Eldon coach Ryan Bird has been looking for signs of growth from his young squad.

Eldon coach Ryan Bird has been looking for signs of growth from his young squad.

The Mustangs may have given him a glimpse of it Wednesday night in a Tri-County Conference triangular with Hallsville and Southern Boone. The final scores of each dual on the scoreboard may not show it as Eldon dropped its first battle 43-42 to Hallsville and fell to Southern Boone 47-27 in the second, but for Bird it was a step in the right direction in the dawn of a new decade.

“They bounced back. The last time we wrestled at Moberly it was not good,” the coach said of the final event of 2019. “It was not good at all. We were not fighting for points, taking shots and were not building up off the bottom. We saw a lot of that to take away and saw a lot of fight tonight. Even in the matches we lost, kids were getting to legs, building bases, hitting changeovers, standing up and doing good stuff.”

And with a lineup of 14 wrestlers that features just two seniors this season, there is plenty of time to continue that growth as well.

“We are young and inexperienced so these guys need to remember that. We talk about that a lot, we talk about the weight room and I mean, those guys we wrestled all look like they’ve been in a weight room and our guys don’t.

“A lot of angles we are attacking this from and we are going to get there, but it is going to take some time. It is going to click at some point.”

Eldon’s night began with a bout in the 113-pound class against Hallsville and got off to a good start as Maddox Berlener was able to secure a pin fall against the Indians. Killian Wilson also won by pin fall at 132 along with Jonathon Schoenfeld (220). The Mustangs also picked up wins via forfeits as Evan Birdno (126), Sam Coppock (182), Kaden Dillon (195) and Jasper DeGraffenreid (285) all went uncontested.

However, Hallsville picked up just enough points as Eldon’s Aidan Gerber (120) lost by pin fall along with Collin Waters (132), Tanner Pappas (145), Ian Birdno (160) and Nevin Campo (170). A pair of open weight classes for the Indians took care of the rest.

Once again, Eldon got off to a positive start against Southern Boone as Gerber bounced back with a pin fall at 120, but the Eagles were solid the rest of the way. Eldon also picked up points with an 8-6 decision from Wilson (132) while Dillon (195), Schoenfeld (220) and DeGraffenreid (285) went uncontested. Meanwhile, Southern Boone responded with a 21-3 technical fall over Birdno (126) and pin falls over Pappas (138), Olivia Chapman (145), Birdno (160), Campo (170), Coppock (182) and Berlener (113).

Not exactly the outcome the Mustangs were looking for, but it did not take away from Senior Night festivities as Eldon honored a trio of seniors in Dillon, Schoenfeld and Kade Bise. Bird had nothing but good things to say about the bunch.

The coach commended Bise for his efforts and demonstrating quite a work ethic for someone who is not on the mats.

“Kade came out this year and he does not even want to wrestle, he just wants to work out. So, he comes every day, busts his butt, came to morning runs, came over Christmas break and does everything,” he remarked. “I got a lot of respect for a guy that just comes in to grind in a wrestling room for four months with no thoughts on wanting to wrestle.”

Then there is Dillon and Schoenfeld who have been battling for Eldon the past four years.

“They are hard workers and I love those guys. They are going to be pretty impossible to replace next year, but I’m glad ‘Scho’ was able to wrestle tonight with his knee,” the coach continued, referring to Schoenfeld’s recovery from an injury sustained from football season. “We were not sure how many matches he was going to be able to get in and we are going to get him some matches before districts, but he looked good out there. I wish ‘K.D.’ could have got a match, but what can you do?”

Well, Schoenfeld got to wrestle at least one match and he made sure it was a good one for his final time on the home mat.

“Of course I did not want to come out here and lose, It was a good experience and I got some good work in,” he said of the matchup. “I have not been able to wrestle a lot this season so it meant a lot to be able to wrestle.”

Coming back from an injury can change the perspective, especially when it is the final season of someone’s career and Schoenfeld has high ambitions for what is to come.

“It means a little bit more to me just because I have never been a state qualifier and now I’m a top contender at districts,” Schoenfeld noted. “I have to be more cautious, but I am still going to go out there and wrestle as hard as I can.”

Eldon was scheduled to wrestle in another conference triangular at Boonville Thursday night with Versailles and the Mustangs will return to tournament action this weekend at Monett. For Bird and company, the objective is simple- continue to get better each day.

“That is what we are trying to do, truly trying to get better,” he said. “Get better positionally, get better fundamentally, get better everywhere. It is 100 percent true this year more than ever.”