By Chris Parker & Zach Mason
Neosho wrestling showed once again why it is the premier program in southwest Missouri at the Class 3 State Wrestling Tournament. The Wildcats did have their streak of five consecutive state titles snapped in a second place finish, but they did crown the program’s 27th, 28th and 29th individual state champions while earning a team trophy for the 21st time in program history.
“Overall we did well. We left some bonus points on the table. Part of it was execution, part of it was mental. Falling short by 2.5 points stings, but there were a lot of positives. (There were) a lot of good individual performances. I’m proud of how they stepped up,” Neosho head coach Jeremy Phillips said.
Freshman Cayden Auch got things going in the 106-pound title match against Jake Mann from Ladue Horton Watkins.
“I knew I couldn’t let him dictate the match,” Auch said. “I had to wrestle my style and dominate no matter what his style is.”
Auch dictated everything as he pinned Mann at the 3:02 mark of the match to claim the Class 3 106-pound state title.
“Everyone around me has pushed me; my family, my team, my coaches my practice partners and that means everything to bring it home for all of them,” Auch said.
Trenton Young was the next finalist at 132 pounds against COC Large rival Jonathan O’Connell from Republic.
Young had already beaten O’Connell three times this season coming in.
“My confidence is always high, but knowing that I already had wins over him was a boost,” Young said.
He would roll to a 4-0 win to earn his first state title as a senior after second and third place finishes previously in his career.
“There’s no feeling like it in any sport,” Young said. “To be called state champ is the ultimate goal. I’ve spent all of my life working towards this moment and its truly amazing to see it all come true.”
Neosho’s last finalist was defending champion Adrian Hitchcock at 285 pounds. The senior is far from a true 285-pound wrestler, but his technique helps him remain successful despite giving up weight to his opponent almost every time he steps on the mat.
“I’m a really fat 182 pounder. I just have to use the things I have. Coach has installed great technique in me and mental toughness. I have to use my speed and athleticism to hang with the big boys,” Hitchcock said.
He was dominant in his final high school match as he came away with a 5-0 win over DeSoto sophomore Landon Porter.
“(It is) amazing, all the hard work paid off and I’m happy I was able to come back,” Hitchcock said.
Kolton Sanders (3rd at 113 pounds), Joey Williams (3rd at 182 pounds), Braxton Barnes (4th at 138 pounds), Drayke Perry (5th at 170 pounds) and Zane Persinger (5th at 220 pounds) gave Neosho eight total placers this year.
McDonald County’s Oscar Ortiz claims program’s first title
McDonald County sophomore Oscar Ortiz came into the 113-pound final with a lot of history working against him.
The sophomore was facing an opponent he had never beaten with three losses to Rolla freshman Nathan Pulliam this season. He wrestled for a program that had never produced a state champion. And to top it off, Pulliam was undefeated coming into the match.
All of those zeroes mentioned above became ones after Ortiz came away with a 4-2 win to hand Pulliam the first loss of his high school career.
“It feels amazing, I did it for my coaches, family and everyone back home in McDonald County,” Ortiz said.
Ortiz changed his practice focus specifically with this match in mind.
“He’s been running legs on me a lot, so I had to work on that in practice every single day. I got better at that,” Ortiz said. “We wrestled three times this year, I closed the gap each match and I finally got it done.”
He helped turn the narrative on its head by jumping out to an early 4-0 lead on Pulliam.
“We were just looking to get the first points and get that takedown, then just stay in the lead and get some back points, and keep it close,” Ortiz said.
He would hold on late to earn the title and improve his final record to 42-5. Pulliam finished his freshman year at 49-1.
Pulliam’s teammate Coleman Brainard finished runner-up at 138 after having to take a medical forfeit due to an injury suffered in the semifinal match last night.