Eldon’s Gerber and trio from Osage secure medals at Class 2 State Tournament
At a state tournament, it is likely safe to say the margin for error will be small.
Lake area wrestlers representing Eldon and School of the Osage saw that firsthand on Thursday at the Class 2 State Tournament at Cable Dahmer Arena in Independence with some of the best wrestlers Missouri has to offer. Some matches were won or lost by the thinnest of margins and by the end of the day, the Indians medaled three of their four wrestlers and Eldon senior Aidan Gerber made sure he earned a medal for the Mustangs.
“Some days it is just the way it goes. These kids have worked hard all year, they come into a match like this and there is a lot of pressure involved,” Osage coach Randy Satterlee said of his program featuring three returning state medalists, including a returning state champion, who had their sights set on state titles this season and came up a little short. “To perform and to keep that level of performance, especially our COVID year here as long as they have, I’m just really proud of the kids. They did a great job and had some really tough competition here today.
“Kudos to three out of four placing, doing a good job and doing what we expected of them. That is all we can say.”
Satterlee said it always seems like his wrestlers are in close matches and he may be onto something considering there were six matches on Thursday decided by a single point. One of the toughest results from those close matches was the state championship at 138 pounds where Osage junior Ryan Schepers nearly became the program’s next state champion.
Granted a first-round bye, Schepers began his day with a pin in the quarterfinals over Kirksville’s Dominic Catalan (31-10) and that set up a semifinal showdown with Fulton’s Owen Uhls (41-4) who had previously won two state titles. Schepers found a way to secure a pin in the second round after trailing 4-0 and he let out a shout of joy after earning a ticket to his first state title match.
“It just felt big to win over a two-time state champ, especially when I was losing, it felt great,” the junior said.
Schepers went on to face Central Park Hill’s unbeaten Kade Willis (30-0) for the title who was a three-time medalist and points came at a premium. After a scoreless first period, Schepers struck first with an escape point in the second before Willis secured two points with a takedown at the end of the period. An escape point from Willis in the third made it 3-1 with 1:17 left and Schepers was awarded a point for stalling but ultimately ran out of time on the short end of a 3-2 decision to finish the year 40-2.
“Things obviously did not go the way I wanted, but I was ready to go and came up short,” Schepers said. “Just coming at him as hard as I could, gave him everything I had and he won so good for him, hats off to him.”
Satterlee said it was exciting to see the junior who previously won two state medals break through to the finals and he is confident Schepers will be back in that match next year.
“It is something he has been very focused on throughout the season and it is a really major goal for him to get there. He achieved that goal and fell a little bit short his year, but there is no doubt in my mind he is going to come back next year and be even more set up to do it again,” the coach said.
That is precisely what Schepers intends to do.
“There are obviously improvements that need to me made. I need to work harder, need to be in the rom every day this spring and summer and just need to fix some details and get better.”
While one Osage wrestler nearly won a state title, another had a tougher start in the team’s first match of the day. Sticking with that theme of close matches, a 195-pound senior in Jackson Creasy, a returning third place medalist, dropped a 4-3 decision to Cameron’s Keegen Reynolds (50-8) in the first round. Disappointed to lose the opportunity to pursue a state title, Creasy had a choice to lay down or bounce back and fight for a medal.
He chose to fight, even though the highest place he could finish was fifth in the 12-man state tournament where the number of competitors were reduced from 16 because of the challenges of COVID-19.
“This is something where you have to get over it really fast,” said the senior who noted he didn’t perform like he should have from the start. “I very well could’ve went out there and lost my next match and not even made it to the podium, but this year is weird where if you lose the first round the best you can do is come back and get fifth. I just had to come back, get the next best thing and I’m proud of the way I finished. It didn’t go how I wanted, but stuff happens and you just have to make the best of it.”
Creasy responded with a pin fall over St. Clair’s Mardaririres Miles (24-13), a 17-5 major decision in the crucial consolation semifinals over Harrisonville’s Trevor Campbell (39-7) who made the state finals last season and a pin fall over Reynolds for fifth place to avenge his first loss of the day and end the year 37-2.
