Trenton Dillon claims state title as all four Mustangs medal

Eldon made history a year ago with three Mustang wrestlers claiming the first state medals in program history. 

Now, the program has taken the next step as all four state qualifiers brought home medals from the Class 2 tournament at Mizzou Arena in Columbia on Saturday night and one of those wrestlers went on to become the first modern state champion in school history. For a program that began in 2012, it is probably safe to say that other schools have taken notice of Eldon’s rise after producing seven state medals in two years. 

“It is big. Everybody in the state knows who we are now and nobody is taking us for granted anymore, which is kind of cool to have a target on your back,” Eldon coach Ryan Bird said. “This whole weekend we talked about being the dream killer and being the guy that beats somebody we are not supposed to that crushes somebody’s soul. Our guys did a pretty good job of taking care of that.” 

Eldon may have only had four wrestlers on hand, but the Mustangs set the right tone immediately starting the tournament 4-0 and finishing 7-1 after the first two rounds. 

“It shows that we are capable and not just some small school in mid-Missouri that nobody cares about anymore,” Bird stated. “People are going to have to worry about Eldon wrestling so it is nice we are building that.”

Eldon finished ninth in the team standings with 66.5 points while Mexico claimed the team title with 122 points respectively. After a tough district tournament the previous week where four of those teams went on to finish in the top nine at state, it is a mark that should not be taken lightly.

“We were the fourth best team in our district here at state. Two of those teams got trophies and four teams in the top nine is pretty good,” Bird remarked. “We had the mindset to come down here, wrestle and we knew- our team, our staff- we all knew that we were capable of getting four medals and it worked out.”

One of those wrestlers who captured a medal was 160-pound senior Trenton Dillon. After falling short in the title match last year and only getting to wrestle about half of his senior season due to injury, Dillon showed he was still quite capable of becoming a state champion and claimed his title with a 2-1 decision over Bolivar’s Hayden Burks. 

Redemption was pretty sweet for the senior, who finished his season undefeated at 25-0, and what made it even sweeter is the fact that he got to keep a promise he made to his grandfather Randy Dillon several years ago. 

“It is probably the best feeling ever,” Dillon said. “Whenever I was a seventh grader, I promised my grandpa before he died that I was going to be a state champion someday so I did it for him.” 

Dillon’s journey back to the state title match started in practice. Although he missed over the first month the season with a nagging shoulder injury, he was hard at work spending time on the bike every day, helping out his teammates with drills and doing everything he could except take it easy. 

He came into the season with a few goals in mind like becoming the first Mustang to reach 150 wins and improving upon his 54-2 record as a junior. However, it soon became pretty clear that there was still one goal he could attain.

“He wanted to compete the whole time and we could not hardly keep him off the mat in practice, but he took care of business and that is what champions do,” Bird said of Dillon’s work ethic.

It is something other Eldon wrestlers would certainly do well to take note of from an undefeated state champion who became the first Mustang champion since 1933.

“I hope they learned watching him in the practice room and how he attacks and approaches everything. His confidence is sky high and there is a good reason for it,” Bird noted. “Having somebody like that in the room, confidence breeds confidence.”

Dillon started off his tournament with a 20-5 technical fall before securing a pin and 5-3 decision to get to the championship. Burks, who finished the season 50-6 for the Liberators, was someone Dillon had defeated before with a 10-2 major decision in the district title match at Clinton. However, the senior knew nothing could be taken for granted when it came to bringing home a state title.

“I knew he was a tough opponent and he was going to be gunning for me because he was gunning for me the first time. Back in the beginning of the tournament, he was watching me warm up and talking to his coaches about me,” Dillon pointed out. “He is a good opponent and wrestler and I cannot wait to see what he is going to do over these next two years.”

And Dillon’s estimate of his opponent was right as points came at a premium in the battle. After a scoreless first period, Dillon took the lead with an escape at the 1:17 mark of the second round and took a 2-0 lead before the final period after a clasping penalty. Burks managed to get an escape point with just over a minute left, but each ensuing attempt at a takedown proved fruitless for the Liberator. 

“I just had to stay in good position. I’m really good at defending my legs on my feet so I was thinking I was going to be ok,” Dillon said. 

Of course, hearing all the support from Eldon fans near the top corner of Mizzou Arena certainly might have helped as well.

“It is awesome and I cannot thank my community enough. We had at least 200 people watching upstairs and I could not have done it without them,” Dillon said.

Bird was not too worried about the outcome. 

“His mindset is that he is not going to get scored on at all. He went out there, scored what he could, got the lead and I think him and I both wanted to see a little more offense,” the coach remarked. “But in the state finals you’ll take anything you can get and 2-0 is as good as 10-0 in our book.”

