Despite taking four wrestlers to the Class 1 State Tournament each of the last two years, Maryville has failed to produce a medalist on that stage since 2010.
Between this year's state qualifying quartet of sophomore Brendan Weybrew, sophomore Nate Alexander, senior Derek Stiens and junior Dane Hull, there's a good possibility that mini-drought is about to come to an end.
Weybrew is the No. 4-ranked heavyweight in the state, while Alexander (126 pounds) and Stiens (145 pounds) are ranked in the top 10 of their weight classes, providing the Hounds with three serious medal contenders.
All three are returning state qualifiers and won at least one match there last year.
"Every year we go, we think we have young men that can do well down there," said Maryville head wrestling coach Joe Drake. "There's no guarantees ever and this year we're hoping that some of these boys, the four of them, can get on the medal stand. We're pretty positive about the group we're taking down this year. We hope we can really do well. Sometimes, things just happen you don't count on and so there's never any guarantees. You just go down there and anticipate you're going to get things done the best you can."
Weybrew (38-3) is Maryville's surest bet to get on the medal stand this weekend in Columbia's Mizzou Arena.
He came within a match of medaling as a freshman and has developed into one of the state's most dominant heavyweights this year, winning both the MEC title and the Class 1 District 4 title.
Weybrew is the last Hound to wrestle his first round match today and faces Plattsburg's No. 8-ranked C.J. Graham (23-19) in Bout 111.
Win or lose, Weybrew would face one of two unranked wrestlers in his next match.
Should he reach the semifinals, Weybrew awaits a possible encounter with No. 3-ranked Coleman Lawson (45-3), a sophomore from Mid-Buchanan.
One of Weybrew's three losses came against Lawson at the Mid-Buchanan Tournament Jan. 5.
"He's a legitimate contender and we talked to him about things he's going to have to do a little different once he gets to the state tournament over what he's done in the past," said Drake. "If he'll wrestle the way we want him to, I think he's a strong threat to medal down there."
Another strong medal challenger, Alexander (26-3) went 1-2 at state as a freshman and earned his way back with a third place finish at districts.
He'll start things off for the Hounds against Lafayette County senior Skout Raney (24-16) in Bout 28.
If victorious, Alexander could face the state' s No. 1-ranked wrestler at 126 pounds—Fatima's Ryan Strope (43-2)—in the second round.
Page 2 of 3 - Alexander, a Quad State Tournament champion, has seen neither opponent this year.
"We would like to think Nate's bracket couldn't get a lot tougher than what it was at districts," said Drake. "I think Nate's a young man that was disappointed last year as a freshman when he didn't medal, so I know the attitude is he wants to (medal) and he's worked really hard. A lot of it is just how the bracket plays out. If somebody gets upset, that could affect where we end up."
The lone senior of the bunch, Stiens (30-12) ensured his third straight trip to state with a third place finish at districts.
Last year, he went 2-2 at state and was eliminated in the second round of wrestlebacks.
Ranked No. 7 at 145 pounds, Stiens begins his final pursuit of a state medal against Fatima senior Luke DeOrnellis (24-8) in Bout 50.
"It can be a positive thing as a well as a negative," said Drake of Stiens' sense of urgency. "He knows it's his last chance so sometimes those kids get a little uptight especially if they haven't medaled in the past. All the sudden, they become too conservative. That's the thing we can not let him do is get conservative because then you don't wrestle as well as you can. You don't succeed. He's been there. He knows exactly what it's going to take for him to medal. Now, it's going to take him to perform at that level."
All six of the wrestlers ranked ahead of Stiens at 145 pounds are included in the 16-man bracket.
However, Stiens won't have to face any of those until the third round.
In his second match, he'll get either Hancock's William Heintzmann (40-2) or Plattsburg's Cody Hartman (33-16).
A fourth place finisher at districts, Hull (27-15) makes his state tournament debut against Whitfield junior Rodney Hahn (45-2) in Bout 57.
Hahn is the No.1-ranked wrestler at 152 pounds, requiring a major upset from Hull to stay on the winner's side of the bracket.
He takes on either Trent Scobee of Lathrop (44-8) or Zach Barlow (29-19) of Blair Oaks in his second match.
"The 152 pound weight class is pretty loaded," said Drake. "Out of the four, he'll probably have the toughest go down there. It's his first year down there and he's going to have to handle the jitters that come with it. It doesn't matter what we say to them, the first time they walk out on the floor and there's all those people and eight mats going and all the confusion that goes with it, it's a little tough to get them to focus. You got to go through it to understand what's going on."
Page 3 of 3 - First round action begins today at 8 a.m. and runs into the afternoon. All of the first round winners are guaranteed a berth in the quarterfinals which start Friday at 9:30 a.m.
First round losers have to win their next match today in order to stay alive.
Semifinal matches begin at 6 p.m. Friday, and the championship bouts are Saturday at 4:30 p.m.
A top six finish is needed in order to reach the medal stand.
The last set of Hounds to medal at state were 160-pound state champion Bryce Alexander and fourth place finishers Dannen Merrill and Tyler Hayse in 2010.
"We think it's important every year to have kids medal at the state tournament," said Drake. "I don't think there's any pressure that we have to do this, but we want to do this every year. It's one of our goals every year to go down there and have young men achieve to their highest level and prove they are worthy of being there."