It took a village to raise Micheal Laster into a wrestling state medalist.
Laster, a junior at Smith-Cotton and the first wrestling medalist in school history in 11 years, named coaches, teammates, opponents and a former teammate that everyone called “The Bear” as subjects to thank for his sixth-place finish at state.
Those influences were the right solution for a young man who only began wrestling his freshman year.
Laster said being humbled was part of the learning process for a new wrestler. That’s where The Bear, former S-C wrestler Daryan Harrison, along with other teammates came in.
“You get a grip on reality that you’re not the biggest out there,” Laster said. “Kyler Taber put a whoopin’ on me. He trained me. Along with the current heavyweight at the time, Daryan Harrison.”
Wrestling head coach Charlie McFail said Laster has come a long way in just three years of wrestling.
“He’s molded himself into a good wrestler,” McFail said. “Hopefully breaks the ice for us and we can start to get guys on the podium every year.”
He also competes in discus and shotput for Smith-Cotton track and field.
The last time a Smith-Cotton wrestler placed at state was 2005, when Michael Kusgen and brothers Brandon and Josh Nelson all earned a medal at the tournament.
In 2005, Laster was interested in soccer and football. His only wrestling knowledge came from watching professional wrestling – or, wrasslin’ — with his grandma.
“I kind of figured out the difference throughout the years and became interested,” Laster said of wrestling. “I didn’t really find it fun to hurt a whole lot of people, so, I was like, ‘I could do UFC or MMA, but wrestling seems like the best route for me.’”
Laster is friendly, soft-spoken and not the best speller. The latter quality makes it hard to thank certain teammates on his long list, such as Taber, Harrison, senior Jacob Sherrill, assistant coach Mike and his son Blake Pomajzl.
The former two qualities helped him fit right in with the other heavyweights at the state tournament, who Laster said is the most social weight class.
“Heavyweights, we’re talking about certain stuff we’ve done to certain people,” Laster said. “I think bigger people are just jollier in general.”
Through communities supporting Laster – Sedalia, Smith-Cotton or fellow Tigers Isiah Snyder, Bryce and Trent Johnson — Laster discovered one personally-gratifying reward
“Standing on the podium feels amazing,” Laster said.
Alex Agueros can be reached at 660-826-1000, ext. 1483 or on Twitter @abagueros2