Coach says his Panthers are ‘battle-tested and ready to go’ in today’s state matches

Although the Panthers’ numbers will be small compared to many teams at the state championships this week, two members of the wrestling team at Mehlville Senior High School are looking to set a standard for future grapplers.

Two Panthers qualified for the state championships with seniors Jacob Johnson and Jake Roesch competing in the sectional tournament. Mehlville head coach Matt Phoenix was more than happy with his team’s success.

“We did all right,” Phoenix told the Call. “I can’t really complain.”

Although the Panthers qualified two wrestlers for the state championships, the Panthers’ head coach was expecting both Johnson and Roesch to make the cut in the sectional tournament.

“I figured that we would get two through,” Phoenix said. “We wrestled better than I thought we would.”

At the 215-pound weight class, Roesch captured second place after losing to Rockwood Summit’s Corey Simons 3-2 in the championship match.

“He (Roesch) wrestled pretty well,” Phoenix said. “Although he didn’t wrestle a poor match in the finals, he hasn’t wrestled to his ability.”

Johnson, who competes in the 145-pound weight bracket, found himself in a 12-7 loss to Lindbergh’s Dan Virtue, whom he had beaten earlier in the day. Phoenix is concerned that Johnson’s loss to Virtue in the third-place match may haunt him in the first round of the state championships.

“We went in thinking that we’d have to beat Virtue in order to get to state, and he did that in the first round,” Phoenix said. “I think his loss to Virtue is going to hurt him at state because he’ll probably have to wrestle a No. 1 in the first round.”

Like many other wrestling coaches who are sending their students to state this week, Phoenix believes that the mental game will be the most important aspect of both wrestlers’ strategy.

“They’re battle-tested and ready to go,” Phoenix said. “They’ve got to believe in themselves and that’s the biggest thing for them right now.”

The Class 3 State Championships begin at 6 this evening — Feb. 19 — with the championship matches of each weight class being at 4:30 p.m. Saturday. For more information, go to