the wrestling team. Compact and strong, Butts overpowered his two conference opponents at 182 and both matches were stopped for injury timeouts to his opponents. Butts pinned Herky’s Nick Horner in 1:42 and won a 7-1 decision over the Tigers’ Jordan Banks.

Horner and Banks both howled in pain as Butts wrenched their shoulders into the mat.

“I hope (Horner) all right, but you’ve got to compete and you’ve got to be aggressive,” Butts said. “You’ve got to be tough to wrestle.”

Butts said he now has to take charge of the Owls.

“I’m going to show everybody a good example and work hard,” he said. “It felt super weird to come back because I’ve been wrestling since I was 4 years old. Wrestling and football are a whole different ballgame when it comes to conditioning.”

There were two other 2019 state qualifiers at the meet. Windsor junior Luke Longtin, who qualified at 152 last season, is back at that weight. He pinned Alexander Pate from Festus in 40 seconds and won a 19-4 technical fall against Herculaneum’s James Dixon.

Festus junior Luke Shaver is a two-time state qualifier (152 last year) who has moved up two weight classes to 170. He pinned both conference opponents, including Windsor senior Austin Henry in 2:56. Shaver said he’s interested in a career in the Navy after high school.

“Pinning (Henry) was a big deal for us,” Festus head coach Jason Nahlik said. “I had Banks and Butts about even. They’ll see each other again and hopefully we’ll have a different outcome.

“Luke has wrestled all across the country and he’s put in the time and effort and that showed tonight. I’m hoping he’s on the state medal stand.”

Nahlik’s son, Andrew, is 13-1 this season for the Tigers at 126 pounds. He had pins against Windsor and Herculaneum opponents in 19 and 36 seconds.

“He was banged up earlier in the season but he’s progressing nicely,” the coach said.

Festus met De Soto and Hillsboro in another JCAA tri-meet on Tuesday, after the Leader deadline. The Dragons have won the conference title in the last seven years.

“We’re heading in the right direction. We’re a young team,” Nahlik said. “We keep getting better every day. I attribute our success of buying into the philosophy of coming to practice every day and busting their butts. And every day, my assistant coaches help me groom these kids into better wrestlers.”