Sports can bring out the best in people and unite a community whether they celebrate the most ultimate of victories or endure a heartbreaking defeat. Wrestling is no exception and the hardest part is waiting for months and months to see it all unfold once again.

It is hard to match the intensity of a sport like wrestling.

Whether it is sticking to a specific diet plan for a few months to maintain the ability to wrestle in a specific weight class or mastering moves on the mat, it is a sport that does not allow you to hide. When a wrestler steps on the mat, they cannot rely upon others or get complacent as it boils down to two people trying to outmaneuver the other. For at least six minutes, barring a pin, technical fall or overtime, a wrestler goes to battle with everything they got.

At the state tournament, that experience only enhances and it was on full display when wrestlers from Lake area schools Eldon, Osage, Versailles and Camdenton tested their mettle among the best in Missouri at Mizzou Arena February 14 through 16.

Similar to “March Madness” during the NCAA basketball tournaments, a total of 16 boys and 12 girls in each weight class all battle for the top spot on eight mats around the arena over the course of three days trying to do everything in their power from being eliminated. Win enough matches and you get a ticket to the final show to wrestle for a state championship. Lose twice before making the top six (boys) or top four (girls) and the season comes to an abrupt end without a medal. 

Talk about pure joy or pure sorrow. 

Of the 18 Lake area wrestlers who came to Columbia, 10 of them walked away with a state medal and All-State recognition and one of them became a state champion. The story of that state champion encapsulates all wrestling is about as well.

Eldon senior Isaiah Simmons wrestling season did not start out as planned. His first obstacle was overcoming mononucleosis and it caused him to drop down a weight class as eating was a challenge during that time. Not long after around the holidays, his grandmother passed away and Simmons was ready to give up. Then he learned that his grandparents had been planning to make the trek from California to Missouri to see their grandson wrestle one last time in the high school ranks and that passion rekindled.

Simmons bounced back with a district title and marched straight to the Class 2 state finals of the 113-pound class, upsetting a top-ranked wrestler along the way with an overtime victory. Then as the lights dimmed down and spotlights shined upon each wrestler being introduced before the state finals, Simmons could not stop smiling before the final match of his high school career and what transpired over the next six minutes did not give him any reason not to.

After securing a 2-point advantage in the championship match, the Eldon senior held on with everything he had for a 2-1 win to take the title. Everything he had been through and all of his efforts were not in vain as he just went out and bested the opponent lined up across from him and Mustang fans erupted near the top of Mizzou Arena. 

Simmons, who had been to the state tournament every season and had just one fourth place medal to show for it, finished his final season 30-2 and a winner who went out on top. He did not hide from the opportunity, but embraced it and clearly did not disappoint.

Sports can bring out the best in people and unite a community whether they celebrate the most ultimate of victories or endure a heartbreaking defeat. Wrestling is no exception and the hardest part is waiting for months and months to see it all unfold once again.