It was a good weekend for a trio of other Mustangs as well. Junior Dawson Brandt moved up another spot on the podium as he earned his second state medal taking fourth in the 182-pound class. Meanwhile, three-time state qualifier Isaiah Simmons earned his first state medal as the junior also finished fourth at 120 and sophomore Kaden Dillon did the same in his firs trip to state as he took sixth in the 195-pound class. 

Brandt, who finished this season 52-10, knew his path would not be easy. After finishing fifth last year, his sights were set on a state title, but he ran into a few good wrestlers down the stretch. 

“It was a great feeling moving up on the podium, but this year at 182 there were a ton of incredible wrestlers in our bracket. The top six wrestlers I think could have gone either way for anybody,” Brandt said. “It was just a matter of who scored first and a matter of want. When it came to the bubble match to get on that podium, I gave it everything I had.”

His tournament began with a win via medical forfeit and he went on to take a 6-3 decision in the quarterfinals before narrowly falling to Wade Han of St. Genevieve 4-2 in an overtime sudden victory match. The junior bounced back with a 7-5 sudden victory of his own in the consolation semifinals and he fell to Joel Martin of Oak Grove (39-14) in a 7-3 decision, whom Brandt had defeated in the quarterfinals.

“He wrestled well and he was talking about how tough his weight was, and it was,” Bird said of Brandt. When I was looking at that podium, he beat three of the kids that were on there. He beat the kid that took second at state, he beat the kid that he lost to for third and he beat the kid that took sixth so it was a good weekend for him.”

The good news for the junior is that he has another shot to go after a state title next year and he will certainly remember everything he learned from his longtime sparring partner and state champion.

“Trenton is the best sparring partner that I’ve had growing up. If it was not for him, I don’t think I would be where I am today,” Brandt said. “Starting from when we were younger to now, I think all we did was make each other better and I thank him for that.”

Simmons proved to be another “Dream Killer” for Eldon as the junior began his tournament with two straight pins, including one over a returning state medalist, on his way to the semifinals. Simmons lost an 11-2 major decision to eventual state champion Karter Brink of Monett (52-1), but he came back with yet another pin in the consolation finals before falling to Oak Grove’s Tucker Macwilliam (34-9) via pin in the third place match.

“On paper I was not supposed to even make it to the podium. Going both years and not getting there really ticked me off, so this year I was very determined to get on that podium,” said Simmons who finished his year 40-13. “I was really happy with the way I ended the night, not just stopping with getting a medal, but getting fourth. 

“I definitely plan on coming back next year, and if not getting first, scoring much higher… I am really excited for next year and I’m really looking forward to the camps this summer and getting better because I am not going to stop.”

Bird has no doubt he can do just that. 

“Isaiah got his first ever win over a state medalist in the first round. He had never beaten somebody that medaled before and that was really good to get that block away from him, get past that mindset and realize that he can wrestle with everybody,” the coach said. 

Another wrestler who showed he belonged in Columbia was the other Dillon brother as Kaden battled his way to the medal stand and finished his sophomore season 45-15. 

Just like his other teammates, he started off well with a 6-0 decision in the first round. Kaden fell in a 10-2 major decision in the quarterfinals to Benton’s Curtis Weston (44-5), but his weekend was far from over as he picked up a pin and won a 3-2 ultimate tiebreaker (double overtime) to guarantee himself a spot on the podium. He fell in a 12-5 decision to Logan-Rogersville’s Barrett Beaird (42-7) and lost to St. Clair’s Aaron Herman (39-10) in the fifth place match, but having a state medal is not a bad way to start off a career after missing his entire freshman season due to injury.

“It feels amazing because on paper I was not supposed to place, but I went out there and worked as hard as I could and worked as hard as everyone else thought I could,” the sophomore said. 

And getting to share the experience with his brother as a fellow state medalist is something he will not soon forget. 

“It is awesome and I wish he was still a junior so we could be together again next year, but it is what it is,” he said. 

Bird is excited to see what the young wrestler can do moving forward. 

“After not wrestling last year, being a sophomore and medaling at 195 is a tough thing to do so we have some good stuff coming back,” the coach said. 

As much credit as each wrestler deserves, they also did not hesitate to point out the efforts of their coaching staff and the additions of Joe Herman, Joe Drake and Greg Warlop along with assistant Mike Walton as keys to their success with the different coaching styles and views.

“I think it is one of the best coaching staffs we’ve had in Eldon since we’ve had our program, if not the best,” Brandt stated. “They worked with us a lot and wrestled with us in practice so we kind of picked up on things a little faster because they were giving us one-on-one time that I think made us successful.”

This chapter of Eldon wrestling is now complete, but the next one will begin the same way the others have. 

“Let’s get to work and get better every day. I tell them find a way to get better at life, school, wrestling, whatever it is,” Bird said. “So, we just have to improve from the freshmen to the coaching staff and find a way to get better every day.”