On to the final show: Versailles, Camdenton, Osage and Eldon boys wrestlers reach state

Michael Losch
Lake Sun Leader
Versailles’ Kylie Flieger hugs his assistant coach Brian Markway after winning a semifinal match in a Class 1 sectional tournament at Versailles on February 27. The win guaranteed Flieger’s first trip to state.

The path to a state tournament is usually different for everyone. 

Some wrestlers are fortunate to take care of business fairly quickly when it comes to qualification and others have much tougher tests and trials in their paths. Perhaps no path was more challenging than the one Versailles’ Zachary Radefeld had before him on Saturday in a sectional tournament at Versailles. 

A returning state qualifier and a senior wrestling his final high school season, he eventually found himself needing to win a third place match to qualify for the Class 1 Tournament at 152 pounds. So, when he suffered an ankle injury late in the third period with the score tied 6-6, he had to find a way to dig deep and he managed to do so by securing a takedown in the final seconds. He did so, despite hobbling, and it was the kind of moment that could light a fire under any program. 

“You’re a senior and you are not going to just stop for an ankle injury. You are going to keep on pushing,” said his brother, Alex, who qualified for his first state tournament at 145 pounds.

Zachary quickly went to the hospital to diagnose the extent of his injury when he finished wrestling, but his actions spoke for themselves and his teammates saw it, too. 

“I think having some heart is a bit of an understatement. I mean, lots of guys I know and that happens to them, they’re done after that,” said returning state qualifier Kannen Wilson. “To fight those extra 30 seconds to make sure you have a spot at state, you have to have something else inside you to fight for that so, good on him. 

“I already had my match out of the way but even after he got that two (points) at the end of the period, I was still freaking out for him and I’m pretty sure this whole gym was freaking out for him. It was just awesome to see.” 

Versailles is sending six wrestlers to a state tournament that will be unlike ones before it due to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of 16-man brackets at state that would have been determined by the top four wrestlers in each weight class at a district tournament, a wrestler needed to not only be one of those top four but also in the top three of their weight class at sectionals for a 12-man bracket. Osage qualified four wrestlers for the Class 2 Tournament, Eldon is sending one and Camdenton is also sending four to the Class 3 Tournament. 

VERSAILLES 

Versailles hosted 13 schools in its sectional tournament and among the 12 Tigers in the lineup on Saturday, half managed to punch their tickets and get through while others got fairly close. 

“Obviously, we would have liked to have all 12 but it just did not work out that way. We did not wrestle particularly well today and some of it we were expecting and some of it not so much,” Versailles coach Shawn Brantley said. “We knew some of them were going to be right in the thick of it.”

Wilson (33-8) had little trouble qualifying after reaching the title match at 113 pounds. He won his quarterfinal and semifinal matches with 6-2 decisions and finished second overall after dropping a 4-0 decision to Holden’s Daylen Greene (41-4). 

“It was obviously different, but it also kind of helped because after districts we had another two weeks to prep and work on stuff we needed to work on,” Wilson said of the addition of sectionals. “It was a bit of a struggle, but at the same time it was good for the team and for everyone to work on stuff they needed to. Those two extra weeks really helped.” 

Alex (34-8) also finished second at 145 pounds after starting with a pin fall and 16-6 major decision before dropping a 6-2 decision in the finals to Butler’s Ostin VanVoorst (37-4). He now gets to join his brother at state for the first time.

“It will feel good. I never really went to state before so going with my brother will be special,” he said.

Kyle Flieger’s path to state began with a pin fall victory at 160 and a 22-16 decision in the semifinals over two wrestlers who had posted more wins than him on the season. He promptly hugged his assistant coach Brian Markway after reaching the finals where he lost a pin fall to unbeaten Cole Ritter of Adrian (37-0), but he is going to his first state tournament with a record of 26-12.

Zachary won his first match by fall at 152, dropped his next match by fall in the semifinals to Knob Noster’s Conner Johnston (35-3) and bounced back in the consolation semifinals with an 11-5 decision and the crucial 8-6 decision in the third place match to improve to 35-5 on the year. Mason Hibdon (27-9) also finished third and is returning to state after starting with a pin fall, dropping his semifinal match in a 6-3 decision to Adrian’s William Brown (15-9) and coming back with a pin fall and 7-0 decision in the third place match. Tristan Gavette (29-10) will be going to his first state tournament after the freshman started with a bye in the quarterfinals at 285, lost by fall in the semifinals to Adrian’s Aaron Cochran (21-8) and came back with a pin fall and 3-0 decision for third place.

