By Pat Dailey (For OzarkSportsZone.com)
BRANSON — For Neosho’s Cayden Auch and Drayke Perry, each endured a slow start Saturday but bounced back for a strong finish to power the Wildcats to the team title at the Branson Invitational.
In addition to Auch and Perry winning championships, the Wildcats had four second-place finishes en route to totaling 294 points. Monett was runner-up with 252.5 points.
The 152-pound Auch wasn’t feeling like his usual two-time state champion self in his morning matches.
“I didn’t do too well my first few matches, but was able to get falls for my team,” Auch said. “I don’t think I was well prepared. I didn’t have a great warmup. What contributed a lot to my start was that I was really tired this morning. I woke up at 4:30 to get here in time. That’s not fun. I’ll get a good nap on the bus on the way home. But I couldn’t sleep on the way here because it was too cold.”
Auch felt like a new man upon eating a ham sandwich and Sun Chips for lunch.
“That woke me up, gave me some energy and got me ready to go,” he said. “I felt a lot better. I was getting a bunch of takedowns, going out there trying to dominate my matches.”
Auch upped his record to 37-2 with a 9-2 win in the final over Monett’s Gunnar Bradley. They met last week in a dual and Auch won 6-2.
Auch has won three tourney titles in three years at Branson and feels it’s a good springboard toward the post-season for him and his teammates.
“We have good competition when we go to KCI and Granite City, Illinois, and then it kind of goes down a little bit,” he said. “But when we get here there’s good competition. That’s exciting for us.”
Perry (220) received a wake-up call by winning his first match of the tourney by only a 7-4 count.
“That was a sloppy win,” he said. “I found a new gear in the finals. “
Perry improved his record to 25-2 with a 2-0 win in the final over Bolivar’s Drayton Huchteman. Perry has won all three of their matchups this season. Huchteman is 0-3 against Perry, but 30-2 versus everyone else.
“He’s given me a tough match three times this year. He’s a good opponent,” Perry said. “This was the toughest match I’ve had against him so far. I can see him improving and me improving at the same time. I want to push myself every day and make myself better. He’s the guy to help me do it.”
Marshfield girls claim championship
Marshfield took the girls team title and had two individual champions in Alyssa Hughey (120) and Brooke Mays (166).
“It was what we came down here to do and we pulled through,” Hughey said.
“We were keeping an eye on (the team standings). But we were still nervous because we had schools catching up to us,” Mays said. “Everybody put in their best effort and we got it.”
Hughey avenged her lone loss of the season with a pin in the 120 final.
“I was thinking I’ve got to come back and win against her,” Hughey said. “The first time I wrestled her, I wasn’t into it. But today I wanted to win and got aggressive.”
Monett’s Brink Most Outstanding Wrestler
The match of the day appropriately came in the toughest weight class of the tourney. Monett’s Karter Brink pulled out a 4-3 win over Neosho’s Kolton Sanders in the 132 final.
The furious finish saw Brink record a takedown with :4.7 remaining. Sanders tried valiantly to answer with a takedown of his own. Officials met after the final buzzer and determined Sanders didn’t have full control of Brink for the takedown.
“That was pretty crazy,” Brink said. “He’s super-hard to take down. His hips are crazy. I was heavy with my hands throughout the match. I faked with my hands a little bit and dove into a double. It worked out. My semifinal match ended the same way. It came down to the wire and I got the job done.”
Brink improved to 24-4, while Sanders fell to 29-7. Third-place Oscar Ortiz, of McDonald County owns a 27-4 record and Cassville’s Jake Anthonysz was sixth and is 21-12.
“I was excited for the competitiveness of this tournament. I knew my bracket was going to be stacked,” said Brink, who was also named the Most Outstanding Wrestler at the Monett Tournament last weekend.
Monett’s Joseph Semerad won the 138 championship. He upped his record to 27-4 with a 5-4 win over Smithville’s Devan Lewis.
Fennel finds 126 to his liking
The 132 class could have been even deeper. Rolla’s Zach Fennel has been at 132 for most of this season. He dropped to 126 Saturday and enjoyed a fulfilling tourney trail to a title.
Fennel blanked Monett’s Matthew Bahl 6-0 in the final.
Look for him to stay at 126 the rest of the season.
“We had a plan at the beginning the season to make 126 and I’m there now and feel great,” Fennel said. “I feel bigger at ’26. I feel the kids I’m wrestling are a little smaller than me. All-around, ’26 is the way to go for me right now. At ’32, kids are really strong there. Being down at ’26, it gives me that edge in strength to power kids around. A lot of my skills come from power positions.”
Pulliam pleased with his finish
For Rolla’s Nate Pulliam, his pin in 3:04 to take the 145 title against Smithville’s Ryan Hapton offered him a welcomed sense of relief.
Pulliam, who is 20-0, hadn’t been pleased with his wrestling during the day
“Kind of an emotional win for me, I teared up a little bit,” Pulliam said. “I was in a little bit of a slump the whole tournament, feeling a little crappy. I was out of it. Overall, though, it went well. To come back and get my energy back, it felt good.”
Bulldogs win three gold medals
Carl Junction’s Jackson White overcame his disappointment of not getting the chance to face Neosho’s Jeremiah Larson and Rolla’s Hayden Fane at 182. Larson and Fane missed the tourney with the flu.
White, Larson and Fane are all ranked by MissouriWrestling.com.
“I was kind of upset. I was looking forward to wrestling them,” White said.
White upped his pins total to 22 and improved to 26-0 with a fall in 2:39 in the final against Marshfield’s Garrett Cantrell.
“I like to make a statement like that,” he said.
Carl Junction’s Jesse Cassat won the 195 title with a 3-2 win against Marshfeld’s Daylon Kanengieter. Cassat is 17-1.
The Bulldogs’ success in the upper weights also included a 285 championship for Micah Lieberman. He edged Neosho’s Zane Persinger 6-5 in an ultimate tiebreaker in the final.
Burks, Teague capture titles
Bolivar’s Hayden Burks edged Monett’s Ethan Unfleet 2-1 for the 170 championship.
Burks is 37-1.
McDonald County’s Jack Teague pinned Rolla’s Andre Ridenhour in 1:24 for the 160 championship. Teague is 28-3.