By Pat Dailey (For OzarkSportsZone.com)
As a three-sport standout at Ozark, Hunter Tennison has done a little of everything for the Tigers. He’s never ran track, but can definitely relate to the feeling of an anchor leg.
With Ozark’s hopes of capturing the Class 4 District 5 team championship resting on his shoulders Saturday, Tennison responded by winning the 285-pound final. He didn’t need a pin to lift the Tigers to the team title, but provided a fall, anyway.
Host Ozark edged Carthage 191.5-187.
Tennison (45-0) pinned Waynesville’s Jacob Forshey in :51.
“It’s taken me many years to get used to it,” Tennison said of the pressure of wrestling in the final match of a dual or tournament. “By being a heavyweight for three years, I’m used to it now. I know when it comes down to that kind of situation, I can rely on my training and physicality to win the job.”
Earlier this season, Tennison edged Nixa’s John Gholson 3-0 to give Ozark a 36-32 dual win over the Eagles.
“I have full trust in Hunter that he can do what we need him to do in any situation,” said Ozark 138-pound champion Braxton Strick (39-0).
In addition to Tennison and Strick, Ozark’s five individual champions included Elijah Maskrod (36-11) at 132, Clayton Moison (14-1) at 152 and Riley Newsom (33-9) at 160.
“We went on a run,” Ozark coach Tod Sundlie said, referring to a stretch from 132-160 in which the Tigers won four championships. “Those weren’t guaranteed, either. Every time we lined up, there was a good wrestler we were wrestling. We had kids beat kids who had beaten them before.
“This is awesome. Not every year do you get this opportunity,” Sundlie added. “When your team is in it like this, it means more to you individually. The bottom line is when the kids wrestle for each other, they wrestle harder and hopefully have a better finish. Our individual efforts certainly benefited from us being in the team hunt.”
To a man, the Tigers related they were spurred on by their goal of an 11th District championship for Ozark.
“The only reason I won my match was I knew we were in it for the team title,” said Maskrod, who avenged a regular-season loss to Carthage’s Dagan Sappington by beating him 3-0 in the 132 final. “I had to win for the team. Knowing how much a District title would mean to us, that was the motivator.”
“All week all everybody talked about was everything was for the team,” said Newsom, who won a District title for the first time by pinning Carthage’s Grey Pettigrew in 3:15 in the 160 final.
“Coach tells us, ‘Whenever we have a brother out on the mat, we’ve got to stick behind and be there for him,” said Strick, who won 6-1 versus Carthage’s Eli Sneed in the 138 final. “Today, it showed that we were there for each other. We were there hyping each other up before our matches and cheering each other on during our matches. We’re a family.”
Kickapoo’s Koyama knocks off unbeaten
In what was arguably the match of the day, the 170 final saw Kickapoo’s Tai Koyama hand Republic’s Connor Sandridge his first loss by pinning him in 4:12.
For Koyama (28-4), it’s his first win ever versus Sandridge (28-1). They faced each other as youths and Sandridge had won all three of their matches at the high school level.
“In any loss I’ve had, I’ll watch the film, see what I did wrong and know I can beat them if I fix my mistakes,” Koyama said. “I would always let (Sandridge) get shots off against me and then I would start to decline. This time, I was mentally prepared. I took a shot on him pretty early and I don’t think he was expecting that.”
Koyama and Sandridge were exceptionally active, providing as much action as 106ers. When Koyama pinned Sandridge, he was up 19-4. He recorded two near-falls.
“I was telling myself to wrestle every second of every period with no breaks,” Koyama said. “If I was going to win by decision, I was going to win by a major or a technical fall.”
Sandridge hopeful of rematch at Sectionals
Sandridge was competing for the first time since Jan. 13. He had endured a hip flexor and was among the Republic wrestlers quarantined during the COC Tournament last month.
“I came back from my injury for a couple practices and then we got quarantined,” Sandridge said. “It was horrible. It definitely threw me off. I tried to stay active to not lose my conditioning. But I lost mat time. Typically, I’d have 45 matches by this point of the season.
Sandridge is hopeful of meeting Koyama at Sectionals in two weeks.
“This was an eye-opener,” Sandridge said. “I lost my focus and it bit me in the butt. But I didn’t want to go into Sectionals undefeated, anyway, and go in there with a big head. I’d rather have a loss now than later. I know (Koyoma) is gunning for me and I’m gunning for him. I expect to see him in the finals again.”
Republic’s lone champion was David Honeycutt (24-8) at 195. He pinned Waynesville’s Colton Justus in 2:46.
Carthage champ Gall’s star on the rise
Carthage sophomore Luke Gall continues to impress. He pinned Ozark’s Harper Kissee at the 1:42 mark to take the 170 championship.
Gall (29-5) has momentum on his side after picking up a moral victory at the COC Tournament two weeks ago, when he lost to defending Class 3 195 state champion Jesse Cassatt 5-3 in overtime. Gall was leading for all of regulation, before a stalling penalty against him sent the match to overtime.
“To go (the first) six minutes and not get taken down by a defending state champion, it boosted my confidence,” Gall said. “I hadn’t gone up against anyone that good all year. I ran out of gas at the end and got taken down. I need to work on my conditioning and technique.”
Gall is competing in the post-season for the first time. His freshman season a year ago ended in late January, when he suffered a broken right arm while wrestling.
“I was taking a kid down and he landed on my arm,” Gall said. “I didn’t know it was broke, so I kept wrestling and ended up snapping it. It’s fair to say I was definitely depressed to sit out. Athletes always want to be going and get better.
“The arm is 100 percent now. There’s a plate in there. I honestly think that arm is stronger than my other arm,” he added.
Carthage’s Davion King (34-5) claimed the 145 championship. He pinned Ozark’s Brock Sundlie in 1:24 in the final.
Gholson takes heated 220 final
The 220 title tilt matching Nixa’s John Gholson (33-2) and Kickapoo’s Corey Choates (24-11) finished with Gholson pinning Choates at 3:38.
Nixa’s champions also included Zan Fugitt (36-1) at 113, Peyton Moore (35-1) at 120 and Deagan Fugitt (32-6) at 126.
Moore pinned Waynesville’s Dustin Green in :32 for the fastest finish of any final.
Austin wins for Waynesville
Waynesville had four finalists and one champion. William Austin (24-9) took a 1-0 win versus Joplin’s Sam Melton in the 106 final.