“It is kind of nice knowing we made it back to state and we have room to improve,” Hibdon said. “There are medals to be found and it is one of those bittersweet things. It is an honor to be able to go back and I’m glad to be able to go back with some new faces.” 

He’ll also be introducing those new faces to a Versailles wrestling tradition- getting the hair dyed blonde after qualifying for state.

“It is going to be awesome. Honestly, kind of excited,” Hibdon said. “It has been a tradition for a while. Every since I was a little kid, I remember seeing high schoolers walking around with dyed hair and it has always been something everybody wants to do.”

Being a freshman, Gavette said he is glad he will have teammates to look up to for his first state experience.

“It is going to be pretty nice being there with a team I know I can count on and rely on. It is a big new experience for me so we’ll see what it takes to get a medal,” the freshman stated.

Matthew Radefeld (16-13) saw his season come to an end in the consolation semifinals at 120, just one match shy of the crucial third place match. That was the same fate for Benjamin Dornan, too, who finished 26-10 at 126 and Tres Powers who went 31-11 at 132. Jacob Schrock (21-8) saw his season end in the first round of consolation at 170 along with Connor Lehman (25-12) at 182 and Gavin Brantley (22-18) at 195. 

Those wrestlers got to complete their seasons and the six remaining are nearing the finish line as well. In the middle of a pandemic, Brantley is grateful for that fact. 

“Obviously, here at the end it didn’t quite work out like we hoped and didn’t get as many through, but we had a really good season and didn’t really miss anything. We were able to have a complete season,” the coach said. “None of our main guys were quarantined during the season and nobody caught COVID. So, really in the grand scheme of things you cannot complain a whole lot there.” 

Now, looking ahead to the final show which will be on March 10 at Cable Dahmer Arena in Independence, the coach said his returning state qualifiers know what to expect and he is eager to see how the new guys perform. The action gets underway at 9:30 a.m.

“Even the younger guys that made it are going to have a shot. Alex has seen it, obviously, his brother has qualified twice,” the coach said of the Radefelds. “Tristan is going to be the newbie, but he has been ranked fourth or fifth all year as a freshman at heavyweight. We are going to have a shot there. When I see the brackets I’ll have a better idea, but right now I feel pretty good about it.

“We are ready to go up there and let it rip. We see it every year- guys who are not supposed to medal come through and end up in the finals or something. Why not one of our six?” 

And the message for his wrestlers is quite clear- just look at Zachary’s example in that third place match.

“He ground it out. I know he was in pain and you could see he was in pain,” Brantley remarked. “He found a way and that is going to be the message going forward. ‘Hey, look what he did, he found a way. It doesn’t matter how you do it as long as you get there in the end.’” 

Camdenton senior Grant Garrett.

CAMDENTON 

Camdenton gave itself fairly good odds to reach state, considering the fact that the entire lineup of 13 wrestlers advanced past districts. 

The Lakers went to battle in a Class 3 sectional at Willard on Saturday and needing to be one of the top three in a weight class, the program managed to get four wrestlers through. Kaden Stivers and Logan Tibben will be going to their first state tournament and Grant Garrett and Dakota Davis have are back to battle with the best as well. 

Stivers (31-11) started with a 17-10 decision in the quarterfinals at 113 pounds, dropped his semifinal match by pin fall to McDonald County’s Blaine Ortiz (31-2) and he came back with a 16-2 major decision in the consolation semifinals before winning the crucial third place match with a 6-0 decision. Tibben’s journey was a long one at 120. He started with a loss by fall in the quarterfinals to Neosho’s Landon Kivett (34-10) and won his final three matches, which he needed to, to reach third place. A pair of pin fall victories and a 4-2 decision were the result as he improved to 38-15 on the year. 

Garrett (53-1) quickly made it to the title match at 138 with two pin falls and he won a 16-0 technical fall in the finals to get back to state where he is hoping to move up the podium from a third place finish last season. Davis (54-1) also made quick work of his opponents at 285 with a pin fall, 7-2 decision and 7-3 decision in the finals.

