Trailing 152-148 Neosho needed senior Christian Lopez to defeat Jordan Moffett of McDonald County in order for the Wildcats to take home their third team title in the last four years.
The same Jordan Moffett that had defeated Lopez in three of four matches this season.
“I told Christian my 8 years of coaching high school wrestling that I never had a wrestler with more pressure on him than what Christian had. There isn’t a kid we would rather have had in that situation than Christian because he wrestles with all heart,” said Neosho Head Coach Jeremy Phillips.
The Neosho senior 220 pounder scored an escape in the ultimate tie breaker to top Moffett to earn individual and team titles.
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“When I was on bottom and had to get my escape I was just trying to go crazy, or Wildcat as we call it, and I scored it. I saw everyone going crazy and I hugged my brother and he picked me up and it was just a great feeling to end my senior year,” said Lopez.
For Lopez, who’s known to some as ‘The Real Deal’, will now have the prefix “state champion” in front of his name forever.
“It is an amazing feeling. Me and Moffett go back, way back, to youth wrestling and he’s beaten me three times this year. I made a goal to beat Jordan Moffett and I wrote it down so that I would stay focused on it. It was great to beat him at districts, but beating him at state was an unbelievable feeling,” said Lopez.
Also taking home an individual title for the Wildcats was senior 132 pounder Nate Rodriguez. Rodriguez, who is a four time state finalist, took home his third straight state championship.
“It feels good to be the first ever four time finalist in school history. It’s a good feeling to know that I was one of the ones on the first team to make a state championship happen,” said Rodriguez.
Rodriguez finishes his career as one of the most decorated wrestlers in state history. His 210 individual wins is the most in MSHSAA history.
“He’s earned everything he’s gotten. He’s a special young man because he puts special investments in,” said Phillips.
The Wildcats also got third place finishes from Kyler Rea (106), River Buttram (120) and Aaron Clary (285). Also, medaling for Neosho was Sam Williams (4th – 152), Kyle Hostetter (6th – 145) and Dakota McGarrah (6th – 126).
After a tough day 2 that saw Neosho dropped some key matches, Phillips was pleased with his teams response to adversity in the medal rounds.
“I told them god is testing us. If we are going to preach faith all the time and believing and using him for strength then he’s going to see if that is really what we’re all about. That’s what I am most proud of is kids keeping the faith. I jokingly told them we could write a book on this and they said ‘naa, it’s more like a movie’,” said Phillips.
COC rival Carthage also fared well this weekend. The Tigers, led by four time state-medalist Trevor Feagans, captured 10th place in Class 3 with 54 points. Feagins, who was defeated 3-0 by Kevin Kinney of Kearney for the title, finishes his career as a three time state runner-up. Kinney also defeated Feagans in last year’s final.
Also medaling for Carthage was Dakota Jones and Seth Logan. Logan, a sophomore, finished fourth at 132 while his classmate Jones finished sixth at 106.
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The rest of the COC was also well represented.
Branson’s Tritton Barnes took fourth for the pirates at 195 after a tough loss to Farmington’s Austin Dussold. Webb City junior Tony Carranco placed fifth after scoring late in the first tie break.
Another pair of COC-Large wrestler’s took home medals when Republic sophomore Cody Sandridge scored a 3-1 decision over Willard junior Connar Loderhose in the fifth place match.
Lebanon’s Dylan Burns placed fourth, falling to Sam Seidel of Oak Park 5-2 at 113. Carl Junction senior Nick Koon ended his career with another top six finish, falling in the fifth place match to Chase Ridenour of Ladue 5-4.