The Fulton Hornets wrestling team has the potential to be even more of a presence at the 81st MSHSAA state championships.
Fulton, ranked fifth in Class 2 by MissouriWrestling.com, will be sending nine wrestlers to state after finishing second in the District 2 championships Saturday at John Burroughs High School.
The Hornets - who accumulated 173.5 points - did not have any individual champions, but seven wrestlers took second in their respective weight classes and two others posted third-place finishes.
North Central Missouri Conference rival Kirksville - ranked No. 2 - captured the District 2 team title with 214 points.
Qualifying from Fulton with their second-place outcomes were senior Ryan Fritz at 171 pounds, junior Zach McClure at 130, sophomore Cody Pae at 125, senior Josh Curtis at 140, sophomore Kelcey Nunley at 135, senior Sean Luetkemeyer at 189, and freshman Jarred Keiser at 103.
Moving on for the Hornets with their third-place finishes were sophomore Drew Benner at 145 pounds and freshman John Kingsley at 152.
Fritz and McClure are both three-time state qualifiers, while Benner, Pae and Nunley are all returning for the second straight year. Curtis is also a two-time qualifier, while Luetkemeyer, Keiser and Kingsley will be making their first appearances at the state championships.
"I'm reasonably pleased; to get nine through is quite an accomplishment," Fulton head coach Eric Hudson said. "Everybody got through that I thought had a chance to get through."
The Hornets - anchored by Benner's state title at 135 pounds - took six wrestlers to last year's state championships, coming in sixth in Class 2 with 64.5 points. Fritz took third place at 160 pounds, while McClure and Pae finished sixth at 112 and 119, respectively.
The showing was Fulton's best since placing third in Class 1A-2A in 1993.
Of immediate concern for Hudson heading into the state championships later this week in Columbia are injuries to both Benner and Fritz.
Benner (33-1) - who is actually ranked No. 1 at 152 pounds - wrestled for the first time this weekend since sustaining a lower back injury in Fulton's Jim Wallace Classic on Jan. 22. However, he tweaked the injury and then suffered his first loss of the season in the semifinals at 145 pounds - dropping a 6-4 decision to Kirksville junior Chris Hooper (29-12).
Benner rebounded to score a 9-2 decision over Winfield senior Tyler Sorter in the third-place match.
Meanwhile, Fritz (29-1) - the top-ranked wrestler in the state at 171 pounds - injured the lateral collateral ligament in his knee during warmups Saturday morning. He was able to reach the finals, but was forced to injury default against Moberly senior Davis Keleher (30-3) - who Fritz has already defeated twice this season.
Hudson noted that Benner and Fritz both underwent treatment on Sunday, and that Fritz was expected to be evaluated further on Monday.
McClure (32-5), ranked No. 5 at 130 pounds, lost a 5-0 decision to Kirksville junior Justin VanHoose (26-1) in the first-place match Saturday. VanHoose was a state champion at 125 pounds in 2010.
Pae (35-5) - ranked fifth at 125 pounds - suffered an 8-2 loss to Kirksville junior Austin Roper (45-0) for the district championship Saturday. Roper captured a state title at 119 pounds last year.
Curtis (22-2), ranked fourth at 140 pounds, was pinned by Mexico sophomore Jake Vitale (41-3) in 3 minutes, 58 seconds in the title match Saturday. Nunley (18-6) was edged by Mexico junior Dylan McClain (23-11) in a 6-5 decision in the championship at 135 pounds.
Luetkemeyer (21-6) - ranked fourth at 189 pounds - bowed in a 5-3 decision to Moberly junior John Orscheln (25-10) - in the first-place match at 189 pounds. Keiser (22-13) was the victim of a 16-0 technical fall to Winfield junior Johnathan Bobeen (40-0) for the district title at 103 pounds.
Kingsley (25-11) pinned Winfield sophomore Kyle Lippmann (28-17) in the third-place match at 152 pounds.
First-round matches and first-round wrestlebacks in Class 2 start at 10 a.m. Thursday at Mizzou Arena. Fulton will be looking to continue a streak in which it has had at least one state medalist for six straight years.