By Kary Booher (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Monett has a strong team returning from last season, and coach Daryl Bradley has assembled a yet another challenging schedule for his team this year.
“I’m excited about our guys,” Bradley said. “On paper, it looks like we have an opportunity to have a pretty good year.”
There have been a number of pretty good years in Bradley’s 18 seasons leading Monett. In recent years specifically, the Cubs won the Class 2 state title in 2008, three times finished as the state runner-up (2004, 2006, 2009) and finished fourth last season. Along the way, there have been numerous district titles, including last year.
To get there, you’ve got to be tough. That’s why Monett again is scheduling post-Christmas duals against Neosho and Seneca, plus travels to Oak Grove for a tournament.
Neosho has won seven state championship in the past eight years and is loaded again. Six Seneca teams have placed in the top three at the state tournament since 2009, winning championships in 2010 and 2015. And Oak Grove has won a state-record 17 state titles.
Monett features returning state champions in sophomore Joseph Semerad and senior Joel Barrientos as well as state runner-up Gunnar Bradley, and Karter Brink, a third-place medalist.
Barrientos, who placed fourth and sixth in 2016 and 2015 respectively, is moving up a weight class to 120.
“He’s stubborn. He doesn’t like to lose,” Bradley said. “But he’s not a vocal leader but he does lead by example. He’s kind of the total package.”
That said, Bradley would like Barrientos to dial back his aggression a notch and wrestle a little smarter matches.
“Once he gets on top of you, he’s going to try to pin you,” Bradley said. “That gets him in trouble sometimes.”
Semerad could return to 106.
“Joseph is really strong,” Bradley said. “He’s turned into a pinner. But he needs some work on his feet.”
Brink might wrestle 126 or 132 after competing at 120 last year. To place third last year, Brink eliminated a three-time state placer to advance to the medal rounds.
“His thing is hand-fighting,” Bradley said. “He gets guys out of position. He’s smart, quick. You don’t normally see too many kids who wrestle up a weight class and beat kids with experience. But he did.”
Bradley’s son, Gunnar, also is one to watch. He suffered a 7-0 loss to Chillicothe’s Chase Minnik in the 132-pound state championship last February. Gunnar finished 42-13 and learned valuable lessons.
“I think he’s going to apply those lessons,” Bradley said.
The rest of the project lineup includes freshmen Matthew Bahl and Dimitri Moua at 113, freshman Miles Laning at 126, freshman Elias Barrientos (132), freshman Dru Guinn (145), junior Jordan Withnell (152), senior Cody Thompson (160), sophomore Cye Bouchard (170), freshman Tanner Wright (182), sophomore Wesley Merriman (195), freshman Raymond Villalta (220) and senior Trevor Prewitt (285).
Merriman fell one match short of advancing to the state tournament.
The Cubs scored 117 points at state – the second-most in their time under Bradley.
“This year we will have 20 to 25 kids,” Bradley said. He later added. “I’ve got some kids who are ready to take the next step and get to the state tournament and can help us score some points.”