Matches come down to the wire in fight for conference supremacy

The stakes became high on the mat in Eldon Tuesday night as the Mustangs welcomed rival Osage and Blair Oaks for a Tri-County Conference battle.

Although the lineups of all three teams were not at full strength with several open weight classes, there was not much separation between the trio on the scoreboard and the intensity cranked up another level as the last few matches could swing the momentum and advantage in either direction.

By the end of it all, the Mustangs, Indians and Falcons split their duals as Eldon fell to Blair Oaks 40-36 and edged out Osage 39-38 while Osage also picked up a win by taking care of Blair Oaks 31-22.

“It was a good night, good competition and great programs to wrestle with,” Osage coach Randy Satterlee said. “We are pretty evenly matched and sometimes they fall your way. One or two matches either way, those are always good duals.”

“Our guys were excited and I have not seen them that excited in a dual in a long time. That will carry over into practice and hopefully carry over into Thursday and Friday night,” added Eldon coach Ryan Bird, whose team has been dealing with some injury issues throughout the season.

Eldon started Tuesday night’s action against Blair Oaks where Dawson Brandt picked up the first Mustang points in the 182-pound class with a pin. Kaden Dillon (195), Charles Mays (220), Scott Johnson (285), Shane Strickland (106) and Aiden Gerber (120) all picked up forfeit victories, but the Falcons took care of the rest for a 4-point win.

“We were not very tough in our first dual and Blair Oaks kind of took it to us. I thought it would be a little closer than it was and we talked about finding some toughness and being the guy that controls the center of the mat,” Bird remarked. “They responded well so it was good to see.”

And Eldon certainly did. Gerber (120), Isaiah Simmons (126), and Brandt (195) all picked up pins while Brent Mullett (152) won a 10-3 decision and Strickland (106), Mays (220) and Johnson (285) all picked up forfeits.

With the Mustangs holding on to just a 4-point lead heading into the final match, the 160-pound contest between Eldon’s Donn Taylor and Osage’s Jesse Schillinger, a pair of freshmen, would determine the outcome. It proved to be a thriller.

Schillinger, needing a pin or technical fall to win it and a major decision to tie it, commanded a 2-1 lead after two periods, but ramped up the pressure in the final two minutes and nearly pinned Taylor on several occasions. However, Taylor held on in a losing effort and prevented the major decision by a single point in a 9-2 defeat to preserve his team’s lead.

“It was fun with Osage. Neither of us were at full strength with our lineups, but we filled holes as best as we could and got some good wrestling out of it,” Bird noted. “Justin Bartels and Donn Taylor both lost their matches, but did not get pinned or major decisioned which saved us two points and won us the dual. It is that toughness we have been talking about and they are starting to show some. They did not quit and had fight in them for six minutes, which won us the dual.

“Brent Mullett also wrestled a great match against Osage. He did not finish well at the end and gave up two points to lose the major decision, but he went out there and has improved a lot this year,” the coach added.

Another wrestler who had a good night was Brandt, who stayed unbeaten with two pins and even wrestled up a few weight classes in the process. He attributes his success to the preparation in practice from his partners.

“I feel like I have the best, if not close to it, wrestling partners with (Assistant) Coach (Joe) Herman or Trenton Dillon (teammate). They are incredibly smart partners so it helps me out a bit.”

Brandt may have taken care of his own business, but he was just as glad to see his teammates succeed in their endeavors.

“It was intense man,” he said of the Osage match. “I know Coach (Bird) preaches to us that we are going to fight until the very last second. The boys kind of picked up on that mentality and we don’t give up so it was just good to see that we transferred that out on the mat.”

Osage may have come up just short, but Satterlee did not hesitate to express his confidence in the young freshman Schillinger.

“Those are heartbreakers when you just cannot finish them out and put them away, but he’ll learn that,” the coach said. “He is young now and by the time he is a senior, he is winning that match.”

And that one particular match did not define the night for the Indians either.

Osage got off to a good start against Blair Oaks as Schillinger got his team going with a 12-4 major decision in the first match. Anthony Martin (170) and Steven Crosby (132) both picked up pins and Jack Creasy (145) fought for a 1-0 decision win. Meanwhile, Kody Dowell (113) and Alana Douglas (120) racked up forfeit wins to help the Indians secure the win.

In the final bout against Eldon, Creasy (145) earned an 18-2 technical fall while Dowell (113), Crosby (132), Aaron Cuddy (138), Martin (170) and Tyler Dimmick (182) all picked up forfeit victories.

“Our kids are young. We make mistakes, but we had some good wins tonight and some good opportunities for wins,” Satterlee noted.

“It is a good builder. Every time we wrestle, they are getting better and better. We look at the end of the season and that is the big thing,” he added in reference to districts. “We want to compete at the end of the season and duals are great and it is good to get the experience and mat time, but that is all we can hope for right now.”

Indeed, perhaps a sign of good things to come was some of the success the young wrestlers had and Creasy was one of the wrestlers who certainly earned it as he stayed unbeaten Tuesday night for the Indians.

A lot of matches this season, I have kind of not wrestled as smart as I did tonight. Tonight, I knew it was going to be a tough kid who was ranked in the state and I just knew that I could hold him down,” the freshman said of his 1-0 decision over Blair Oaks. “I’m probably not going to go out there and whoop him, so I just got to do what I can do to win.”

Those types of matches can undoubtedly breed confidence, but Creasy was also confident in his teammates.

“Our team did really well tonight. There were some matches where we should not have given up as many points, but I think our team wrestled well,” he said.

“We have a lot of tough kids and I think we can send quite a few of them to state. We all just have to keep working hard and make each other better.”

That is certainly the plan as the season starts to wind down with the postseason not too far around the corner. The ultimate destination is the state tournament in Columbia.

“We just have to keep active and keep wrestling. We have a lot of season left and it does not seem like it in a few weeks, but we have a lot of matches in between there,” Satterlee stated. “We like to wrestle and keep working right up to the end so by the time we are in districts, we are sharp. That is the philosophy.”

Eldon will also be looking to fire on all cylinders by the time districts arrive. Brandt said he and his teammates are ready to get back to work.

“It is going to be a lot of hard work and we still have a couple of duals and tournaments to go, so we are looking forward to getting better at those,” the junior returning state medalist said. “When districts come around, we are going to be at our peak so we are going to be better and hopefully we are going to be taking quite a bit of people to Columbia.”

For Bird, the message continues to remain the same for his club- get better.

“We have to get better in every phase. Life, class and practice, we have to get better,” he said.

And if the Mustangs take care of that, good things may just follow.

Eldon will be back in action Thursday night for a quad at Helias with Marshall and Versailles at 5:30 p.m. Osage will also return to the mats Thursday night with a trip to Boonville at 6 p.m.