PHIL HAWKINS - North Marion senior Lane Stigall is flanked by his parents as he signs his National Letter of Intent to join the Missouri Tigers wrestling program for the 2017-18 season.
North Marion two-time state wrestling champion Lane Stigall officially signed his letter of intent on Nov. 9 to continue his career at the collegiate level as a member of the University of Missouri wrestling program.
One of the most decorated wrestlers in North Marion program history, Stigall will trade the green and white Husky colors for the gold and black of the Tigers following the end of his high school career this year.
“It fits him perfect,” North Marion head coach Jared Wilson said. “Other than the fact that it’s a lot farther away than a lot of us were hoping, it’s just a great fit academically and athletically for him. The coaches really fit his personality. It’s going to be a great place for him.”
Stigall entered his senior season considering Pac-12 schools Stanford and Oregon State, and Missouri out of the SEC. He ultimately chose the Tigers both to continue his academic career and to be a part of one of the nation’s top collegiate wrestling programs.
“I really felt a bond with the coaches and the team there,” Stigall said. “I just liked the atmosphere they had. Not just with the wrestling team, but the morals they had as a team.”
Stigall enters his senior season on the heels of his second consecutive undefeated season and has been one of the most dominant wrestlers in the state of Oregon over the past three seasons. A three-time regional champion, Stigall has built a record of 96-1 since his freshman year, winning all but six of his high school matches by pin, technical fall or major decision.
Stigall’s lone loss came in the 4A 138-pound state championship match his freshman year in a 7-3 decision to Conner Noonan. Since then, Stigall has gone unbeaten, winning the 4A 145-pound title in 2015 and the 4A 152-pound title this past spring.
By comparison, Stigall enters a Missouri program that has become a national powerhouse under head coach Brian Smith. A five-time SEC Coach of the Year, Smith is the winningest coach in program history (237-92-3) and has enjoyed 15 consecutive seasons with a dual record at or above .500.
In Smith’s tenure at Missouri, the Tigers have featured 42 athletes to medal at the National Championships. Smith has coached 22 All-Americans, five athletes who won seven individual national champions and two Olympic athletes, including 2016 bronze medalist J’den Cox.
Missouri has won five consecutive conference titles, going 78-10 in that span. The team finished fourth at the National Championships in 2015 and sixth in 2016.
“With as hard as they were recruiting him and how bad they wanted him to go there, they know he’s a high-caliber kid and they know he’s going to work hard and train hard,” Wilson said. “He’s very, very talented, and if he can stay healthy, I have no doubt that he’s going to have a lot of success at that level.”
Smith traveled to Oregon over the summer to conduct a wrestling clinic and met with Stigall during his stay. During the recruitment process, Stigall was able to speak with the assistants on the Missouri staff and became convinced that he wanted to be a Tiger.
“I really liked them all a lot,” Stigall said. “They’ve got a really good coaching staff and they’re all very nice. It really felt like it was the right place for me to continue my career.”
Stigall said he will likely redshirt his freshman year, giving him an opportunity to get to know the Missouri campus and classroom more. He plans to continue his education in biological science to pursue a career as an orthopedic surgeon.
“They have three hospitals on campus and have a great pre-med program,” Stigall said.
Stigall enters his senior season as the favorite to win a title at whatever weight class he wrestles, though he’ll likely stay at his current weight class of 152 pounds.
“I think he’ll probably stay. He’s a pretty similar weight. We’ll see where the team is at for regionals, but right now the plan is to keep him where he is,” Wilson said.
Besides Stigall, the Huskies boast a wealth of talent returning from last year’s team that finished fifth at the 4A State Championships.
Levi Wing enters his senior season following a third-place finish in the 160-pound bracket, while Stigall’s younger brother Russel is coming off a fourth-place finish at 120 pounds. In addition to the team’s returning placers, the Huskies are set to bring back returning state qualifiers Christian Ramirez, Kyle McConkey, Brandon Gibson, Matt Carrillo and Rogelio Mejia.
“We want to bring home a team trophy this year, and we definitely have the ability to do it if everyone performs, so that’s really the big goal this year to bring back another team trophy,” Lane Stigall said. “I just want to become the best I can this year and really prepare myself for college.”