Eldon's Chapman and Dillon and Camdenton's Rathmann punch tickets to girls state wrestling meet
Returning Eldon state medalist Olivia Chapman did not want to be going back to state alone this year. Her teammate Anmarie Dillon made sure of that on Saturday in a sectional tournament at Versailles.
The pair of Mustangs were up to the task as they made the top three in their respective weight classes to qualify for the final show of the season on March 9 in Independence. The action is slated to begin at 9:15 a.m. at Cable Dahmer Arena.
“Last year I told her she was going to come with me and we’ve been working really hard to go so it feels good,” said Chapman, a returning sixth place medalist.
And it should, considering the unique challenges of completing a wrestling season in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a normal year, the top four wrestlers of each weight class in a district tournament would make up the top 16 wrestlers in each bracket at state. In the middle of a pandemic, the road to state is different with the addition of sectional tournaments across the state to determine the top 12 wrestlers of each weight class going to state.
Of the eight wrestlers representing the Lake area at Eldon, Camdenton, Osage and Versailles, only Dillon and Chapman and Camdenton’s Clara Rathmann made the cut as several other wrestlers got fairly close to making it in a tournament that featured 33 different schools on Saturday in Versailles.
“It is big,” Eldon coach Ryan Bird said. “We qualified one last year, got two this year and I like our chances going down there and coming home with two medals.
“Make it to next week, that is what it is all about.”
Just like the district tournament, each wrestler began their day in the quarterfinals and Dillon’s path at 137 pounds began with a pin fall. She dropped her semifinal match to Cassidy Head of St. Charles (24-4) in a 7-4 decision, but bounced back strong needing to win her final two matches to reach state. It began with a pin fall over Fatima’s Skyla Schroeder (27-8) in the consolation semifinals and Dillon defeated Timberland’s Ariana Finn (17-12) by fall in the third place match to improve to 38-9 on the season.
“It was a really hard journey. I had to put my mind to it and build my confidence way up because I did not have a lot of confidence last year,” Dillon stated.
In doing so, she became the third wrestler in her family to reach a state tournament after her older brothers, and former Eldon state champions, Trenton and Kaden previously accomplished the feat. Dillon said she felt a little bit of pressure to take care of business, knowing how proud her father was and how much he wanted to see her succeed like her brothers, but she pushed it out of her mind when it was time to wrestle. After the third place victory, she walked up to the top of the bleachers to give her dad a hug along with other members of her family.
“It is awesome. We try not to compare the three of them too much and kind of getting Annie to forge her own path, but it is big to have a family like that continually helps out the team,” Bird said of the Dillon trio. “This is six years in a row that they’ve had somebody wrestling at high school state.”
Chapman (37-2) marched straight to the finals for Eldon at 151 pounds with two pin fall victories to start her tournament over Maegan Hayes of St. Charles (13-11) and Zoe Beattie (14-7) of Holt. Her lone defeat of the day came to unbeaten Audrey McDonnell of Francis Howell (17-0) by pin fall.
“Olivia is a worker. Didn’t wrestle well in the finals, but that is not indicative of how she wrestlers so we’ll put that one behind us, get to work for the next few weeks and we’ll be good to go,” Bird said.
Meanwhile, Addison Gerber (16-24) dropped her first match by fall in the quarterfinals at 112 to Holt’s Reese Compton (22-4) and she dropped a 9-6 decision in the first round of consolation to Francis Howell Central’s Katelyn Guth (10-10) to bring her season to an end. Mackenzie Blankenship (23-14) lost by fall in the quarterfinals at 174 to Ft. Zumwalt North’s Alana Vogt (26-5), came back with a pin fall over Troy Buchanan’s Rebekah Gray (6-14) and finished her season with a loss by fall to St. Charles’ Olivia Schiffer (15-5) just one match away from the third place match.
Camdenton’s Clara Rathmann is off to a fairly good start in her high school wrestling career, considering she is going to state as a freshman.
Rathmann went straight to the finals at Versailles on Saturday and came away with a second place finish to guarantee her trip as one of the top three wrestlers at 235 pounds.
“I’m excited. Nervous, but excited,” Rathmann said of reaching state. “A lot of hard work and dedication and it takes a lot out of you, but you just have to practice hard and listen to Leighty,” she said of her coach Grant Leighty. “Energy and hard work and super happy it is paying off.”
Ruthann (27-13) began with a pin fall in the quarterfinals over Timberland’s Cassidy Gooch (7-12) and battled her way to a 3-0 decision in the semifinals over Francis Howell Central’s Kennedy Eggering (9-3).
