After coming up short to Ozark in the Central Ozark Conference Tournament last season at Willard, the Neosho wrestling team hadn't been able to get that sour taste out of its mouth. Not until Saturday, that is.
A dominant effort from top to bottom saw the Wildcats turn in five individual champions, three seconds, four thirds and two fourths for a total of 14 medalists. Those totals helped them win the meet by 103.5 points as they downed Nixa 331-227.5 at Webb City High School.
"It's definitely nice to reclaim the conference title," Wildcats coach Jeremy Phillips said. "We lost it trying to hang on last year, so that's one thing we talked about coming into (Saturday), was having the mindset of pedaling downhill — not putting it on cruise control, so to speak.
"We won some big matches but, again, we lost some matches that we're going to have to work to avenge come district and state time."
Neosho's Kyler Rea (113 pounds), River Buttram (120), Nate Rodriguez (132), Jacob Brock (182) and Christian Lopez (220) each won the conference title in their respective weight divisions. For Lopez, ranked No. 3 in his class by MissouriWrestling.com, the win marked a special moment in his career.
"Christian Lopez is one of those kids that I made an example out of," Phillips said. "and I usually don't highlight individuals. But we've got a senior who has taken the course of his career to win his first gold medal at any tournament, and I think that's something to highlight in front of the kids. He's a great example of what we need to do as a team, and that's press forward."
Rea, who is 37-4 on the season and ranked No. 1 at 106 pounds, was ecstatic after winning the conference title as a freshman.
"I feel pretty good," he said with a smile. "I think I could have done better, but it's been pretty fun."
Brock, meanwhile, the No. 3 wrestler in his class at 47-3 overall, made short work of the 182-pounders as he pinned all of his opponents after receiving a bye in the first round. That included his fall of Willard's Duane Faller, who came into the match at 28-7 overall, in 1:54 in the title match.
"In practice Friday I set a goal for this weekend to pin out, and I did that," Brock said. "My last match I was mentally and physically prepared. I knew I was going to pin him. We had a tough, hard week of practice preparing for this."
Other team results had Carthage coming in third with 225 points, followed by Ozark (205), Willard (179), Branson (109.5), Republic (109) and Webb City (94).
Individual results for the Wildcats were: 106, John Williams (4-1) pinned Dakota Jones (Carthage) in 5:28 for third place; 113, Rea won by major decision over Naseeph Al-Roubaie, 8-0, for first; 120, Buttram won by decision over Gage Gartner (Carthage), 7-4, for first; 126, Dakota McGarrah lost to Joe Velliquette (Nixa) by major decision, 9-0, for second; 132, Rodriguez won by major decision over Nick Plyter (Ozark), 13-3, for first; 138, Jason Box lost to Clint Godfrey (Ozark), 5-0, for fourth; 145, Kyle Hostetter pinned Schyler Chott (Republic) in 2:32 for third; 152, Chance Branstetter lost by major decision to Destin Prather (Nixa), 5-3, for second; 160, Garrick Fausett lost to Kerik Crouse (Republic) by decision, 3-2, for fourth; 170, Austin Hailey won by major decision over Alex Lane (Webb City), 11-3, for third; 195, Ben Elledge lost to Cody Lindsay (Ozark) by pin in 53 seconds for third; 220, Lopez won by decision over Ben Melton (Nixa), 7-3, for first; 285, Aaron Clardy lost by decision to Xyah Ra (Nixa), 3-2, for second.
Page 2 of 2 - The Wildcats have two weeks to prepare for districts when they'll hit the mat in the Class 3, District 3 meet at Willard High School in Willard, Mo. on Feb. 8-9.