The path to the podium at the state wrestling tournament is usually never an easy one.

The path to the podium at the state wrestling tournament is usually never an easy one.

Just ask Camdenton junior Grant who was a single win away from doing so a season ago. Garrett was back to battle with the best wrestlers in the state over the weekend along with a pair of sophomores in Taylor Mustain and Dakota Davis at Mizzou Arena in Columbia. As the “Mat Madness” on eight different mats wrapped up, only Garrett waked away with a medal as he finished third in his weight class.

“The season did not end for us like we wanted it to. We lost some kids due to injuries and stuff so that was kind of hard to lose,” Camdenton coach Grant Leighty said, looking back on the season. “Going on a roll midseason, thought we were really going to be able to keep it going but the kids that got down here to state, they wrestled hard through one of the toughest districts in the state and I thought they put themselves in a good position.”

Indeed, after the first night on Thursday all three Laker wrestlers were in Friday’s quarterfinals. Garrett moved on to the semifinals to guarantee himself a medal and All-State honors reserved for the top six in each weight class, and he was certainly glad to know he was not going home empty-handed.

“Man, it has just been great,” Garrett said of his progression, which included earning his 100th career win at the start of his junior season. “All the offseason work I think just going and grinding and never stopping, I think that puts in a lot. I just feel on top of the world, man.”

Unfortunately for the other two Lakers, the path became a little more difficult for Mustain and Davis after their quarterfinal losses required them to win their next two matches or be eliminated.

Mustain (43-9) nearly secured a medal for the second straight year, falling in the final match that would have secured herself a medal in the 110-pound class. The sophomore started her tournament with a pin fall over Windsor Imperial’s Reilly Baughman (23-8) before falling to Excelsior Springs’ eventual state finalist Lilly Brower (22-1) by pin fall in the quarterfinals.

Mustain then took down Butler’s Makayla Mallatt (21-5) by a 12-3 major decision and ended her tournament with a loss by pin fall to Lebanon’s Ashlynn Loechner (42-6) who finished third.

“It ended up being a pretty tough draw for us. We wrestle that bracket again 100 times, we probably come out with a medal in 99 of them,” Leighty said. “Just kind of worked out that way and she wrestled her butt off, won some tough matches and just came up against some hammers.”

It was a similar narrative for Davis (42-6) amongst the heavyweights of Class 3. The sophomore topped Grain Valley’s Donovan Mcbride (38-10) by pin fall in the first round and met eventual undefeated state champion Landon Porter of DeSoto (45-0) in the quarterfinals where he lost a 4-0 decision. Up next was eventual fifth place finisher Mario Quezada of Grandview (42-2) and a pin fall defeat brought the tournament to an end.

“Dakota was in the toughest bracket in the state,” Leighty noted. “He had an awesome season. Taylor and him are both just sophomores and they took this to heart this year so they are going to have a reason to get in the room and work hard. Both of them are already talking about working during the offseason and that is what we want.”

Garrett took that initiative in the offseason, winning a greco state title, representing Missouri in the Cadet National Dual Team Championships and wrestling in national tournaments for freestyle and greco wrestling.

“We want that to become infectious for all our wrestling kids and Grant is the leader of that. There is nobody that works harder than him and he is thinking wrestling ‘24-7, 365,’” Leighty remarked. “We just want that to be infectious and there are a bunch of kids talking about working during the offseason.”

Well, it seems like that effort paid off for Garrett in Columbia.

Garrett (49-3) began his bracket at 138 pounds with a 12-0 major decision over Farmington’s Drew Felker (31-18) and a 17-2 technical fall over Xavien Jackson of St. Charles (40-8). He met eventual state champion Devan Lewis of Smithville (38-9) in the semifinals and suffered his first defeat in a 9-4 decision.

“Personally, I think Devan Lewis and I’s match was basically the state finals. I think we were the top two in the bracket and I think we wrestled like it,” Garrett said of the semifinal showdown. “It was a close match and I think I fix what I need to fix in that match and I win that match next year.

“When I walked into this program freshman year my goal was to make that wall and be a state medalist and now it is to win a state championship so that is all I got in my mind.”

The wall Garrett referred to is the wall of All-State athletes at Camdenton High School and if the junior could not finish first, he did the next best thing. Following the semifinals, Garrett won convincingly the rest of the way with a 10-1 major decision over Kearney’s Ben Locke (31-18) and 8-1 decision over Rolla’s Dathan Mickem (35-9) for third.

“That is the way the bracket works out sometimes and he did not let it get him down. He went out and wrestled hard in a close match with Lewis in the semifinals and stormed back through it,” Leighty said of the junior’s run. “Pretty much dominated everyone else he wrestled from that point on and we are back next year so we expect he’ll be standing on top of that podium.”

The journey towards that goal will soon begin. Garrett pointed out that, “Summer work makes winter champions,” and Leighty certainly agrees with that notion.

“We are not going to let the way the season ended get us down. We are going to get in the room during the offseason with freestyle, hit some camps and come out,” the coach said. “We were a very young team this year. I think we had 10 freshmen and sophomores in our lineup most of the year so those kids are going to come back and hopefully gain a year’s experience between seasons. We are going to be ready to come ut and do some damage next year.”