“To come back and finish with the same kid and pin the kid, that is a good testament for him to show his tenacity to stick it out,” Satterlee pointed out. “Before he went out there we said, ‘Hey, this is your last match and your senior year, let’s make it count.’ and he did in a big way. He dominated and we’re proud of him.”
Creasy, who ended his Osage career as the program’s all-time wins leader, said it was important to go out with a win.
“I didn’t want to lose my last high school match so I did everything I could to make sure I won that match and it worked out,” said the senior who is looking to continue wrestling in college.
“I love the fact that you can always bounce back and come out and just show what you can do. It is something where you can redeem yourself and show you didn’t wrestle to your full ability. and I think that is what I did today.”
Junior Chase Cordia entered the tournament unbeaten at 46-0 and looking for a second consecutive state title after becoming the program’s first state champion in history last year at 160 pounds. Trying his hand at 170 pounds this time, he was also presented a first-round bye and cruised to a 14-1 major decision in the quarterfinals over St. Francis Borgia’s Oliver Mace (34-6) to win 89 of his past 90 matches. He met Odessa’s Bryce Palmer (38-5) in the semifinals, a returning third place medalist at 152 pounds, and went the distance with the eventual state champion as he came up short in a 2-1 ultimate tiebreaker.
“He wrestled good, I lost and that’s all that happened,” Cordia said of a match where he had just 30 seconds to score in the end and nearly did so before the clock hit zero. “With that, I’m just looking to score no matter what it was. Just didn’t get it done.”
Cordia went on to secure a third place medal with a pin over returning 152-pound sixth place medalist Jaden Ballinger of Kirksville (30-9) and will have some motivational fuel going into his senior season.
“It is heartbreaking. He had his sights really set on a second first place medal, but sometimes the ball doesn’t roll your way,” Satterlee said. “It is a testament to the quality of wrestlers that are here and for kids like Ryan and Chase, it gives them more focus to work harder, learn more to defend and attack better and come out next year and make a repeat of state championships.”
Now that his high school career is done, Creasy’s best advice for the two junior state medalists was to remember the feeling.
“Just remember that feeling when you took that loss, let it make you better, make you work hard in practice and don’t let it happen again and come back and win next year,” he stated. “I wish I had the opportunity to do that and they do, so, they’ll make it happen.”
Another senior was on the mats for Osage as Connor Arrowood wrestled in his first state tournament and he nearly joined his teammates on the podium. The 220-pound wrestler dropped his first match in a 5-4 decision to Moberly’s Jarrett Kinder (45-6), a returning sixth place medalist, and he bounced back with a 3-2 decision over Fulton’s Josh Dunmore with a 3-2 decision where he secured a crucial takedown with 10 seconds left. Oak Grove’s Zander Bringer (36-2), a returning fourth place medalist at 195, ended Arrowood’s day just one match shy of a state medal with a 3-2 decision.
“That is the bittersweet moment of this- you’re at this pinnacle, but then you realize all these guys- it is the last time we are going to see them,” Satterlee said of the seniors. “It is an emotional rollercoaster, for sure.”
Looking to the future, Cordia said it was important to get the younger kids involved and give them some aspiration, even though the team did not get on top of the podium this year.
“It will give our younger kids something to look up to and see if they can do it once we graduate. I think we need to step it up in the practice room and get them on the podium next year,” the junior said.
Satterlee knows what it will take to make that happen. Looking forward to continuing to build the girls program and making sure his wrestlers on the boys side find themselves in competitive matches throughout the season next year to be ready for state, the time to get to work is now. He said Osage is a great place to go pursue those goals.
“Our coaches are great, the school is amazing and I have to thank them on helping us out for everything we do because it is a long season and there are a lot of moving parts,” the coach noted. “Everyone that is involved to get a kid on the mat and participate at this level or any other level, it is a good thing for us and a good thing for our community.”
