Waynesville R-VI School District has a motto that states, “Where the Orange and Black Unite with the Red, White and Blue” and that couldn’t be reflected any more than by the Waynesville High School Wrestling State Team this year. The wrestling team sent a record-breaking nine wrestlers to the MSHAA State Wrestling Championships in Columbia this year. All nine wrestlers are directly connected with the military. While that isn’t unique for the Waynesville, St. Robert and Fort Leonard Wood community, it is unique at the state tournament.
“I can’t say 100% for sure that no other team can say their entire team is made up of military kids, but I feel fairly certain we were probably the only team with that kind of lineage,” said Head Wrestling Coach Lucas Smith.
The nine wrestlers come from either families of retired military members who served more than 20 years or current active duty military:
- Sean and Gaven Sax are the sons of Ed Sax, retired Marine and Karen Sax, retired Navy.
- Michael Cassidy, Daniel Albrecht and Floyd Moore’s fathers all retired from the Army; Mike Cassidy Kevin Albrecht and Jesse Moore all served more than 20 years.
- Andrew Leitold’s dad, Stephen, is serving as a U.S. Army soldier having returned recently from serving a hardship tour in Korea for a year.
- Aedan and Thomas Brady’s father, Jim, and Devon Stearns father, Rob, are stationed at Fort Leonard Wood with the Army.
“The fact that the military is transient brings unique challenges and opportunities to our team,” Smith said. “We never know how long a wrestler will be with our program. We may see strong potential in our kid’s club or middle school program and think they will be an amazing asset to our high school team in a few years only to find out that their military parent got orders and they are leaving after the school year. It also works out in a positive way by bringing in new students for us. We have had the Brady boys the past couple of years; Aedan graduates this year, but Thomas is a sophomore. We were hoping to see Thomas continue to improve with us, but his family will be moving somewhere else next year. Regardless of where Thomas is, I know he’ll do great wherever he ends up. We are grateful for the families who have served and have chosen to make Waynesville their home after retirement as it brings some continuity to our program.”
While there are challenges for the military heavy Tiger team, there are also lots of bonuses. “All of our kids have seen at least one parent deploy at one point in their lives,” Smith said. “It brings a different perspective; it has taught them to live in the moment, which is important in wrestling and helps to keep them focused one match at a time.”
Out of the nine state qualifiers, three came home with medals. Sean Sax is a State Champion, Michael Cassidy brought home a 4th place medal and Gaven Sax a 5th place medal. The team finished 10th out of 49 teams as well.