The best Lake area athletes, teams and coaches of the winter season

Michael Losch
Lake Sun Leader
Camdenton junior Dakota Davis looks at his opponent as he is introduced during the Class 3 state championship at 285 pounds on March 12 at Cable Dahmer Arena in Independence. Davis finished second and was the program's first state finalist in 17 years.

The finish line has been reached once again.

Lake area basketball players got to hear the final buzzer, wrestlers completed their final matches on the mat and swimmers have completed all of their laps in the pool during a time that came with its fair share of uncertainty, considering these sports all took place indoors in the middle of a pandemic. COVID-19 failed to bring these programs to a halt and now, the time has come for a Lake Sun tradition as we look back and recognize the best of these programs for their accomplishments this past season. 

TOP ATHLETES

Osage senior Sara Wolf dribbles past Camdenton junior Sarah Holmes on Monday, December 14, in Camdenton. Wolf finished the night with nine points and made the 148th 3-pointer of her career to become the program's all-time career leader in 3-pointers.

Osage senior Sara Wolf, Girls Basketball 

She will go down as one of the top players in the history of Osage’s basketball program. Osage senior Sara Wolf often showed up on the stat sheet in multiple categories for the Indians each night and that may have been most evident when she accomplished a triple-double near the end of the season in the district semifinals. She became the best 3-point shooter in program history, making 67 alone this season to finish out with 201 for her career, and she already surpassed 1,000 career points. Overall, she is now among the top five players in program history in multiple categories and it shows just how valuable her presence was on the court at any time.

Read More:Osage’s Wolf hits major milestones for the Indians on the basketball court

Camdenton junior Dakota Davis, Boys Wrestling 

Camdenton junior Dakota Davis nearly rose to the very top as one of the best wrestlers in the state this season. After experiencing the Class 3 State Tournament for the first time last year as a sophomore, Davis continued his growth and development in dominating fashion as a junior where he reached the state finals and finished second amongst the heavyweights. In doing so, he ended a drought and became the program’s first state finalist in 17 years after Brandon Hayes accomplished the feat in 2004. He lost the title match to unbeaten Jacob Jackson (31-0) of Desmet in a 6-3 decision, but a 56-2 campaign is not a bad way to enter an upcoming senior season.

Read More:Camdenton wrestling’s Davis takes 2nd and Garrett captures 3rd at Class 3 State Tournament

TOP TEAMS

The Climax Springs girls basketball team celebrates its first district title in 16 years after knocking off St. Elizabeth on February 26 in Hermitage.

Climax Springs Girls Basketball

As long as there are five players on the court, a team has enough players to enjoy a game of basketball and the Cougars enjoyed many of their games this season on the way to a district championship for the first time in 16 years. The Cougars played the season with six players overall and they proved to all be reliable for each other after finishing the season with a record of 17-7. The run came to an end for Climax Springs against defending state champion Walnut Grove in sectionals, but this group of six earned their spot amongst the best 16 Class 1 teams in the state. 

Osage junior Ryan Schepers paces as he is introduced in the Class 2 state championship at 138 pounds on March 11 at Cable Dahmer Arena in Independence.

Osage Wrestling

The defending champions of the Tri-County Conference earned another share of the conference title this season- sharing that honor with Blair Oaks and Versailles- and the lineup at Osage enjoyed a number of other significant accomplishments as well. Osage junior Ryan Schepers nearly became the program’s second state champion in as many years, wrapping up his season 40-2 at 138 pounds. Fellow junior Chase Cordia entered the tournament unbeaten (46-0) at 170 pounds and the defending state champion at 160 nearly reached another title match, losing his first match of the year in the semifinals to eventual champ Bryce Palmer of Odessa, but he still finished third and previously secured his 100th career pin. Senior Jackson Creasy, a returning third place medalist at 195, finished fifth this year and wrapped up his career with 150 wins as the program’s all-time wins leader. On the girls side, Osage sophomore Kamill Burch won a district title. Overall, those milestones may signify a turning point for the program- where success is more of an expectation and not the exception- and that is precisely what the program wants to establish in the years to come. 

Read More:Milestones may signify a turning point in Osage’s wrestling program

TOP COACHES

Eldon girls basketball coach Isaiah Rhine gives instructions during a game against Versailles on February 1 in Eldon.

Isaiah Rhine, Eldon Girls Basketball

After spending a number of years as a junior varsity coach with the boys basketball program at School of the Osage, Isaiah Rhine was ready to roam the sidelines as a head coach for the girls program at Eldon. Well, his first season did not turn out so bad as the Mustangs captured their first district title since 1990 in a nail-biting finish at Osage. Despite finishing with a 9-16 record, Rhine’s players bought in, brought home some playoff hardware for the first time in 31 years and earned the right to be among the best 16 Class 4 teams left in the state where the run ended in a sectional loss at Blair Oaks. The program did this, despite eight of the 13 players on the varsity roster being underclassmen with little to no varsity experience. It is a stepping stone to build off for a program Rhine’s younger sister Sara played in, who is currently a professional basketball player in Spain.

