By Chris Parker
Dominant is the only way to describe Neosho wrestling’s run to its ninth state title since 2010.
The Wildcats put six of their eight qualifiers in the state finals and won four state titles. That helped Nesoho score 163.5 total team points to easily outpace runner-up Lebanon’s output of 114 points.
This came one week after Lebanon upset Neosho for the team title at the Class 3 District 3 tournament.
That loss helped motivate the Wildcats all week leading up to the tournament and over the three days in Columbia according to Neosho head coach Jeremy Phillips.
“We kept the faith. We got knocked down last weekend, but didn’t get knocked out. We did a great job believing that we could make it happen. It started back at zero this week. Our eight don’t have to beat them all. We just have to beat all of them that step in front of us. We labeled ourselves the Crazy Eight with crazy faith. I truly believe the faith was the factor that allowed us to do what we did,” Phillips said. “I can’t say enough about my boys. The way they approached this with focus not only while we were here, but the days leading up. They were very coachable with a laser-like focus to do what we had to do. We kind of got our backs put against the ropes. We had some doubters. I told them we have to be deaf to doubters and focus on what we have control of.”
The other thing that Neosho had on display was superior conditioning, as the Wildcats consistently got stronger as each match went on.
“That is something we take pride in. I often tell them in our preparations that is part of it. We train hard on our gas tank. We have a simple motto: we out-work, out-hustle and out-fight and the rest will take of itself. We know a lot of times if we can keep it close and take it to deep waters that we can get the job done,” Phillips said.
Kolton Sanders got the winning started at 132 pounds by beating McDonald County’s Oscar Ortiz by a 5-3 decision.
He had one goal coming into the final after being pinned by Ortiz in last week’s district title match.
“I just have to keep pushing the pace. If I push the pace, I win the match,” Sanders said. “At district he pushed the pace and he controlled the tempo.”
Sanders pushed pace from the start with two takedowns in the first period to take what would prove to be an insurmountable 4-1 lead.
Next up for the Wildcats was two-time state champion Cayden Auch at 152 pounds. Auch had a battle on his hands with undefeated Callum Sitek from Pacific.
Auch and Sitek were tied at 1-1 midway through the third period after trading escapes before Auch made his move with 68 seconds left in the match. He scored a takedown and a two-point nearfall to extend his lead out to 5-1 and take the 152-pound title.
“I just felt an opportunity. I felt him get kind of heavy on his feet and I saw my gas tank was better than his and he was getting a little tired. I hit the head and dropped for my double,” Auch said.
Auch will look to join an elite group of four time state champions next year, but he is not concerned about being the hunted.
“I think of it as the target is out in front of me because I still have something to be chasing down. I don’t think of as I have a target on my back even though they (opponents) might. I have the target out in front of me,” Auch said.
Junior Jeremiah Larson came into the 182-pound title match with an upset on his mind. Larson lost just four matches all season, but three of them came against his finals opponent in undefeated Jackson White from Carl Junction.
Larson was ready for their fourth match.
“I knew what he (White) had and I was ready for it. I came out firing and kept wrestling. I knew he was going to score once or twice, but I just kept fighting,” Larson said.
The two finished regulation tied at 1-1 to go to overtime. In the first overtime, Larson took White down with 23 seconds into the period to claim his state title, which helped to pad the team lead even more.
“I do it for them (his team). I know they have my back and I have their back when they wrestling. You never go out there alone,” Larson said.
Neosho’s final title of the finals came in a dominant technical fall performance from junior Drayke Perry at 220 pounds. Perry beat Ft. Zumwalt South’s Evan Bragee 17-2 at the 4:12 mark of the match.
“I was just there to dominate and out-wrestle everybody. I fell short last year and I just was going to make it evident that wasn’t going to happen again,” Perry said.
That loss in last year’s title match motivated Perry all off-season.
“I knew deep down ever since I lost last year in the finals that I was going to win state. I was going to push every last bit I could in practice and conditioning just to get this title,” Perry said.
Freshman Raymond Hembree at 106 and senior Zane Persinger at 285 both posted runner-up finishes.
Willard’s Christian Finley dedicates win to brother
Christian Finley was wrestling for more than just himself in the 113-pound final on Saturday. Last year, Finley finished runner-up at 103 pounds. His brother Michael was also a runner-up at 113 pounds.
Shortly after the state tournament, Michael was hospitalized with the flu which led to other medical issues which eventually led to a double lung transplant.
“It kind of sucks because I wish he was there to get first with me this year, but things happen and you can’t do anything about it. I dedicate my season to him,” Finley said.
He was dominant in his title match beating Grandview’s Anthony Mariche by a 16-1 tech fall.
“I was nervous, but it is ok to be nervous. Whenever you are nervous you have to wrestle even harder and feed off of that energy,” Finley said.
Now Finley will carry the mantel of state champion next season.
“It feels good. I am glad people are going to be gunning for me. I am ready for the challenge,” Finley said.