“It is awesome. She went out there in the semis to guarantee her spot against a very good and much bigger girl,” Leighty said. “She wrestled smart, weathered the storm to be successful and she was able to. It showed how much her wrestling has matured. Early in the year, that could have been a loss so for her to do that was very encouraging for us that she has developed the skills she needed to be successful at this level.”
Rathmann dropped the title match to Tipton’s Kyla Cornine (30-1) by fall, but she will be back to wrestle in the final show of the year on March 9.
“I’m only a freshman so there will be older people there and I know it will be tough,” she said. “I’m expecting a full six minutes and for it to be as tough as any match I could get.”
Chelsea Camponiano (14-21) was also in action for the Lakers at 117 and she dropped her quarterfinal match to Reece Wilmes of Holt (16-8) by fall before her season came to an end with a loss to Jefferson City’s Zoey Mzeru (22-8) by the same result.
“Chelsea has come a long way and it has been a crazy year, dealing with COVID,” said Camdenton assistant Kris Paschel who helps coach the girls in the program. “We could have gotten quarantined and not knowing if we’ll be able to wrestle again and be cut short or not. With sectionals now, it is a 1-day tournament so if you do make it to the third place match, you still have to win that match and take third and move on that way. This year has been so tough and our girls have come a long way. It has been a really good year, really proud of them.”
And win or lose, Paschel is preaching the big picture to the wrestlers he helps to coach. Wresting is a sport that can offer many lessons.
“Life will knock you down and you are the only one out there who is wrestling. You cannot ask for a better way to prepare these young kids going into life when they get out of high school now,” he said. “It is you and another opponent. We can teach you and prepare you for everything, but you still have to go out there and execute and it is never a guarantee so keep fighting and keep going forward.”
That is the message overall for the program- to keep fighting- and time will tell how things progress and if it all pays off next February. Leighty said he is excited to see that growth, but for now there is a state tournament left to take care of and he thinks the young freshman will not be a quick exit.
“I think people will find it will be a different match this time around,” he said, referring to any previous opponents Rathmann may have lost to. “Super proud of her and very encouraging for our program.”
District champion Kamill Burch was the lone warrior on the mats for Osage this postseason and she nearly made the cut at 112 pounds, finishing her season just one match shy of the decisive third place match.
“Keeping focus for an extended period of time is tough and being the lone wrestler and having a lot of weight on your shoulders every match, any little mistake is going to be the difference between being one of the top 12 or not,” Osage coach Randy Satterlee said. “Tough day for her.”
Burch’s day started out well with a 7-1 decision in the quarterfinals over Ft. Zumwalt North’s Kayla Hobday (14-12). She dropped her next match in the semifinals to Troy Buchanan’s Sarah Bergtholdt (11-5) by fall and the season came to an end in the consolation semifinals with a pin fall defeat from Francis Howell Central’s Katelyn Guth (10-10). This chapter ends, but it is not the end for Burch.
“She has come so far,” Satterlee pointed out. To come out and be a district champ and wrestling where her ability is, it is amazing. There are going to be good things in her future, it is just going to be another year coming.”
And the work begins now for the Indians as they seek to continue to grow the program.
“The girls will be busy over the summer. We had a great addition with our girls coach Brock Ezard and he has done great things with them and will continue to, for sure,” Satterlee said.
Just like Burch at Osage, Versailles’ Sarah Huffman was the last wrestler left standing for the Tigers. She got as close as one could get to state this year, too, after her season came to an end with a loss in the third place match at 235 pounds.
“In a normal year Sarah is going to state and still takes fourth,” Versailles coach Shawn Brantley pointed out, noting how well she wrestled. “Unfortunately, this year where they’re only taking the top three she didn’t make it, but we had a talk in the hallway after she lost and hopefully this just adds that fuel to the fire and she takes that next step next year. Maybe its not just qualifying and maybe she gets a medal next year.”
And Huffman’s journey exemplifies just how quickly fate can change for a wrestler in the postseason. After starting with a pin fall victory in the quarterfinals at 235, Huffman (21-8) had one of the top-ranked wrestlers in the state on her back and on the verge of losing by pin fall before Tipton’s Kyla Cornine (30-1) fought back to secure a win by fall. Huffman came back with another pin fall in the consolation semifinals over Battle’s Anyha Cain (17-8) and dropped the third place match by fall to Francis Howell Centra’s Kennedy Eggering (9-3) to wrap up the season.
Now, the work begins again for Huffman and all the girls in the program.
“You’ve been here a whole year now, you’ve watched how postseason wrestling works and seen what it takes so you have to improve now,” Brantley said. “You know where your deficient at and know where you need to improve so let’s get after it, fix it and next year you are going.”
Michael Losch is the Sports Editor at the Lake Sun. He can be reached at email@example.com or 573-346-2132