In a warm-up match before kicking off the Kansas City Invitational this week, the Neosho wrestling team took on, or rather, took down the Joplin Eagles, 71-0 on Thursday at Neosho High School.

In a warm-up match before kicking off the Kansas City Invitational this week, the Neosho wrestling team took on, or rather, took down the Joplin Eagles, 71-0 on Thursday at Neosho High School.

Only two matches were close. The Wildcats were that good.

After running through opponents with relative ease, the Wildcats saw their closest match of the evening go the way of 220-pounder Christian Lopez in a 3-2 decision over Joplin’s Danny Drouin.

The battle between Lopez and Drouin was deadlocked 2-2 midway through the third period when the Eagles gambled and elected to defer a point to Lopez in order to stand him up and give Drouin a shot for a takedown. The gamble never paid off as Lopez held his ground and came away with the victory.

The most exciting match of the evening followed in the 285-pound bout between Neosho’s Aaron Clardy and Joplin’s Phillip Reitz. Facing the much shorter Reitz, Clardy went ahead 3-0 before a mistake nearly cost him the match.

“I’m not used to short wrestlers, especially in the heavyweight division,” Clardy said. “I made a mistake. I got too high in my stance. I’ve just got to stay in my stance.”

Reitz used leverage to his advantage and took down the larger Clardy, and then nearly pinned him. The swing suddenly put Reitz in front 5-3 and sent the Eagles’ supporters into frenzy. Clardy, however, managed to escape, earned another point to make it 5-4, then scored a takedown to go ahead, 6-5.

With 42-seconds left in the match, and perhaps for good measure, Clardy pinned Reitz to end the bout.

“That just shows I’ve got to keep working, keep on stepping it up every day in the practice room, and keep on fighting,” Clardy said.

Varsity results, with Neosho listed first, are: 106-pounds — Kyler Rea pinned Caden Carlin. 113 — John Williams won by forfeit. 120 — Brayden Brookman pinned Bryce Schwarting. 126 – River Buttram won by major decision over Levi Puckett, 15-6. 132 — Nate Rodriguez pinned Skye Paulk. 138 — Jason Box decisioned Noah Hembree 13-7. 145 — Kyle Hostetter pinned Dakota Mavis. 152 — Sam Williams decisioned Don Hollingshead, 7-0. 160 — Chance Branstetter won by forfeit. 170 — Austin Hailey pinned Tyler McGrew. 182 — Jacob Brock pinned Landon Taylor. 195 — Ben Elledge won by major decision over Jason Love, 12-2. 220 — Lopez decisioned Drouin, 3-2. 285 — Clardy pinned Reitz.

Wildcats coach Jeremy Phillips said, “Every time we step on the mat our goal is to get better. I told (our team) that they needed to challenge themselves, get out of their comfort zone and show us they’ve improved since the last time they stepped on the mat. I think we did a good job of showing growth. These guys have been working hard with our coaching staff and putting the time in, putting the effort in. Hopefully we’ll continue to see that when we get up to Kansas City the next couple of days.”

This weekend will be a challenge. Facing 40 teams in one of the premier tournaments the country has to offer, the Wildcats hope to bring home some hardware.

“It’s without a doubt the toughest tournament we’re going to be in all season long,” Phillips said. “Being a top-five tournament in the country, 40 teams, two days (of wrestling) is definitely a grind. It’s going to be something where we’re going to fight for every point we’re hoping to score.

“We’ve talked a lot about, our program, there’s only been a select few that have brought home hardware from that tournament,” he added. “We’ve taken second and fifth as a team. I think our goal is to bring hardware back as a team. If we step up as individuals and fight and battle … then we’ll put ourselves in position to have the team success that we’re seeking.”

The event begins today and runs through Saturday inside the Hale Center at the America Royal.

On Thursday, the junior varsity team set the tone for the varsity by also blanking Joplin, 9-0. Results for the JV Wildcats are: 126 pounds — Chase Kirschner decisioned Ethan Putney, 11-5. 132 — Isaac Townsend pinned Michael Shrum. 145 — Dakota Vance pinned Ashton Parker. 152 — Peter Elwise pinned Isaac Knewston. 152 — Appy Mendoza pinned Hunter Goode. 170 — Rexi Elwise pinned Zach Consier. 195 — Addison Derryberry pinned Jeffory Owens.