If Gerber was going to be the lone wrestler representing the Eldon boys at state this year, he may as well have gone for a medal.
That is precisely what the senior did in his first state tournament after capturing fourth for the Mustangs at 120 pounds.
“It was a really good year. He had some goals coming in and wanted to be a state champion- everyone does- and only person gets to do that, but he had a great year,” Eldon coach Ryan Bird said of the senior who previously surpassed 100 career wins this season. “He got better every day, worked hard and became coachable this year. In his mind, he was going to be a medalist and sometimes, that is what you need.”
And while Gerber was certainly glad to have a medal placed around his neck, he found himself thinking of this who helped him attain it.
“It was nice and all but the point is not to get a medal- the point is doing your best because I had full faith in God he was going to lead me there. Also, I have an entire team that worked with me to get me here,” the senior stated. “It is more like I owe them because they put in all this work and effort.”
He was also thinking of his father who passed away last year and the senior wanted to make sure he got on the podium for him this year. He noted that one of the things that stuck with him about his father was how he always told his him, “’I know you can do it, I know you can.”
“He would be proud. He always was and he didn’t care if I won, lost or tied,” Gerber remarked. “He was critical and knew where I messed up, but he also knew where I succeeded. That is what made it so great is that I always know I can do it if I stick my mind to it. Every day, that is all I hear.”
Gerber’s run started with a Tri-County Conference foe in Southern Boone’s Kade Scheer (26-12) and the senior secured a pin in the first period. An 11-8 decision in the quarterfinals over St. Francis Borgia’s Joseph Lause (33-6) guaranteed Gerber a medal.
“The growth is big. He had to grow up quick in the pst year or so and man, I tell you what, he has done a great thing,” Bird said of the senior’s development, noting his persistence and perseverance are great examples for others to follow. “He’s done great with it and has had a lot on his plate. I could not be any more proud of the kid right now.”
In the semifinals Gerber met Cameron’s Ryker Smith (48-2) and was pinned in the second period before he fell to to Pleasant Hill’s Lane Snyder (45-3) in the third place match to wrap up the day. But, Gerber was not expecting things to go perfectly as he ended his final year 40-11 and noted challenges are part of life. The senior said it is all mental.
“If you never learn to go past them, you won’t ever succeed. I was actually talking to my grandpa and he said that you cannot live in the past,” the senior pointed out. “You can have the odds of well, this kid already beat me, or this has already happened or this person is better and guess what? You can’t let them pass you and have to make something new today to get better.
“You have to have that mental mindset of, ‘I have to win, I have to do better.’ Even if I don’t win, I have to win in learning.”
Gerber’s career as a Mustang may be at an end, but he said he plans to come back and help out the wrestling program next year and wants it to grow. He said he is thankful for the mental toughness wrestling provided.
“I don’t just love the sport, I love what it does for you. I was talking to one of my wrestling partners and you never really learn to love the sport because of what it does to you- you learn to love it because of what it teaches you,” the senior noted. “It teaches you not to give up, to show grit and show determination.
“My sister is in wrestling and I want to be there for her, but I also promised the underclassmen I’d come back… and that is what wrestling does, it gives you that family mentality. Like everyone says, once a family always a family and that is what wrestling is.”
If there is anything wrestlers can learn from his example, Gerber said the main thing is to never give up and live by the same motto his dad imparted upon him of knowing anything is possible. He also said it was important to trust your coaches and offer teammates the opportunity to grow.
“You can watch something get taken away and the point is, it breaks you down but it makes you stronger,” he said. “You learn that you can do it.
“That is what everything in life is- you go through challenges and I want to leave the example behind of not giving up, it is all in your head. Everything happens for a reason, go with it and don’t fight it.”
Gerber ensured the Eldon wrestling program ended another year with a state medalist and now, it is simply time to push forward and keep improving.
“We just have to keep plugging forward and getting better. Get better every day, that’s our mantra,” Bird said.
Michael Losch is the Sports Editor at the Lake Sun. He can be reached at email@example.com or 573-346-2132