By Riley Bean
Willard, MO – The Willard Tigers took care of business in their dual against Bolivar on Senior Night on Tuesday. They recorded seven wins by fall en route to 53-21 win over the Liberators.
“It’s always good to come out and take care of business on our Senior Night and pay tribute to the guys that put in work all four years,” said Willard coach Justin Wisdom.
Of the Willard seniors, Niko Chavez (145 pounds), Morgan Earl (170 pounds), Christian Smart (195 pounds), Austin Hymer (220 pounds) and Martin Eidson (285 pounds) earned wins over their opponent on the night.
Willard dominated in the upper weights, but Bolivar kept the dual very close in the early bouts.
The 106-pound match ended in a 3-1 decision in favor of Willard’s Riley Wertz, but the Liberators came right back in the 113-pound match when Riley Hawk topped Jonah Peters 8-6. Bolivar’s Seth Farr (138 pounds) and Andrew Henderson (160 pounds) both pinned their Willard opponent on the night.
Bolivar brought the score to 23-21 at one point before Willard pulled away in the upper weights. Willard won five straight matches – all by fall – to end the night.
“I told the kids, last year I think we scored six points against them. So 21, that’s improvement,” said Bolivar coach Glen Johnson. “I told the juniors that this will be our senior night next year. So we’ll have a chance to come back at ‘em. These guys are so competitive. I just love our kids. They’re so competitive.”
The Liberators were without three of their better wrestlers. Luke Moffit, Chase Hampton and Clayton Chappell are dealing with injuries and were held out of Tuesday’s dual.
Despite the loss, Bolivar remained in good spirits.
Chavez (Willard’s undefeated reigning state champ) defeated Bolivar’s Hayden Burks (a freshman) 21-7, but the fact that Burks stayed off his back and competed with Chavez left the Liberators with positive vibes.
“You see the improvement when you wrestle good teams like this,” Johnson said. “Hayden Burks, our freshman, did not get pinned by Niko Chavez. That’s a big deal. All day he was sweatin’ it. He had to wrestle the 26th-ranked kid in the nation, and he hadn’t been taken down yet. So I go, ‘Hey, you’re a freshman and you didn’t get teched nor did you get pinned. That’s a pretty good night for a freshman.’”
In addition to Chavez, Willard has several wrestlers with state-sized aspirations. District tournaments are fast approaching as the calendar turns to February.
“I think we’re taking the right steps,” said Wisdom. “I think we’re wrestling well now. Hopefully we can be wrestling well next weekend in Camdenton for districts and set ourselves up with good spots at the state tournament.”