By Chris Parker & Zach Mason
Neosho is vying for its sixth consecutive Class 3 team title and is in a good position heading into the final day of the tournament.
The Wildcats sit in second place with 114.5 points, just a half of a point behind rival Kearney.
Three Neosho wrestlers advanced to the championship round including Cayden Auch (106), Trenton Young (132) and Adrian Hitchcock (285) all advancing to the championship round.
Auch and Young picked up especially big wins by beating Kearney wrestlers.
“My biggest focus was the team race,” Young said. “I knew that (the team race) was so close that I had to be on the top of my game. I knew that I had to wrestle smart and cut in on his legs, and that’s what I was able to do.”
Young will face Republic’s Jonathan O’Connell in the championship bout after he beat Platte County’s Austin Kincaid in the semifinals in a high-scoring 10-5 decision.
“I was a little nervous,” O’Connell said. “I just knew I had to set the pace of the match, and that’s what I did. It was just a great match.”
The two COC Large rivals are familiar with each other.
“I’ve lost to him (Young) three times so far this season, but I’m really excited for another rematch,” O’Connell said.
For the team race, Kearney also has three wrestlers in title bouts. Kearney has nine total wrestlers alive while Neosho has eight.
Kolton Sanders, Drayke Perry and Joey Williams were also in the semifinals for Neosho, but fell to push the Wildcats’ semifinal record to 3-3.
Sanders’ loss at 113 pounds came against a familiar foe in McDonald County’s Oscar Ortiz.
“I’ve wrestled him all year long, and he’s been a great competitor, each match has been better and better,” Ortiz said.
Ortiz got the better of Sanders in a 7-1 decision on Friday. The sophomore is coming off of a third place finish a year ago after just missing out on the finals.
“We were so close last year,” Ortiz said. “(I) lost by two points in the semis. I’ve been closing the gaps on everyone who beat me last year, trying to come back on top.”
He will face 49-0 Rolla freshman Nathan Pulliam in the championship bout at 113 pounds.
Pulliam won a 5-0 decision over Kearney’s James Freitag who was a state runner-up last season.
“He (Freitag) was good,” Pulliam said. “We were just defending each other’s shots in the first. (In the) second period I got off bottom, rode him on top, and worked my stuff. Same thing with the third period.”
Now Pulliam will try to become an undefeated state champion as a freshman, but that unblemished record doesn’t provide any extra pressure for the Rolla grappler.
“It’s just another match,” Pulliam said. “Even if you are undefeated coming into state, you still have to win four more matches.”
Teammate Coleman Brainard advanced on an injury default at 138 pounds.
Athony Sederbug (Rolla – 106), Dalen Moore (Carthage – 120), Alex Garrett (Willard – 145), Clay Wilson (Marshfield – 182) and Zeke Wall (Carl Junction – 285) also represented the area in the semifinals.