By Kary Booher (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The Neosho High School wrestling program was on a mission to restore order last season and did just that, winning the Class 3 state championship one year after falling just points shy of the pinnacle.
The goal this season? A state championship would be the likely one, but Neosho coach Jeremy Phillips is holding team goals close to the vest.
“Our goals are our goals. We don’t share our goals for others to use as motivation but for our direction and challenge that guide our daily efforts,” Phillips said.
Neosho returns six state qualifiers among a projected roster of 35, which includes 12 returning starters and 13 returning lettermen.
They include two-time state champion Cayden Auch, a junior who is projected to compete at 145 pounds. He finished 39-1, and several southwest Missouri coaches believed he had the most impressive state tournament, which included beating defending state champion Oscar Ortiz of McDonald County.
The rest of the projected roster includes: freshman Raymond Hembree (106), junior Landon Kivett (113/120), freshman Eli Zar (120/126), senior Kolton Sanders (132/138), junior Eric Holt (132/138), freshman Collin Kivett (132/138), senior Bret Camerer (138) and senior Noah Reiboldt (138/145), and senior Keaton Sanders (152/160). It also includes junior Jeremiah Larson (160/170), juniors Drayke Perry and Caleb Elliott (195/200).
Persinger at 182 and Perry at 220 were state runners-up last season.
Kolton Sanders is a three-time state qualifier who has placed third and sixth. Landon Kivett placed fourth last year. Reiboldt was a state qualifier. Perry has placed fifth and second in state trips, and Holt is a two-time qualifier, including fifth-place medalist. Keaton Sanders was a state qualifier.
Sophomores in the mix are Nate Copeland (113/120), Hayden Crane (126) and Cade Daniel (132/138).
Others on the roster are: sophomores Jacob Selby, Davencyl Alexander, Jamie Patterson, Jeremiah Kincaid and Jose Sanchez. Gabriel Selby and Trent Neece are listed as injured.
Freshmen include Colton Burr, Jeremiah Cobb, Dawson Dechard, Ulysses Deleon, James Fulp, Christian Hernandez, Elijah Hernandez, Austin Holloway, Blaine Jeffers, Jacob Lange, Arturo Lopez, Gabe Mabrey, Wyatt Mermis, Nathan Mitchell, Maleah Moon, Nico Oliveras, Noah Quillman, Austin Rodriguez, Kaylee Schibi, Landon Stephans, Kaiden Tunnel, Alex Vargas and Morgan Wirth.
“Our teams always look to keep our targets in front of us and not on us,” Phillips said. “I would like to believe that every team we have takes pride in continuing our tradition of excellence that has been established.”
A couple of summer camps could pay off for Neosho, which brought in Jarrod Patterson, the coach of Sand Springs, Okla., who was an NCAA Division I All-American, a two-time Big 12 champion for the Oklahoma Sooners and a four-time state champion in the Sooner State. He also had Brik Fillip, a four-time state finalist and two-time state champion from Tuttle, Okla.
“Both camps were very good for us,” Phillips said. “We had solid participation, won the (Mizzou) Team Camp, and demonstrated good growth throughout our opportunities. Our clinicians at my camp did a great job.”
All this at a time when Neosho is close to enhancing its wrestling room by honoring its tradition.
“We look to add Fathead silhouettes of seven collegiate All-Americans that we have had from our program,” Phillips said. “We’ll list their accomplishments and the collegiate program they competed with.”