Nothing could be taken for granted Monday night in Camdenton.
The Lakers hosted Ozark Conference foe Rolla and Smith-Cotton of Sedalia for Senior Night in the final home event of the year and the visitors did not make things easy in a series of hard-fought duals. Rolla showed the strength of its lineup with a 59-15 win in the first battle, but the Lakers finished strong with a 51-30 victory over Smith-Cotton.
It may not have been perfect, but Camdenton coach Grant Leighty was proud of his club’s fight.
“Rolla’s first seven weight classes are just nails. I think four of the seven are ranked top two in the state,” Leighty said of a Bulldog lineup that features two undefeated grapplers. “I was real pleased of our effort. We just have to make some adjustments because when you make those mistakes against good opponents, it will kill you.”
After losing the first four matches against Rolla, Camdenton junior Ryan Rothove decided to change the narrative by pulling out a 3-2 decision against the Bulldogs in the 132-pound match. He was joined by senior Jesus Ramirez (152) and sophomore Angelo Alfano (160) who both earned pins. Rolla may have taken care of the rest, but the efforts of other Lakers did not escape the attention of Leighty.
“I think the (Coleman) Brainard kid at 138 is a three-time medalist and I’m sure he’ll probably get himself another one. I thought (Gabe) Blain wrestled a very good match against a very tough opponent right there,” the coach said of the match that ended up in a 2-1 decision for Rolla.
“I thought Grant (Garrett) went out against one of the toughest 106-pounders in the state and gave him everything he wanted,” he added of a 10-6 decision for Rolla.
The second dual went much better for the Lakers as sophomore Jacob Fuglsang (113) started the bout with a pin and was joined by fellow sophomores Colton Libby (120) and Wyatt Stamper (126), the senior Blain (138), senior Winton Neal (145) and sophomore Marcus Stephens (285). The freshman Garrett (106) and Rothove (132) picked up forfeit victories and senior Jesus Ramirez made the most of Senior Night by staying unbeaten with a 15-13 sudden victory in overtime of the 160-pound match.
“It was tough, but at the end of the day I finished strong and got the job done,” Ramirez said.
Even if that meant he had to temporarily forego breathing in the final match.
“Once I got through the third period, I told myself that breathing was not a priority anymore and I had to get it done, so that is what I did,” the senior stated.
Leighty was certainly pleased with what he saw.
“I was really proud of Jesus tonight. He gutted out two super tough matches, was able to find a way to win and that is what he had to do,” the coach noted. “We dropped down a weight class and that has an effect on you as far as your endurance goes, but he did not let it affect him and got after it.”
Rothove also earned his coach’s praise.
“One of the kids that has been kind of dealing with some injuries and was able to battle through the adversity and wrestled super tough was Ryan. Those (wins) were big to prove to himself that he is kind of back,” Leighty said. “He was having a really good season midseason, got a little dinged up and went up to St. Louis at the MICDS Tournament and wrestled really tough and came out on the short end in a couple of them.
“Tonight, I thought he came out and wrestled really good against two opponents, so I was really pleased to see that.”
And while there were plenty of good things to note, each event is also an opportunity to learn and make improvements for the next outing. Leighty said Monday night’s match was no different.
“We have to get a little bit better on the bottom. I think our top riding is coming around and we are making improvements, but I want us getting off that bottom and not getting rolled as much,” the coach pointed out. “I think we are doing pretty good on our feet, and not that we can’t get better, but if I was going to say anything I just want us to get a little better on the bottom and get out of there so we don’t get worn out so much.”
Up next for Camdenton is the Ozark Conference Tournament at Parkview on Saturday and Leighty said it is time to get back to work as no opponent should be underestimated.
“We are going to get back in the room, work real hard and get down to conference,” he said. “We have some really tough competition down there with Waynesville and Lebanon and one of the dark horses a lot of people don’t see is Joplin. They wrestle a lot of Oklahoma teams throughout the year and they learn to ride and get rode. They do a real good job so when you don’t see them and then, boom, all of a sudden they are there and surprise you. They are going to be tough and have some tough upper weights.”
After a fun Senior Night that resulted in a pair of wins, Ramirez is looking forward to the next challenge in his final season as a Laker.
“I’m excited for the tournaments coming up. It is the postseason and that is what we are here for,” he said.