HANNIBAL, Mo. -- When Jacob Borgmeyer took over the reigns of Hannibal wrestling last spring, he had high hopes for the program.
Those hopes were exceeded over the weekend.
The Pirates excelled in their district meet last Friday and Saturday and now bring a healthy contingent of eight wrestlers into the Class 3 state wrestling championships at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Mo., starting on Thursday.
"At the beginning of the year if you would have told me we'd qualify eight, I probably wouldn't have believed you," Borgmeyer said. "But they put the work in. They've been very coachable and they're hard workers."
Of the eight wrestlers representing Hannibal, six are making their state debut. Only sophomore Trevor Wilson at 160 pounds and junior Gavin Morowitz at 152 have the experience from last year, and both are set up for long runs in their second trip to Mizzou Arena.
Wilson (41-2) enters ranked No. 3 at 160 and as a second-place finisher at the Class 3 District 2 meet. Wilson finished in sixth a year ago at 160, but Borgmeyer has seen a big change in Wilson's abilities on the mat in his sophomore campaign.
"The No. 1 thing that he has this year over last year is confidence," Borgmeyer said. "That's a big thing in wrestling, it's huge, and it's something that is very difficult to coach or teach. He's had to work on it himself, and we've seen that in some big matches that he's been able to win."
Both wrestlers ranked ahead of Wilson -- Lebanon's Trevor Christian (37-3) and Wintzville Liberty's Wyatt Haynes (41-3) are in the field as well, but they are on the opposite side of the bracket and Wilson would only face them in the finals.
"In my opinion that's how it should be," Borgmeyer said. "The best two guys should meet in the finals and no sooner than that. I truly believe Trevor is one of the best."
That doesn't mean Wilson has a clear path to the finals. He faces fifth-ranked Isiac Shields from Carlin Junction in the first round on Thursday and would likely have to contend with fourth-ranked Will Snider from Marshfield in the semifinals.
"That doesn't leave room to relax or overlook anybody," Borgmeyer said. "We are going to take things six minutes at a time."
Morawitz lost twice for an early exit from last year's state tournament. Now he makes his return to the state stage boasting a 36-4 record and a No. 4 ranking at 152.
Morawitz will start his tournament against Helia Catholic's Nikolai Careaga (35-9), but neither Borgmeyer or Morawitz are concerned with anyone who he lines up against.
"He truly believes he is going to beat anybody who he steps on the mat against," Borgmeyer said. "With that, we just focus on Gavin. We don't worry about who he's wrestling or any specific styles he's going to compete against. We just focus on Gavin and make sure that Gavin is ready to compete and fire off shots."
Leading the newcomers to the state tournament for Hannibal is sophomore Kameron Foust at 170. Foust (27-7) was a surprise winner of the 170 bracket at the Class 3 District 2 tournament over the weekend, the only Pirate to take his bracket, but Borgmeyer wasn't shocked in the least.
"That is a young man who can pin anybody from any position," Borgmeyer said of Foust, who won all his district matches by pin. "Top, bottom, neutral, it doesn't matter. He has the ability to change the course of a match and the course of the tournament. We are excited for him to go out and get going, and we are looking for him to make some big moves."
Foust has the third-most pins out of any competitor in the 170 field, and the second-highest pin rate at 71 percent. He starts the tournament against Neosho's Keaton Sanders (32-18) in the first round.
Freshman Shaun Smashey at 106 also comes into the state meet with a proclivity to pin. Smashey's 19 pins on the season is the fifth-best in the 106 field, and that ability to end matches when the opportunity presents sets him up for success.
"He can get on top and he rides really tough," Borgmeyer said. "Most of his wins have come by fall, we look for him to get on top and dominate and finish matches early."
Smashey (26-17) will face off with Pacific's Ethan Flaherty (34-12) in the first round.
Hannibal's four other representatives -- Matt Wilson at 132, Tyler Hardy at 145, Jameson White at 195 and Brady Zimmerman at 220 -- will have tough draws and highly-ranked foes to deal with, but Borgmeyer said that's the beauty of the state tournament.
"There's nothing to lose," Borgmeyer said. "We had the same talk on Monday that we did last Monday. Everyone is 0-0. There's no seeds, no rankings, no records, nothing matters.
"It's the state tournament, anything can happen."