By Brennan Stebbins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The rest of the Big 8 Conference is still looking up at Seneca.
Behind six individual champions and a dozen medalists, the Indians won the Big 8 wrestling tournament for the third-straight season – this time in their own gymnasium.
And head coach Jeff Sill was named the conference’s outstanding coach, and 106-pounder Brady Roark the outstanding wrestler.
“It’s pretty overwhelming,” Sill said. “The kids get in there and it’s not about just winning all the time, it’s about performing. Put yourself in that position and if we come out on top that’s great but it’s always about performance and consistency. It shows a lot about our program and how consistent we are.”
Roark (22-1) was the champion at 106 pounds, Brayden Thiel (13-4) won at 120, Kendon Pollard (9-0) won at 126, Lincoln Renfro (15-5) was first at 152, Gabriel Commons (23-1) was first at 170 and Zane Cotten (13-1) won at 195.
Roark, the top-ranked 106-pound wrestler in Class 2 per missouriwrestling.com, pinned every opponent he faced on Friday – all four of them in the first period.
Thiel won his championship with a 12-2 major decision. Pollard pinned all four of his opponents – three of them in 40 seconds or less. Commons, too, won four times by fall.
Dalton Duley (113 pounds), Andrew Manley (132) and Clayton Swadley (145) also advanced to championship bouts but finished as runners up. Duley improved to 7-4, Manley is now 20-5 and Swadley hiked his record to 17-3.
“Those (matches) still hurt but they wrestled well and our opponents wrestled well,” Sill said. “We’ll have to get back in the room and adjust some things. We’ve just got to finish matches on both of them.”
Seneca’s other medalists were third-place finishers Cole Whitehead (138), Jeremy Williams (160) and
Dane Napier (182).
The Indians held a comfortable lead over second-place Marshfield virtually all night and went 7-3 in head-to-head bouts with the Blue Jays. Seneca was 4-0 in medal matches.
Seneca’s margin of victory Friday was its largest in all three years of the tournament’s existence. The Indians outscored Marshfield by 57 points; last year Seneca beat Monett by 21, and two years ago it beat the Cubs by a point.
“It’s a goal but we’ve still got a lot of season left to go,” Sill said. “A lot of marks to check off our checklist. We’ve got to continue building, getting better, getting our weaknesses back over to our strengths and continue to build on each and every individual.”
All but two Blue Jays earn medals
The last two years, Marshfield junior Ben Wirtel has been a junior varsity wrestler. Even the first half of this season he was in and out of the varsity lineup. But Wirtel solidified his spot on Friday night with a first-place finish at 160 pounds.
“He’s been wrestling phenomenal for us this year,” Marshfield coach Matt Holt said. “He’s been stuck on JV for the last two years and really we’re embarrassingly deep at 45, 52 and 60. We’ve got five kids and he’s been in and out of the lineup at different weights but here since January he’s been in the lineup at 52 or 60 and he’s beaten some of the major names. He’s definitely made a name for himself. He pinned his way through the tournament today. He’s dangerous and he showed that today.”
Wirtel improved to 28-7 with his four falls; the first two came in less than a minute.
The Blue Jays’ other individual champion was Daylon Kanengieter (41-2) at 220 pounds. He earned a pair of tough wins in the championship bracket: 5-4 over McDonald County’s Samuel Murphy and 3-2 over Cassville’s Zach Coenen.
“He had probably the toughest bracket here which is great because we’ve only been to the third period maybe two times this year,” Holt said.
“For him to have a semifinal match go three periods and the finals match go three periods, that’s what we need. He came out on top in all of them. Thought he managed the matches well, scored when we needed to score and took advantage of his opportunities against two very, very good kids.”
Tommy Mynatt (120 pounds), Braeden young (152), Dusty Stevens (170), Garrett Cantrell (182) and Eli Steffen (285) all advanced to the first-place matches but lost.
Marcus Gritts (126), Damian Dockery (132), Braeden Brooks (145) and Eli Reynolds (195) each earned third place.
“We brought 13 and had 11 medal, I’m pretty proud of that because we’re probably missing a couple guys out of our lineup from the beginning of the year,” Holt said. “We had some guys step up. Marcus Gritts and Eli Reynolds have stepped in for juniors and seniors that are hurt right now and both of them came out of here with medals. I thought we had a phenomenal round three. We had a lot of three seeds beat two seeds which put us in a good position in the semifinals. Like to do better than 2-5 in the finals but to have seven finalists and to wrestle the round we wrestled in the third, really proud of our guys for that.”
Shorthanded Monett falls to third place
The last two years it’s been a battle between Monett and Seneca for the conference championship.
The Cubs weren’t really in the mix on Friday with just eight wrestlers competing. But five of those earned medals, and Monett had three conference champs.
Ben Bluel (27-10) took first place at 132 pounds, Ethan Umfleet (28-5) was first at 182 pounds and top-ranked Harrison Merriman improved to 30-1 while winning at 285 pounds.
Bluel earned three falls in the tournament – each by a minute or less – and pinned his semifinal opponent in just 39 seconds.
Umfleet had three falls and a 9-1 major decision in the semifinals.
And Merriman made quick work of all of his opponents: he pinned all five of them and needed just 47 seconds to win the first-place match.
Corbin McCully finished second at 160 pounds and Joshua Harvey was second at 195.
“I’m very pleased, I don’t feel like we really let many matches slip away,” Monett coach Ben Hohensee said. “Last couple weeks we’ve had some matches we should have won and kind of let them slip away. Today I think we rose to the occasion, definitely saw steps forward. That was from everyone and that’s what I want. I want individual performances. The team score will take care of itself. I think everyone wrestled a little more free today which you have to.
“I think our guys were relaxed and had some fun today,” he said. “Seneca’s always tough obviously. Marshfield’s got a tough team. Good coaches. I’m very happy with where we finished for what we brought.”
Cassville, McDonald County have conference champions
Cassville had champions at 138 and 145 with Gabe Hunter improving to 23-3 and Jake Anthonysz improving to 19-8, respectively.
Hunter turned in three falls and won by 15-4 major decision in the first-place match. Anthonysz had the most thrilling finish of the day in the 145-pound championship where he scored a takedown in the final 10 seconds to beat Seneca’s Clayton Swadley 9-8.
Two other Wildcats wrestled in the finals and finished second: Matthew Whittenburg at 126 pounds and Zach Coenen at 220. Kurt Deaver placed third at 106.
Blaine Ortiz (22-1) highlighted McDonald County’s day with a first-place finish at 113 pounds. He only had to wrestle one match, against Seneca’s Dalton Duley, and won by fall in 2:33. Ayden Ball was third at 120 and Samuel Murphy was third at 220.
For Nevada, Kynndrick Brooks finished in second at 106 pounds and suffered his first loss of the season against Seneca’s Brady Roark in the finals. He still improved to 23-1 overall. Brayden Koenig was third at 152 pounds for the Tigers.
Reeds Spring had three medalists, led by Easton Byrne’s second-place showing at 138 pounds. Evan Wilson was third at 170 and Eben Crain was third at 285.
Hollister was kept off the podium at the end of the night but had two wrestlers place fourth: Grant Jones at 120 and Devon Girard at 152