'Cats Estes Wins State Championship! Murrell, Harvath Also Make Podium


When Jayce Estes began this season for the Wildcats, he set two goals for himself: 1) to not lose more than five matches, and 2) be the first sophomore at Warsaw to win a state championship.

Pretty lofty goals for a 16 year old who just recently got his driver's license, but Estes attained both of those feats at the 2024 MSHSAA Wrestling Championships last week where he went undefeated through his bracket to finish his season with an overall record of 38-4 and a Class 1 state championship in the 113 pound weight class.

"Walking into the arena this year, I just kept reminding myself that this was just another tournament; to go out there and just wrestle," said Estes.

Estes believes that mindset allowed him to not be "in his own head" and to enjoy his time on the mat at the state event.

Early in the tournament, Estes disposed of Lone Jack's Trayton Hook and Centralia's Waylon Adkisson by falls. Those two wins put him in Thursday's semifinals guaranteeing himself a medal. In the semifinal, Estes defeated Charlie Ruether of Father Tolton Catholic with a 5-2 decision to put himself in the position to wrestle under the lights for a state title. There, Estes faced Brookfield's Xavier Sada and hung on for a 5-4 decision, capping his championship season before leaping into the arms of his dad, Lance, also a coach for the Wildcats.

"Following my brother, who was very successful, left big shoes to fill," Estes commented. "Last year I let that pressure affect my performance."

Estes' older brother, Kolby, captured a state title in 2019 for the Wildcats.

"Obviously wrestling success runs in his (Jayce) family, but like any younger sibling, it's always nice to be out of big brother's shadow and make a name for himself," Warsaw coach Justin Wisdom said. "Jayce had a great season."

Estes added, "It was an awesome feeling to have my dad put the state medal around my neck."

Though it was the only gold, the medals didn't stop there for the Wildcats at the state tournament at Mizzou Arena in Columbia.

On Wednesday, Drake Murrell won his first round match by forfeit over St. Pius X's Matthew Thomas and then secured a win over MMA's Trae Griffiths, 8-5 with a late takedown in the third period, also moving him into the semifinal round on Thursday.

In the semifinals, Murrell fell by a close 5-0 decision to Marceline's Connor Quinn, who would go on to eventually take first in the tournament. That loss sent Murrell to the backside of the bracket where he faced Trenton Stout of Holden, a familiar opponent who Murrell recently defeated for the district championship just one week prior. In that match, Murrell was victorious again with an 8-0 decision, putting him in the third place match where he lost by fall to Rex Bryson of Centralia, but still came away with a fourth place finish.

"This year, I finally met one of my high school goals and medaled at the state tournament," Murrell said.

Wisdom also had high praise for Murrell after completing the season with a 46-8 record.

"Drake is as steady as they come," the 'Cats coach said. "He is the epitome of our four program principles; character, integrity, loyalty and class. No matter what you're doing, you're going to get consistency from Drake. He took the next step in success this season and he deserves every bit of it. He is a great leader and reaching the state podium is just another example of his leadership and determination for success."

Later in the day, the Wildcats claimed yet another medal when Josh Harvath, another sophomore, fought his way through wrestlebacks to take the fifth spot on the state podium.

On the opening day, Harvath defeated St. Mary's Kyan Clymer with a narrow 5-2 decision but then fell to Father Tolton Catholic's William Hazelrigg by an even closer margin of 2-1 in the second round. Fighting on the back side, Harvath pinned Damonte Holmes of Lift for Life to stay alive and move on to the next day.

On Thursday, Harvath took down C.J. Reifstick of Holden to live another round but was then dealt a 7-1 loss to Macks Creek's Aidyn Merchant. That loss put Harvath in the fifth place match where he was victorious once again in a dramatic 3-1 win the first sudden victory period over Centralia's Connor Henderson, staking claim to a fifth place finish in the event.

"This year was a definite improvement from last year when I only won one match," Harvath said. "I love the state experience. The coaches make sure that we have a good time, but they also make sure that we're ready to wrestle. It's always fun to get to bond with the coaches and the team that is there."

After making his second appearance at the state tournament in as many tries, Wisdom believes that Harvath could be on the cusp of huge success himself.

"Josh had a breakthrough season," Wisdom said. "He's always been the 'big kid' with potential, which can put unwanted stress on a kid, but his maturation throughout the season allowed him to overcome that pressure. A season like Josh's can catapult a kid into the next steps of their careers and this has put Josh on that path."

Harvath finished his season with a 49-8 record.