Read More:Eldon girls basketball edges rival Osage in nail-biter for district championship

Versailles junior Alex Radefeld smiles with Head Coach Shawn Brantley after a match at the Class 1 MSHSAA Wrestling Championships on March 10 at Cable Dahmer Arena in Independence.

Shawn Brantley, Versailles Wrestling 

Versailles wrestling coach Shawn Brantley and his wrestlers knew the consensus and what was expected in the Class 1 State Tournament. Brantley said his wrestlers were not projected to win any first round matchups, let alone any medals, and it simply did not matter as the program saw three wrestlers earned their first career state medals. A trio of juniors in Kannen Wilson, Alex Radefeld and Kyle Flieger got to experience stepping on the podium for the first time and only Wilson was a returning state qualifier amongst the trio. A theme the coach and his staff have been preaching is ‘Why not us?’ and it seems his six state qualifiers took that message to heart. There may have also been a little incentive as slices of cake was promised to those who became state medalists. 

Read More:Trio of Versailles wrestlers earn first state medals

HONORABLE MENTION ATHLETES

Camdenton seniors Irelyn Meckley (left) and Emily Willis (right).

Camdenton seniors Emily Willis and Irelyn Meckley, Girls Swimming

The senior duo at Camdenton became the first 4-time state qualifiers in program history, raising the bar for future swimmers to follow. Not bad, considering that a swimmer needed to be in the top 24 of an event this season to qualify for state instead of the top 32. 

Camdenton senior Grant Garrett points to Laker fans and his family after the final high school match of his career where he won a third place medal at 138 pounds. Garrett finished his career 197-18 overall with 131 pins and is in the top 10 for all-time wins in the state of Missouri.

Camdenton senior Grant Garrett, Boys Wrestling

Camdenton senior Grant Garrett finished with his second straight third place medal at the Class 3 State Tournament and the only thing that prevented him from a championship appearance was a 2-time defending state champion in Jacob Mann of Ladue Horton Watkins who finished unbeaten on his way to a third straight title. Garrett wrapped up his career 197-18 with 131 pin falls and is in the top 10 for most wins in Missouri history.

Climax Springs senior Autumn Wallace looks to drive to the hoop in a sectional game on March 3 in Climax Springs.

Climax Springs senior Autumn Wallace, Girls Basketball 

A previous 2-time All-State selection, Climax Springs senior Autumn Wallace led the Cougars by averaging a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds per game.

Eldon senior Aidan Wells launches a deep shot in a game against Eugene on Tuesday, December 22, in Eldon. Wells led the Mustangs with 20 points.

Eldon senior Aidan Wells, Boys Basketball

Eldon senior Aidan Wells proved to be a pretty reliable player on the court in his final season with the Mustangs. The senior averaged 21.3 points per game and 9.2 rebounds per game, nearly averaging a double-double for the season.

Eldon's Anmarie Dillon celebrates with Head Coach Ryan Bird (center) and assistant Joe Herman after securing third place and a trip to state on Saturday, February 20, in sectionals at Versailles.

 Eldon sophomores Anmarie Dillon and Olivia Chapman and Camdenton freshman Clara Rathmann, Girls Wrestling

Securing a state medal this season proved to be easier said than done, but this trio of Lake area wrestlers will be back. Dillon put together a record of 38-11, Chapman went 39-4 and Rathmann finished 29-15 in her first season for the Lakers.

Eldon senior Aidan Gerber celebrates a win in the Class 2 MSHSAA Wrestling Championships on March 11 at Cable Dahmer Arena in Independence. Gerber finished fourth for the Mustangs in his first state tournament.

Eldon senior Aidan Gerber, Boys Wrestling

Eldon senior Aidan Gerber secured the 100th win of his career this season and marched to the Class 2 state semifinals at 120 pounds in his first state tournament, before wrapping up his career with a fourth place medal.

HONORABLE MENTION COACHES

Osage coach Scott Rowland addresses his team during a timeout in a district championship game on March 5 in Osage Beach.

Scott Rowland Osage Girls Basketball

Osage had another shot at some hardware this season, something the program has become fairly accustomed to under Scott Rowland. The Indians nearly captured their fifth district title in the past seven years, coming up just short in the district championship game to end the year 11-13.

Osage coach Craig Engelbrecht cheers on his team during a game against Eldon on February 26 in Osage Beach.

Craig Engelbrecht, Osage Boys Basketball

If a coach is looking to establish success from the start, reaching a district championship game in the first season with a new program is a good way to do it. That is what Craig Engelbrecht did at Osage as he had the Indians (10-15) on the cusp of winning their first district title since 2004, coming up short in the district title game.

Michael Losch is the Sports Editor at the Lake Sun. He can be reached at mlosch@lakesunonline.com or 573-346-2132