By Max Goodwin
The Grandview High School wrestling team isn’t the most prestigious sports program at the school. In the last decade, the Grandview track & field teams have won a girls state championship and eight boys state championships. The basketball team has reached state championship status. There are Grandview alumni playing in the NFL and NBA.
The Bulldogs wrestling team measures itself by a different standard. Grandview Athletics Director Greg Linhart and Wrestling Coach James Evans try to focus on developing the talents of each student with the emphasis on creating opportunities to leave Grandview with a college scholarship.
“We always have a good individual here and there,” Grandview Athletic Director Greg Linhart said of the wrestling team he coached from 2003 until this past year, “the last few years we’ve definitely taken it up a notch and had more qualifiers at state, more medalists, and more kids getting opportunities to further their education by getting a wrestling scholarship.”
Last year Grandview graduated three wrestlers to college wrestling scholarships. An’Joli Fard and Mario Quezada are at Missouri Valley College and Anthony Mariche is at Barton County Community College.
James Evans moved from assistant to head coach when Linhart became athletic director last year. He says most of the wrestlers at Grandview have never had experience with the sport until high school, so it’s hard for him to know where their wrestling skills will end up, but that makes the journey that much more rewarding.
“We’re pretty homegrown as far as we just take kids from scratch and try to make them as good as possible,” Evans said. “They’ve caught up fast to the rest of the state.”
Grandview senior LJ Davenport wrestled in national wrestling tournaments before moving to Kansas City from North Carolina after his freshman year. But he played other sports too. He dedicated himself to wrestling because he found himself looking forward to the competition of practice in a way he didn’t with other sports.
In the fall, Davenport will be at William Jewell on a wrestling scholarship.
Grandview often can’t field a full team, and it’s rare for them to win a wrestling dual. In a year of isolation, this small group of teammates stuck together as much as they could. When off-season club wrestling was canceled because of the pandemic, they wrestled each other in a gym they knew was available.
“This group is really close,” Evans said. “Pretty much whatever one of them does they all go do.”
Darrell Grimmit had just finished his first wrestling season as a junior in high school when the pandemic hit. He continued practicing with his group of teammates, along with Davenport. Grimmit’s progress in just two years of wrestling has amazed coaches. His senior year he competed against some of the top wrestlers in the state at his weight class.
If Grimmit ends up with a college wrestling scholarship next season, it will be a real sign of achievement towards their mission at Grandview wrestling, to bring kids in and build opportunities for them to develop their abilities to the point they may obtain a college scholarship.
Grimmit will still have a chance to show college coaches his abilities at a National club wrestling tournament in July which he qualified for, representing Missouri as one of the top two finishers in his weight class.