By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
After a sluggish start on Friday, the Monett Cubs had a strong response in Saturday’s finale of the Class 2 District 3 Tournament.
It’s what you’d expect from a defending state champion.
Four first-place finishers helped the Cubs (181) edge Pleasant Hill (171) for the district team championship. It’s Monett’s eighth district championship under head coach Daryl Bradley.
Host Bolivar (169) and Seneca (162.5) also contended for the team title.
“It makes it really special when you can beat great programs and come away with a championship,” Bradley said. “That’s what this team is going to mean to me. We had to fight for this one. It’s gratifying.”
Pleasant Hill finished with more state qualifiers (nine) than Monett (eight). The difference came in the Cubs’ star power.
Monett, the defending Class 2 state champion, tied with Bolivar for the most first-place finishes of any team with four: Matthew Bahl (126), Joey Semerad (138), Elias Barrientos (145) and Harrison Merriman (285) all won titles.
“(Pleasant Hill) had some firepower in there, but I didn’t know if they had quite as much as we did,” Bradley said. “We had to fight and scratch for it. And that’s what makes this fun.”
Qualifiers from Saturday’s tournament advanced to next week’s state wrestling championships (Feb. 19-21) in Columbia.
Strausbaugh tops Brink in 132 showdown
Logan-Rogersville’s Jay Strausbaugh knew he faced a tough task on Saturday.
His opponent, Monett’s Karter Brink, was someone he defeated (4-3) in the Big 8 Tournament just three weeks ago.
Brink gets better the second time around.
“(Brink) has not lost to the same guy twice in a row – that I’m aware of,” Strausbaugh said. “He goes back and studies film hard. He knows what they’re doing. He comes back tougher and tougher each time.”
In a matchup of two-time defending state champions, Strausbaugh defeated Brink 3-0. The Logan-Rogersville senior got an escape to start the third period and clinched the outcome with a late takedown.
“(Brink’s) defense is super good, so getting in on any shots was going to be tough,” Strausbaugh said.
Strausbaugh is undefeated this season and will look to win his third career state championship next weekend.
“I plan to get another one,” Strausbaugh said. “I’m ready to get into it.”
Leaner Herrera wins 182 crown
Last summer, Buffalo’s Pete Herrera tipped the scales at 210 pounds.
That’s fine for an offensive lineman heading into football season.
That’s not so fine when wrestling season approaches and you’re an all-state performer in the 182-pound weight class.
“I had to diet and get my weight down,” Herrera said “I wasn’t eating right. I was eating too many carbs, too many sugars.
In a span of a few months, Herrera slimmed down to his former weight class. His reward? His first career district championship.
Herrera defeated Buffalo’s Rudy Escobar 7-1 in the 182 finals. Herrera scored all seven points in the third period, with a reversal and a pair of near-falls.
“It feels pretty amazing, especially after putting in all the hard work,” Herrera said. “With all the support from my family and coaches, it means a lot. I feel like I accomplished a lot and made them proud.”
Herrera, who placed fifth at state last season, said he’s upped his protein intake, which often comes from his other hobby.
“I hunt and fish a lot, so whatever I harvest I can eat,” Herrera said.
Coons eager for another shot at state title
Three appearances in state title matches, three heartbreaking losses.
Bolivar’s Austin Coons remains motivated in his senior season.
“For three years, I’ve been right there in the finals and almost had it. Didn’t quite get it done,” Coons said. “This year, I really think it’s my year and I’m going to get it done.”
The difference this year?
“My mentality,” Coons said. “The last couple of years, I was really nervous going in. This year, I got my mind focused on what I want and I’m going to get it.”
Coons took a big step toward his first state title by winning his district tournament on Saturday.
Coons defeated Monett’s Gunnar Bradley 7-4 in the 152 finals. Tied 2-2 entering the third period, Coons converted a pair of takedowns for the decisive points.
“I knew I should just stick to my stuff and what works best for me,” Coons said. “He’s a heavy-hand fighter and one of my moves is the slide-by. He was pushing hard and I got two good takedowns from it.”
Coons moved from Odessa to Bolivar before his junior.
“They welcomed me in with open arms,” Coons said. “I loved this team and what it’s about.”
Coons was one of four Liberators to win district championships on Saturday. Canyon Cunningham won at 113 Hayden Burks won at 170 and Drayton Huchteman won at 220.
106: Sam Ewing (Pleasant Hill High School) 42-2, Fr. over Brady Roark (Seneca High School) 45-2, Fr. (Fall 3:49)
113: Canyon Cunningham (Bolivar High School) 40-11, Jr. over Brayden Thiel (Seneca High School) 33-15, So. (Fall 1:14)
120: Kendon Pollard (Seneca High School) 42-5, So. over David Rivera (Pleasant Hill High School) 32-17, Sr. (Fall 1:11)
126: Matthew Bahl (Monett High School) 41-6, Jr. over Zach Redwine (Pleasant Hill High School) 21-3, So. (Dec 8-3)
132: Jay Strausbaugh (Logan-Rogersville High School) 50-0, Sr. over Karter Brink (Monett High School) 38-6, Sr. (Dec 3-0)
138: Joseph Semerad (Monett High School) 44-5, Sr. over Eric Westbrook (Osage High School) 26-6, Sr. (Dec 3-1)
145: Elias Barrientos (Monett High School) 42-6, Jr. over Tommy Riffle (Pleasant Hill High School) 28-10, Jr. (Fall 1:00)
152: Austin Coons (Bolivar High School) 36-5, Sr. over Gunnar Bradley (Monett High School) 38-6, Sr. (Dec 7-4)
160: Chase Cordia (Osage High School) 38-1, So. over Ethan Umfleet (Monett High School) 35-6, So. (Dec 8-7)
170: Hayden Burks (Bolivar High School) 50-2, Sr. over Blake Daher (Buffalo) 45-2, Sr. (Dec 8-3)
182: Pete Herrera (Buffalo) 34-7, Sr. over Rudy Escobar (Osage High School) 29-8, Sr. (Dec 7-1)
195: Kaden Dillon (Eldon High School) 41-4, Sr. over Jack Creasy (Osage High School) 37-3, Jr. (Dec 5-3)
220: Drayton Huchteman (Bolivar High School) 35-6, Jr. over Skyleer Commons (Seneca High School) 41-5, Sr. (Dec 2-0)
285: Harrison Merriman (Monett High School) 36-8, So. over Grant Durman (Seneca High School) 38-11, Sr. (Fall 0:54)
Team standings (Top 5)
1. Monett 180
2. Pleasant Hill 171
3. Bolivar 169
4. Seneca 162.5
5. Osage 129.5