Out fight… and the results will take care of themselves.
It’s the approach that Jeremy Phillips preaches to his Neosho Wildcats and a large reason why his teams have raised five of the last six Class 3 state championship plaques in Columbia.
On Saturday Neosho took the next step in completing a three-peat, winning the Class 3 – District 3 Tournament at Branson and qualifying 11 Wildcats for the Class 3 MSHSAA Tournament.
“We don’t teach our kids to stall or to hang on,” said Phillips. “I told them going into today that I didn’t want them hanging on unless it was the bracket that they’re holding onto at the podium. We don’t do that. We work hard in our training to keep the pace high and if they’re close we are going to open the gap at the end. Having that attacking style can get us at times, but it pays off more times than it hurts us. We want no bullets left, we want nothing left and to go down with no bullets in the holster and if it’s not enough in the end then I have no regrets.”
The embodiment of that approach was senior John Williams.
Williams came in as the top seed, but Rolla junior Tristian Barr has been ranked ahead of him for much of the season and brought a No. 2 ranking at 126 into districts.
But, Williams sent a message to Barr and the rest of the state with a 15-0 tech fall, handing Barr his first loss of the season.
The win gave Neosho a blistering start to the championship round with district champions at 106 (Dalton Kivett), 113 (Trenton Young), and 132 (Gannon Millard).
“John is a dangerous guy,” said Phillips. “For me that was therapy. We had just lost a huge match and it was tough for all of us. John was on a mission with a passion and he had a purpose and that was to dominate. I think he wanted to prove to everyone who the better wrestler was because of all that has been said and the rankings. He doesn’t get into that stuff, he just goes out and wrestles tough, physically and mentally, and that is key in those big matchups. Hopefully we can develop what he has as a team and take that with us to the state tournament. We all can learn from John.”
Neosho would go on to claim two more district titles with senior Kyler Rea remaining unbeaten after pinning Edxel Morales for the 152-pound crown. Kyle Hostetter followed suit by pinning Willard’s Christian Smart in the 182-pound championship.
Rea will look to complete his undefeated season and pick up another state championship next week in Columbia while helping Neosho continue its historic run. Phillips, more concerned with his wrestlers’ effort as opposed to the result of the match, wants his kids to continue to be aggressive next weekend.
“We want to take the mindset of we are hunting something down with next weekend at state,” said Phillips. “We can’t be fearful of making mistakes, we have to be fearless. If we are on our heels and worried about making mistakes then we get out of our gameplan. We want to stick to what we do, maintain that “out work, out hustle, out fight” attitude is going to be the key to us being at our best in Columbia.”
Yeargan, Caldwell and Chavez claim titles; Neosho takes 2nd
In just a year Hunter Yeargan has gone from the hunter to the hunted.
Despite the massive target on his back Yeargan continues to produce, picking up yet another district championship on Saturday, preserving his perfect senior season.
Even more impressively, Yeargan’s win came over the state’s No. 2 ranked wrestler according to MissouriWrestling.com, Washington senior Jared Rennick.
It was the second consecutive weekend that Yeargan has beaten Rennick.
“Hunter is a confident kid, but to go out and beat the No. 2 kid two weekends in a row is huge,” said Willard coach Justin Wisdom. “It’s good for him. He wrestled a smart match and was in control. It’s good for him to get that win and he’ll probably have to do it again next weekend to win a state championship.”
After medaling in 2015, Kyle Caldwell and Niko Chavez will both entering this year’s state tournament with a lot of momentum after claiming district championships on Saturday.
Caldwell, who has just one loss since moving up from 160 to 170 in the middle of the season, scored a 5-3 decision over Rolla junior Seth Veatch. Chavez won the 138-pound title due to an injury forfeit by Rolla’s Gage Maxwell. Caldwell took fifth at 152 last year, while Chavez finished sixth at 126. Wisdom believes both kids, along with Yeargan, have state championship potential this year.
“Kyle is a great kid and a hard worker; he’s wrestling tough right now,” said Wisdom. “If he goes to Columbia and takes care of business then he could end up wrestling for a state championship too. That’s what we are shooting for with Nik, Hunter and Kyle; they should all be wrestling for championships on Saturday afternoon.”
Willard finished as the district runner-up to Neosho, edging Rolla by 14.5 points.
Alex Garrett (120-3rd), Christian Smart (182-2nd) and Austin Hymer (220-4th) also qualified for the state tournament.
In his first year with the program, Wisdom is hoping his team can continue to make program history with a solid showing in Columbia.
“We came in as the second best team on paper and after bouncing back and forth for a while we took over second,” said Wisdom. “I’m proud of them; it’s the second time in school history that we’ve gotten a plaque at districts. It’s always hard as new coach coming in but these guys have really bought in and we took a big step in the right direction today. If we go to Columbia and compete well we could have another chance to bring home a plaque. I’m excited to see what’s ahead for them.”
Brainard claims title; Rolla takes third
Coleman Brainard learned a lot in last year’s state runner-up finish at 106 as a freshman.
On Saturday that experience was the difference between winning and losing.
Trailing McDonald County senior Daniel DeSantiago 3-2 with less than 30 seconds remaining, Brainard was able to get an escape to force sudden victory, where a takedown gave the sophomore a 5-3 win and district championship at 113.
“He’s a tough kid,” said Rolla coach Marty Hauck. “When he was down he didn’t panic, he trusted himself and that’s what we need him to do. They had a great strategy against Coleman and he wrestled out of his game and then got back into it to win. It’s a great win for him moving forward and heading to state. He took second last year and he’s looking to get back and win this year.”
Brainard is currently ranked No. 2 by MissouriWrestling.com.
In all, six Bulldogs advanced to Columbia, with Tristian Barr (126), Gage Maxwell (138) and Seth Veatch (170) all picking up runner-up finishes.
Ryan Markovic (132-4th) and David Lambeth (152-3rd) also qualified.
In his first year at Rolla, Hauck knows his team isn’t satisfied with Saturday’s finish and is eager to see how his kids respond in Columbia.
“It makes it a great year for us,” said Hauck. “It has been awhile since Rolla sent this many guys to state and we are looking to do something special. We aren’t happy with just taking third here and we felt like we let some wins slip away. We are looking forward to next weekend.”
Piles, Musselman continue bid for state championships
Republic’s Shayne Piles is the No. 2 wrestler at 285 and Webb City’s Brandon Musselman is No. 1 at 220.
After disappointing finishes in 2015, both wrestlers are eager to get back to Columbia and end incredible seasons with state championships.
Piles pinned Carl Junction sophomore Zeke Wall in the third period to claim the district championship and maintain a sizzling end to the season.
“It’s the perfect way to head to state,” said Piles. “Winning a district championship is nice, but it’s just the next step for my real goal of winning a state championship. This was some of the best wrestling I’ve done, I just want to keep wrestling smart, keep my head in there, and not do anything too stupid.”
Musselman pinned Neosho sophomore Adrian Hitchcock early in the second period in the fourth meeting between the two, the two latest have ended with Musselman pins.
This will be Musselman’s second state tournament overall and first since losing the chance to compete for a state championship last February due to a torn ACL.
While he admits that it has changed his approach on the mat, it hasn’t deterred his drive to be a state champion.
“This is a big momentum boost for me going forward,” said Musselman. “I’ve worked really hard to recover from that ACL tear. That was fun, but the hard work is paying off for sure. I know I could have won it last year, but I got hurt. It sucked, but that’s life. It’s changed the way I wrestle, but I’m excited to get back to state and be healthy.”