By Riley Bean
Lebanon, MO – There was plenty of high-caliber wrestling in the town of Lebanon on Tuesday night. The Yellowjackets hosted Willard and Buffalo on the mat, accounting for three of the area’s best high school wrestling programs all in one gym.
They did not disappoint.
Heading into Tuesday’s triangular, the Willard Tigers and the Buffalo Bison both boasted undefeated dual records on the season.
Lebanon changed all that, handing both teams their first loss to sweep their home triangular in thrilling fashion.
They beat Willard 36-33 in the dual’s final match that was decided in the final 4.7 seconds in the third period, and then they beat Buffalo 42-23 to close out the night.
Willard trailed the Yellowjackets 30-27 with two matches left in the dual; the heavyweight bout between Willard’s Martin Edison and Lebanon’s Ryland Hoard, and then the 106-pound bout between Lebanon’s Hunter Lewis and Willard’s Riley Wertz.
The heavyweight bout went to Willard. Edison managed to work Hoard to his back and secure the pin in the second period, giving the Tigers a 33-30 lead heading into the final match.
With the 106-pound match tied 1-1 in the third period, Lewis could feel time slipping away and knew he had to make a move.
“At Neosho, our first tournament, I wrestled [Wertz] and I beat him 7-0,” said Lewis. “But when I knew it was 1-1, and I looked at the clock and there were ten seconds left, then I got a little nervous because I knew that if I went to overtime and I would have beaten him in overtime, the dual would have been tied 33-33.”
At that moment, Lewis got leverage on Wertz’s arm and flipped him to his back. The gym erupted as Lewis got the win by fall, recording the match win and the dual win for Lebanon all at once.
“I got that wing, and I knew I had it,” he said. “4.7 seconds left… I was just happy, and I got a lot of hugs.”
“That was awesome,” said Lebanon coach Randy Roark. “Four seconds left and he pins the kid. If he doesn’t pin him then they beat us, because on the tie, they had more wins than us, so they would have won the match.”
It is true that Willard won eight matches to Lebanon’s six, but Willard recorded less wins by fall – in addition to having two “open” weight classes – shifting the scoring in Lebanon’s favor.
“We were 7-0 going into that dual,” said Willard coach Justin Wisdom. “Taking our first loss, it hurts, but the way we battled and gave ourselves a chance to win at the end, when really on paper we really didn’t have a chance today, that shows what kind of kids we got and really what they can do when we really dig deep.”
Willard did defeat the red-hot Buffalo team in the first dual on the night by one point, 34-33. Wertz (106), Michael Finley (113), Tallon Heimback (126), Alex Garrett (132), Niko Chavez (145), Morgan Earl (170), Cameron Caldwell (182) and Austin Hymer (220) each defeated their Buffalo opponent. Wertz, Finley and Hymer all beat their opponent by fall, while the reigning state champ Chavez beat his opponent in a 22-9 major decision.
Buffalo’s Shane Sisco pinned Edison in the final match of the dual, but the Bison still came up one point short.
“I thought we wrestled real well against Willard,” said Buffalo coach Nate Kenady. “We had a couple opportunities that we let get by us that we could have turned around in that match.
“I don’t know if it was being up so high on that match, but we just came out real flat against Lebanon.”
Lebanon picked up six pins against the Bison from Lewis (106), Hogan Fister (113), Trevor Christian (132), Cade Schmitz (138), Braxton Lewis (152) and Race Cottongin (220) en route to the 42-23 team score.
“I know we’ve got a solid dual team,” said Roark. “Every guy in the lineup, he can catch you and win. We’re solid at every weight. If teams have those holes [in the lineup], we’re going to pick up all those wins. And hopefully knock off some of their good ones. Our dual record has been pretty good this season.”
Expect to see wrestlers from all three of these schools represented in the MSHSAA state wrestling tournament in Columbia at season’s end.
But in the meantime, Tuesday’s triangular in Lebanon gave these teams great experience against some tremendous competition, which should serve them well in the long run.
As for Lebanon, Coach Roark left his wrestlers with one bit of valuable advice:
“Fight for six minutes,” he said. “We’ve won a few duals this year because we’ve taken advantage of the pins and fought off our back. That was the difference in the Willard match.”