By Brennan Stebbins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
NEOSHO, Mo. – Kenny Brown thought this might be the year.
The Carthage wrestling coach thought his squad might finally break a losing streak in the annual Black and Blue Brawl with rival Neosho, and his Tigers led after a couple action-packed matches.
But top-ranked Neosho has won five state titles in a row for a reason, and a lineup featuring six ranked wrestlers was too much for the Tigers in a 39-24 dual win for the Wildcats on Tuesday night.
“We’re going to get them eventually,” Brown said. “This year wasn’t it. I thought we had a shot this year but a couple matches didn’t go the way I wanted them to but life goes on. The boys wrestled well. Up and down the lineup we gave up decisions, we didn’t give up majors, we didn’t give up falls. The kids fought hard. That’s what I wanted to see out of this tonight more than anything.”
“I’d like to have won a couple more,” Neosho coach Jeremy Phillips said, “but that’s always the case. I don’t want to lose any but that’s something that’s important in duals like this that go back and forth a little bit is the momentum, momentum matters.”
Neosho opened with a 6-5 win at 106 pounds by sophomore Landon Kivett, the fourth-ranked wrestler in Class 3 according to MissouriWrestling.com. He beat freshman Braxdon Tate. Carthage sophomore Carlos Reyes answered with a quick pin of freshman Hayden Crane at 113 pounds to give the Tigers a 6-3 lead.
After that, Neosho seized control. Four state-ranked wrestlers helped the Wildcats win six-straight matches and open up a 27-6 advantage.
Sophomore Cayden Auch, the top 126-pounder in Class 3, won 11-4 against Carthage senior Dalen Moore. Second-ranked Kolton Sanders beat sophomore Dagan Sappington by major decision, 16-3, at 132 pounds. The top 145-pounder in the state, senior Braxton Barnes, pinned Carthage senior Victor Salazar in the second period. Sixth-ranked senior Alec Rothman added a 12-1 major over junior Kelten Campbell at 152 pounds.
The run also included a win by freshman Gabriel Selby at 120 pounds and a major decision by junior Bret Camerer at 138. Selby won 14-9 over junior Tanner Russow and Camerer beat junior Anderson Ixcol 14-4.
“I saw the heart of our team, the ones who have been leading the way all season step up and take charge,” Phillips said. “It’s something I expect to happen, we expect it to happen as a team.”
“That’s some of our toughest kids in our lineup and we expect big things,” he said. “We expect the lower guys to continue to work and learn and grow and learn from the heart of the lineup there.”
Brown said he wasn’t surprised, either.
“I kind of figured it,” he said. “I thought we had a shot a couple matches were we came out flat and let the match get away from us before we were even ready to roll. It just was too far too soon, them jumping out to the lead. I kind of had an idea. A lot of duals is matchups. In the middle there, there at the beginning the matchups didn’t favor us.”
Carthage junior Trulyn Kendrick stopped the bleeding at 160 pounds with a come-from-behind pin of junior Keaton Sanders in the third period. Carthage junior Brandon Crow followed that up with a highlight win for the Tigers at 170 pounds as Crow won 7-1 over third-ranked Jeremiah Larson.
“I really wish he would have pushed to get that major,” Brown said. “As the season progresses we need to realize what it takes to score those two. All he had to do was get above his knees and we get the two points and that’s a major. And against a ranked kid that would have helped us when it comes to seeding. We still need to mature a little bit more as wrestlers mentally but he wrestled a good match.”
That cut Neosho’s lead to 27-15, but the Wildcats made sure it didn’t get any closer.
Neosho sophomores Drake Perry and Caleb Elliott recorded pins at 182 and 195 pounds, respectively, to seal the win with Perry beating junior Caleb Triplett and Elliott beating senior Colton Winder.
Carthage did finish on a high note as junior Kale Schrader, ranked second at 220 pounds in Class 4, beat junior Zane Persinger 5-1 and junior Brener Ocana pinned junior Joe Armstrong in the first period at 285 pounds.
“There was some back and forth in there,” Phillips said. “Carthage is always well coached. They’ve got some tough kids. we knew we had a battle going in and we try to prepare them the best we could mentally to embrace the challenges and stay tough when they got tired because we knew they were going to keep wrestling us hard whether they were winning or losing.”