By Kary Booher
Willard, MO – He’s already motivated from having barely missed on a state tournament berth each of the past two years. But there was extra incentive Tuesday night for Willard High School senior wrestler Morgan Earl.
You see, his coach put the onus on all others to provide points in a triangular dual in which 220-pound and state-ranked Christian Smart was to be out of the starting lineup.
Earl heeded the call by providing two victories, including a key pin at 170 pounds that ultimately helped Willard overcome Ozark for a 40-36 victory and complete a sweep. This on a night when Earl also scored a key win as Willard beat Carthage 46-26.
“I knew I had to make up for some missing guys in the lineup,” said Earl, whose pin of Ozark’s Tyler Albright with 15 seconds left in their match propelled Willard to a 28-24 lead – with Willard winning three of the final five matches.
“I don’t want to say I put myself above the team,” Earl said, “but wrestling is kind of an individual sport. I’ve got to take it to personal goals and you have to incorporate them with team goals.”
The triangular lost some of its luster in recent days as Carthage’s Markkel Moore (No. 4 at 152 pounds in Class 3) was withheld because of skin issue while Ozark lost 113-pound Larry Zeyala to a season-ending knee injury last weekend.
Smart’s absence was surprising. He is ranked No. 2 at 220 pounds in Class 3 after placing fourth last season. His absence was not injury-related, said Willard coach Justin Wisdom, who noted that Smart will return to the varsity lineup.
“We had some things coming out of Christmas break that weren’t quite right with our lineup,” Wisdom said. “Morgan stepping up and winning those two matches were key. In the Ozark match, those were key.”
Earl has wrestled varsity since his sophomore year and now is 11-2. The past two years, he lost in the so-called bubble match – including by one point last season – or otherwise would have advanced to state. He is showing improvement. In his other win Tuesday, Earl won 5-2 by riding out Carthage’s Dillon Lancaster throughout the third period.
Against Albright, he scored a two-point takedown to take 3-1 lead with 22 seconds left and then got the pin – a six-point score for Willard.
“This summer, I had more practice time and more tournaments than before,” Earl said. “I have a goal to at least medal this year. Tonight shows that, especially when you want to give up, pushing through those situations definitely pays off.”
Meanwhile, Willard defending state champion Niko Chavez scored 12 takedowns in a technical fall against Carthage, giving him 65 takedowns for the season – in only nine matches.
“Last year, with him winning some close matches at the state tournament, something he set his mind to opening up the gap against his opponents,” Wisdom said. “He’s been doing a good job of that.”
For Ozark, there were some positives. Heavyweight Jace Gorn improved to 22-2, thanks in part to a 1-0 victory against Willard, while Albright rallied for a 5-4 win against Carthage.
“(Albright) wrestled (Earl) tough,” Ozark coach Shawn Kellis said. “He’s really closing gaps, and by the end of the season, I think he could be a qualifier.”
In Carthage’s 40-31 victory against Ozark, Carthage broke a 25-25 tie as Gage Bloomer pinned Hayden Kaberline just 12 seconds into their 170-pound match. From there, Carthage’s 195-pound Brycen Cartwright and 220-pound Justin Davis scored a pin and 6-5 victory, respectively, to lock up the team victory.
The team hopes to return Moore soon, Carthage coach Kenneth Brown said. Moore hasn’t had a winning match last past 2 ½ minutes and already had 90 takedowns.
Carthage 40, Ozark 31
106 – Tanner Russow, CHS, won by forfeit; 113 – Wyatt Snyder, OHS, won by forfeit; 120 – Dalen Moore, CHS, def. Jake Nickols, OHS, 12-5; 126 – Nick Norbury, CHS, def. Riley Sundlie, OHS, by pin 0:52; 132 – Logan Sorensen, OHS, def. Jacob Harden, CHS, by pin, 0:27; 138 – Anderson Ixcol, CHS, won by forfeit; 145 – Corben Pugh, CHS, def. Cooper St. John, OHS, 11-4; 152 – Nick Gladkov, OHS, def. Victor Salazar, CHS, by pin 0:56; 160 – Carter Kenyon, OHS, def. Ymbar Polanco, CHS, 10-2; 170 – Tyson Albright, OHS, def. Dillon Lancaster, CHS, 6-4; 182 – Gage Bloomer, CHS, def. Hayden Kaberline, OHS by pin 2:22; 195 – Brycen Cartwright, CHS, def. Nathaniel Burlage by pin, 0:50; 220 – Justin Davis, CHS, def. Stephen Gladkov, OHS, 6-5; 285 – Jace Gorn, OHS, def. Brener Ocana, CHS, by pin 1:29.
Willard 46, Carthage 26
113 – Michael Finley, Willard, won by forfeit; 120 — Dalen Moore, CHS, maj. dec. Jonah Peters, WHS, 16-0; 126 – Nick Norbury, CHS, pin Tailon Heimbach, WHS, 4:51; 132 – Alex Garrett, WHS, pin Jacob Harden, CHS, 1:14; 138 – Gracie Lawhon, WHS, def. Anderson Ixcol, CHS, 11-5; 145 – Niko Chavez, WHS, won by forfeit; 152 – Corben Pugh, CHS, won by forfeit; 160 – Ymbar Polanco, CHS, def. James Stagner, WHS, 6-5; 170 – Morgan Earl, WHS, def. Dillon Lancaster, CHS, 5-2; 182 – Cameron Caldwell, WHS, def. Gage Bloomer, CHS, 16-4; 195 – Brycen Cartwright, CHS, pin Dillon Merrill, WHS, 0:32; 220 – Austin Hymer, WHS, pin Justin Davis, CHS, 1:08; 285 – Martin Eidson, WSH, pin Brener Ocana, CHS, 1:15; 106 – Riley Wertz, WHS, pin Tanner Russow, CHS, 1:15.
Willard 40, Ozark 36
120 – Jonah Peters, WHS, pin Jake Nickols, OHS; 126 – Taillon Heimbach, WHS, major dec. Riley Sundlie, OHS, 15-0; 132 – Logan Sorenson, OHS, pin Gracie Lawhon, WHS, 5:47; 145 – Niko Chavez, WHS, tech. fall Cooper St. John, OHS, 28-13; 152 – Ozark won by forfeit; 160–Nicky Gladkov, OHS, pin James Stagner, WHS, 0:36; 170 – Morgan Earl, WHS, pin Tyson Albright, OHS, 5:45; 182 – Cameron Caldwell, WHS, pin Hayden Kaberline, OHS, 1:42; 195 – Nathaniel Burlage, OHS, pin Dillon Merrill, 1:21; 220 – Austin Hymer, WHS, pin Stephen Gladkov, OHS, 1:13; 285 – Jace Gorn, OHS, dec. Martin Eidson, WHS, 1-0. 106 – Riley Wertz, WHS, won by forfeit; 113 – Wyatt Snyder, OHS, def. Michael Finley, WHS, 2-1.