North Point's Purler carries on tradition with impressive come-from-behind win

1 month ago St. Louis Post-Dispatch

O'FALLON, Mo. — For the longest time, North Point sophomore Kaden Purler was not comfortable in his own skin.

The Purler name is synonymous with wrestling excellence.

Literally world wide.

"If you're a Purler you're supposed to win all the time," Kaden said. "There's a lot of pressure involved."

In junior high,

Kaden struggled with those expectations.

"I wasn't very good," he recalled.

The light bulb eventually came on.

Purler captured first place in the 120-pound weight class with a thrilling pin of Whitfield sophomore Yashua Amen on Saturday in the Class 3 District 2 Tournament at Fort Zumwalt South High.

The lanky Purler trailed 5-0 in the third period before recording a fall with 1 minute, 11 seconds left in the match.

"I wanted to be patient, I wanted to wear him down," Purler said.

That plan not only worked to perfection, but it provided the packed house with a thrilling ending that featured a huge reversal down the stretch.

Purler's uncles, Nick and Tony, combined to win five state titles. Nick won three state crowns and went on to take an NCAA title for Oklahoma State in 1994. He started the Purler Wrestling Academy, which is considered one of the foremost wrestling schools word wide.

Tony was a two-time NCAA champion at Oklahoma State and runs a division of the Purler wrestling school in Kansas City.

All told, there are seven high school championship belts in Kaden's immediate family.

"I didn't really understand the history at time," Kaden said of his junior high struggles. "It wasn't until I started getting good that I realized what it mean to have (the Purler) name.

Now, I get it."

It shows on the mat.

Kaden improved to 39-1 in claiming the tournament crown. He remains unbeaten against wrestlers in his own class and is a solid favorite to take home the championship at the state tournament next weekend at Mizzou Arena.

"Probably what's got me this good is the drive to want to uphold the family name," Kaden said.

North Point coach Chris Purcell says Kaden has done a good job of making his own mark.

"At first, it was a big shadow cast over him," Purcell said. "I felt it a little bit of that his freshman year. But this season he's done a phenomenal job of making his own name."

Kaden, who finished second at state last fall with a 34-6 record, is clicking on all cylinders and he is anxious to bring home a title of his own.

"The next (3) years I plan on winning state titles," Kaeden said. 

Whitfield senior A.J. Rallo continued his quest to become a four-time state champion with a 1-0 win over Hannibal junior Cody Culp in the 138-pound match.

Rallo, who is 40-5 this year and 152-17 in his career, took the 106 title as a freshman before winning championships at 113 and 126 pounds.

"When I was a freshman and won my first, I heard others talking about winning all four and I didn't even realize what it was," Rallo said. "Ever since then, I just really, really wanted it.

Rallo used his laser-like focus to hold off Culp, who spent most of the six-minute match trying to avoid Rallo's reach.

"I've got to wrestle smart," Rallo said. "There's no way I'm going to go out there all crazy and make a stupid mistake."

Whitfield coach Charlie Sherertz has enjoyed watching Rallo improve over the last three-plus seasons.

"He's an impatient kid that's had to learn to be more patient," Sherertz said.

Rallo is less than a week away from realizing his four-for-four dream. He even knows the history of the honor.

"I'll be the 37th to do it," he said.

Whitfield dominated the team races, claiming seven of the 14 championships.

Freshman Jackson Bassett and senior Benjamin Carter and got the ball rolling by winning titles are 106 and 113 pounds respectively.

The Warriors qualified 10 wrestlers for the state meet.

"It could have been a little better," Sherertz said. "It could have been a lot worse."

Whitfield captured the team title with 232 points followed by Fort Zumwalt South (184.5) and Hannibal (152).

The Warriors have won six successive team titles including championships in Classes 1 and 3. They will be looking for their 13th overall crown.

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