Rolla’s Nathan Pulliam wins second state title
When Nathan Pulliam’s name shows up in a bracket, people take notice. Pulliam is now 115-1 in his high school career and a two-time state champion after pinning Smithville’s Ryan Hampton at the 4:15 mark of the 145-pound state championship match on Saturday.
“It sounds like a good thing, but everyone just thinks I am going to walk through it. I was (thinking) you still have to go out there and wrestle your match because this kid doesn’t want to lose the same way that I don’t want to lose,” Pulliam said. “I guess there was more pressure in a way, but I knew I had to wrestle smart either way.”
Pulliam enjoys taking everyone’s best shot each time he steps on the mat.
“I like it. I appreciate guys going out there hard. I have had some matches where they will stall or won’t do anything. I appreciate a challenge. It makes me better. If I do lose that just means I am not on top of my game. As of now, I am on top of my game, but down the road I may not be. I need that constant push,” Pulliam said.
Pulliam’s teammate Zack Fennell finished runner-up at 126 pounds.
Cassatt avenges regular season losses
Carl Junction’s Jesse Cassatt had just three losses on the year coming into Saturday’s 195-pound state title match. All three of those losses came against his opponent in the title match Jed Brandon from Willard.
Cassatt was able to get a takedown with 39 seconds left in the match to help buoy him to a 3-2 win over Brandon.
That takedown was the result of a lot of film study according to Cassatt.
“He came into that under hook last match (district championship) and got it. It was beautiful. It was great. (My coaches) went over the film with me and both said that something I was missing was posting on a shooting hand. That little thing made all that difference in that match,” Cassatt said.
Cassatt finishes his junior year with a 36-3 record and a state championship.
“I have never anything better. I have won it in youth, but it didn’t feel half as good as it does now,” Cassatt said.
Lebanon’s Trevor Christian gets first state title
Saturday was a long-time coming for Lebanon senior Trevor Christian. After finishing third last year, runner-up two years ago and fifth as a freshman, he finally got his state title in a 5-4 decision in the Class 3 160-pound championship over Trevor Wilson from Hannibal
“I just kept thinking in my head ‘last chance’. I am not finishing how I had the last two years. I didn’t want to finish that way my senior year,” Christian said.
The match was a battle throughout for the Lebanon senior.
“Before the match I knew in my heart I was the better guy, but it was a lot closer than I thought it could have been. That guy had incredibly good pace and gassed me out quick. He reminded me a lot of the guy I lost to last year, Sam Frankowski. He was really tough and kept coming the whole time,” Christian said.
Christian finished his senior season with an overall record of 44-3.
Teammate Colt Adkins finished runner-up at 170 pounds.
113 – 3rd Place – Kyshin Isringhausen (Branson ) 35-4 won by fall over Davis Joiner (Lebanon) 24-18 (Fall 0:45)
120 – 5th Place – Cole Patton (Lebanon) 37-9 won by fall over Jonathon Coroama (North County) 25-8 (Fall 2:34)
126 – 3rd Place – Garrett Deason (Kearney) 41-11 won by decision over Christian Cartright (Branson ) 33-9 (Dec 6-4)
132 – 5th Place – Timothy Stevens (Willard) 40-14 won by injury default over Eli Rocha (Platte County) 37-7 (Inj. 0:00)
138 – 3rd Place – Grant Garrett (Camdenton) 49-3 won by decision over Dathan Mickem (Rolla) 35-9 (Dec 8-1)
145 – 3rd Place – Caden Green (Kearney) 41-7 won by fall over Ryder Heimbach (Willard) 43-11 (Fall 2:17)
145 – 5th Place – Schmuke Branch (Farmington) 38-14 won by decision over Ruger Leppert (Marshfield) 33-18 (Dec 7-6)
152 – 3rd Place – Jack Teague (McDonald County) 47-6 won by fall over Gavin Morawitz (Hannibal) 39-6 (Fall 0:22)
160 – 3rd Place – Wyatt Haynes (Liberty (Wentzville)) 45-4 won by decision over Will Snider (Marshfield) 31-5 (Dec 7-0)
160 – 5th Place – Andre Ridenhour (Rolla) 37-15 won by decision over Brayden Eddy (Parkway West) 40-12 (Dec 4-2)
170 – 5th Place – Drake Tipton (Grain Valley) 38-10 won by fall over Max Petruccelli (Branson ) 37-12 (Fall 0:42)
182 – 5th Place – Jake Henson (Lebanon) 30-9 won by decision over Judd Cunningham (Farmington) 39-11 (Dec 10-5)
220 – 3rd Place – Ibrahim Ameer (McCluer North) 36-1 won by decision over Landen Smith (Lebanon) 40-6 (Dec 9-5)
220 – 5th Place – Treyvon Ward (St. Charles) 36-6 won by decision over Daylon Kanengieter (Marshfield) 40-9 (Dec 6-5)
285 – 3rd Place – Micah Lieberman (Carl Junction) 43-2 won in the ultimate tie breaker over Donovan Mcbride (Grain Valley) 38-10 (UTB 3-2)