Cooper Rhodenizer (41-13) came up just shy of a state bid. He won a 5-2 decision in the quarterfinals, lost a 13-0 major decision to Branson’s Kyshin Isringhausen (32-2), came back with a pin fall in the consolation semifinals and dropped the crucial third place match in an 8-1 decision to Lebanon’s Davis Joiner (24-7). Aidan Neal (32-1) came up one match shy of the third place match at 132 and Cale Bentley (33-22) also reached the consolation semifinals at 152 along with Kaiden Davis (34-15) at 182. Wiley Powers (27-17) ended his season in the first round of consolation at 145 along with Nathaniel Beeson (31-24) at 160, Garrett Stark (18-12) at 170, Gunner Morris (32-17) at 195 and Roberto Montez (30-25) at 220. 

Camdenton’s four state qualifiers will go to battle for state on March 12 at Cable Dahmer Arena in Independence. The first matches will begin at 9:30 a.m.

Osage junior Chase Cordia.

OSAGE AND ELDON

School of the Osage and Eldon went to settle their bids for state in the southwest corner of the state in Class 2 action at Seneca on Saturday. 

In the end, the Indians got four wrestlers through as Ryan Schepers, Chase Cordia, Jackson Creasy and Connor Arrowood all made the cut. The Mustangs managed to get one of their grapplers to the final show, too, as Aidan Gerber made his first state tournament.

Among Osage’s four state qualifiers, three of them are returning state medalists and one of them is a defending state champion. 

Schepers, a returning fourth place medalist, improved to 38-1 after quickly working his way through the bracket at 138 pounds. A pin fall, 14-2 major decision and 1-0 decision in the finals over Pleasant Hill’s Zach Redwine (46-2) earned him a first place finish. Cordia remains unbeaten this season at 46-0 after moving up a weight class to 170. Osage’s first state champion will be looking to repeat and he had little trouble making it back to state with a trio of pin fall victories- two of them taking place in the first round. Creasy (34-1) will also be looking to add another medal after finishing third at 195 last season and he will look to move up the podium after wrestling to a first place finish on Saturday with a pin fall and 12-4 major decision in the title match.

Meanwhile, Arrowood (25-6) showed he had what it took to reach state after starting with a pin fall in the quarterfinals and grinding out a 2-1 decision in the semifinals before losing an ultimate tiebreaker in the first place match to Cassville’s Zach Coenen (25-3) at 220. 

Mason Dulle (35-12) nearly reached state after finishing fourth at 152. In a normal year he would be going to state, but he came up just shy after starting with a 19-6 major decision in the quarterfinals, dropping his semifinal match to Pleasant Hill’s Ryan Volland (38-4), winning his consolation semifinal match in an 8-2 decision and losing the third place match to Clinton’s Matt Balke (35-8) in a 6-2 decision. 

Zach Green (34-10) came up one match shy of the crucial third place match for the Indians, ending his season in the consolation semifinals at 106. The same fate took place for Charlie Dulle (18-11) at 132, Corey Hubkey (28-8) at 145 and Tanner Gardner (10-13) at 285. Jacob Zelle (11-17) ended his season in the first round of consolation at 126 and Zach Isom (19-11) had the same result at 160. 

Eldon senior Aidan Gerber.

Gerber will be the lone ranger for the Eldon boys at state this year after finishing second in his weight class at 120. He improved to 38-9 on the year and he is going to his first state tournament. It started with a pin fall and 8-5 decision to reach the title match before falling to Pleasant Hill’s Lane Snyder (43-2) by fall. Eldon had a trio of other wrestlers nearly make the cut and join Gerber. 

Sam Coppock (28-20) made the third place match at 182 and he began with a pin fall in the quarterfinals before dropping his semifinal match to Monett’s Ethan Umfleet (39-5). Copeck came back with a 4-0 decision in the consolation semifinals and dropped the final match he needed to win against Seneca’s Dane Napier (27-16) in a 3-1 decision.

Jasper DeGraffenreid (26-13) had a similar path after reaching the third place match as well. He won his quarterfinal by fall in the 285-pound bracket, dropped his semifinal match to Monett’s Harrison Merman (41-1) by fall and won his consolation semifinal by fall as well before being pinned by Pleasant Hill’s Nathan Hitch (32-18) for third place.

Meanwhile, Dakota Collins (15-33) reached the consolation semifinals at 152.

Samuel Simmons (16-10) reached the first round of consolation at 132 along with Evan Birdno (5-16) at 145 and Ian Birdno (15-25) at 170. 

The Class 2 Tournament will get underway in Independence on March 11 at Cable Dahmer Arena in Independence at 9:30 a.m.

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