By Brennan Stebbins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
MONETT, Mo. – With just four matches remaining in Saturday’s Class 2 District 3 wrestling tournament, Monett sent Harrison Merriman to the far mat for a third-place bout with his team clinging to a narrow lead.
Bolivar, meanwhile, had Drayton Hutcheman in the 220-pound finals with the Liberators just a half-point back.
Merriman went on to pin his opponent, and a few minutes later Hutcheman suffered a 4-3 defeat, sealing Monett’s return to district dominance in front of a packed home crowd.
“They had a great day,” Monett coach Daryl Bradley said of the Liberators. “They wrestled really good. They got just as many kids into the state tournament as we did. You’ve got to tip your hat to them. They did a great job in the finals. We did what we had to do. We got wins at 220 and heavyweight. Lost a close one at ’95. It was really tight in there but we battled to the end. I’m definitely sweating.”
Both teams had something to celebrate, with nine state qualifiers each. That’s a school record for Bolivar, which qualified eight wrestlers last year.
“Monett’s a better team and props to them and what they’re doing,” Bolivar coach Jeff Davis said. “We’re excited to be in that mix with them. I thought our kids competed hard and I was real proud of them.”
Monett and Bolivar each had two individual champions, as well.
For Monett, that was Karter Brink at 120 pounds and Matthew Bahl at 126.
Brink, 44-6, beat Osage’s Ryan Schepers 13-8 in the finals after winning by fall and by major decision.
Bahl, 42-7, posted an 8-0 major decision in the finals against Riley Williams of Logan-Rogersville. He pinned opponents in the quarterfinals and semifinals.
Finishing second for the Cubs were Joseph Semerad at 132 pounds, Gunnar Bradley at 152, Ethan Umfleet at 160 and Wesley Merriman at 195.
The Cubs were perfect in third-place matches. Elias Barrientos placed third at 138 pounds with a 16-8 major over Bolivar’s Jacob Matlock, Merriman was third at 220 with a win by fall in 2:34 over Clinton’s Grant Arcano, and Raymond Villalta capped the day with a fall in 4:35 over Dylan Barber of Hollister at 285 pounds.
“We had a great tournament from my two freshman,” Bradley said. “Harrison Merriman at 220 beat the number three seed yesterday and got third as a six seed. He really wrestled above it and beat some experienced guys at 220. My other freshman, Ethan Umfleet, had a great day finishing second to a returning runner up. Karter Brink wrestled a really tough Schepers kid from Osage. He really had to work for that. We knew he was really tough on top. Karter stuck to the game plan and executed. Of course Matthew Bahl took care of business against an opponent he’s wrestled multiple times this year and beat. It’s hard to beat somebody over and over, guys start to figure out a little bit. He got that major and it was big points for us.”
For Bolivar, Austin Coons took first place at 145 pounds and Hayden Burks was first at 160.
Coons, 40-4, won 3-1 over Odessa’s Bryce Palmer in the championship after posting three falls to get there. Burks, still unbeaten at 48-0, won 6-3 against Monett’s Umfleet in the 160-pound finals.
Finishing second for the Liberators were Granite Cunningham (44-4) at 106, Canyon Cunningham (37-9) at 113 and Drayton Hutcheman (33-13) at 220.
Riley Hawk, 37-16, placed fourth at 132 pounds. Jacob Matlock, 29-14, was fourth at 138 pounds. Logan Hawk, 28-19, took fourth at 152 pounds. Andrew Bunn, 27-25, was fourth at 182 pounds.
“We’ve got a bunch of kids who are first-year qualifiers,” Davis said.
That includes Logan Hawk and Bunn, who pinned the third-ranked wrestler in the state to guarantee a top-four finish and a trip to state. Other first-year qualifiers are Matlock, who was a junior varsity wrestler the last two years, and Cunningham.
“It was just one exciting day,” Davis said. “Logan Hawk had a barn burner to get in against a pretty dang good kid that was ranked in the state. That’s what it came down to, beating quality kids to get in and we did that. My hat’s off to Monett. They’re well-coached, they’re good kids. I’m happy they got what they got but we’re wanting to get to that level.”
“Ultimately our goal is not to win in a district title,” he said. “It’s really nice but our ultimate goal is to win a state championship as a team. It’s a step in that direction. The next thing is get in the top 10 at the state tournament, get in trophy contention and compete with Monett there. If we can do that we’re in business.”
Strausbaugh wins highlight match
Rogersville, Eldon and Buffalo were the only other schools to emerge with multiple champions, with Rogersville winning three district titles and qualifying five wrestlers, highlighted by Jay Strausbaugh.
A defending state champion and two-time state finalist, Strausbaugh took part in one of Saturday’s highlight matches against two-time defending state champion Joseph Semerad of Monett in the 132-pound finals.
It was scoreless after a period but Strausbaugh opened up a 5-1 lead in the second and went on to win 5-2 to improve to 51-1 overall. Semerad fell to 44-4.
The two shared a quick embrace on the mat before shaking hands.
“Going into it I wanted to control the match as much as I could,” Strausbaugh said. “Not let him do what he wants to do. I ended up doing that.”
Preston Sleeth won the 106-pound title for Rogersville with a 6-3 win over Bolivar’s Granite Cunningham. Sleeth improved to 35-14 and also won twice by fall.
At 220 pounds, Beaird won 4-3 over Bolivar’s Drayton Huchteman in the finals to improve to 45-6 overall. He also had two wins by technical fall and a decision in the tournament.
Other Rogersville qualifiers were Grabriel Brandenburg (35-8), who was third at 120 pounds; and Riley Williams (36-16), who was second at 126.
A special win for Buffalo’s Miller
Buffalo finished the day with two district champions and four state qualifiers. Ethan Smith, 51-2, won at 152 pounds with a 10-6 win over Monett’s Gunnar Bradley. He pinned two other opponents and had a technical fall on Friday.
Floyd Miller, 47-1, won the 170-pound title in another highlight bout. The top-ranked wrestler in the state, Miller beat second-ranked Clayton Johnson of Reeds Spring by 5-0 decision. Johnson dropped to 44-4 with two losses to Miller this season.
Miller, a senior, said he wants to win a state championship next weekend “pretty bad.” And not just for himself.
“The last state championship I won my mom was gone in Afghanistan so I want to win it for her mostly,” he said. “She’s never seen me win state before.”
She was in attendance on Saturday as her son got one step closer to that goal.
Peter Herrera and Ashton Voguer also qualified for Buffalo, Herrera, 15-4, took second at 182 and Voguer, 40-17, was fourth at 195.
Other local qualifiers
Cassville’s Keaton Artherton placed fourth at 145 pounds.
Hollister’s Dylan Barber placed fourth at 285 pounds.
Nevada’s Lane Brooks was third at 113 pounds and Caleb Longobardi was second at 285.
Reeds Spring’s Tyler Nance was fourth at 113 pounds, Eric Holt was third at 132 and Clayton Johnson was second at 170.
Oak Grove 122.5
Pleasant Hill 76
Reeds Spring 59.5
Springfield Catholic 6