For the sixth season in a row, the Neosho Wildcats are Class 3, District 3 wrestling champions.
As they are prone to doing, the Wildcats flat out dominated the competition yet again as they walloped the second place Carthage Tigers, 300-168.
In all, the Wildcats qualified 13-of-14 wrestlers to state. Of those 13, 12 wrestled for district titles on Saturday with eight — Kyler Rea (106 pounds) River Buttram (120), Nate Rodriguez (132), Kyle Hostetter (145), Sam Williams (152), Jacob Brock (182), Christian Lopez (220), and Aaron Clardy (285) — being crowned district champions.
There are highlights galore amongst those eight champions. For instance, freshman Rea improved his record to 42-4 overall in his first varsity season, while senior Nate Rodriguez (51-1) and junior Buttram (37-6) won their third district titles. Kyle Hostetter and Sam Williams — who returned this week from an injury that kept him out for a good portion of the season – won their first ever varsity gold medals.
But perhaps the biggest highlight came at 220 pounds, where Neosho’s Christian Lopez avenged three losses this season to McDonald County’s Jordan Moffett by edging the senior 3-1 in the title match. The loss was Moffett’s first of the season (42-1), after he’d previously beaten Lopez at the Neosho Tournament, in an overtime victory at McDonald County a month ago, and again two weeks ago at the COC Tournament.
Others who will advance for the Wildcats are John Williams (113 pounds, second place), Dakota McGarrah (126, second), Jason Box (138, third), Chance Branstetter (160, second) and Ben Elledge (195, second).
“We’ve been training for something special since after Easter last year,” Phillips said. “These guys, they’ve invested a lot. That’s the thing; we don’t have an offseason, and these are the results we work for. We’ve just got to keep reminding ourselves of that special finish we’re trying to hunt down.”
That special finish, of course, is a state championship. The Wildcats, ranked No. 2 in the state behind Kearney, have their eyes set on the ultimate prize.
“We showed them a highlight video on Thursday, our 2010 (state championship) highlight video,” Phillips said. “We did that to show them that on day one we were good, day two we were better, and by day three we were our best. That team continued to stay hungry and continued to get better. I hope this (district title) gives them that vision of something special becoming clear for us in this quest we have to represent our school, program and community in a very positive light next week.”
Rea won his match with a pin of Dakota Jones (Carthage) in 1:30. Buttram scored a major decision over Gage Gartner (Carthage), 11-3. Rodriguez scored a major decision over Seth Logan (Carthage), 9-1. Hostetter scored a decision over Jacob Dalton (McDonald County), 6-1. Brock won a major decision (13-0) over Austin Beushausen (Lebanon), 13-0. Clardy won by decision over Blaine Perry (Carthage), 6-2.
Page 2 of 2 - “Today was a great boost of confidence for them,” Phillips said. “This week is a huge steppingstone for ourselves in getting up for that tournament we’re searching for. Believing and having that faith is crucial when you’re facing the best of the best in the state of Missouri.”
The Mustangs, meanwhile, are sending five to the state tournament as Trevor Young (126, fourth place), Josh Kinser (132, fourth), Jacob Dalton (145, second) and Jordan Moffett (220, second) advanced.