Neosho wrestling head coach Jeremy Phillips discovered early on the entertaining and possibly frustrating nature of Adrian Hitchcock, who has signed with NCAA Division II Lindenwood to continue his academic and athletic career next year.

“I can say a lot of things that will probably make us laugh,” Phillips said Wednesday during Hitchcock’s signing ceremony, “because that’s what he tries to do with us. He’s very unique and entertaining, and I’ve grown to love him. I say that, because I remember vividly, I believe maybe it was his freshman year at Seneca, he ate a whole large pizza before he wrestled and he had a tough kid. He really should have beat the kid even with a large pizza on his belly, but we fell short of that. So he learned a very valuable lesson that you don’t eat a pizza and you don’t make Coach Phillips mad, because he ran for a long time after that.”

Hitchcock long ran off that pizza.

Over a distinguished prep career, Hitchcock enters his senior season having been a key part of three straight Class 3 team state champions. His individual accomplishments include being a state champion heavyweight, a district champion, and a conference champion last season. Hitchcock’s dedication and hard work have given him the leeway and the platform to entertain, and a great junior season earned Hitchcock the No. 18 preseason ranking from InterMat Wrestling entering his senior campaign.

“I saw talent early on,” Phillips said, “obviously with him being a three-time state medalist, that he was very good. My goal was to not let him be satisfied with being good. Good is the biggest enemy of great and the biggest thing about Adrian is that he didn’t let good get in the way of being more. I wanted him to find that ranking and to find that success that he was capable of having, even though starting early with a substantial amount of success.

“He might want to find a record deal with his latest …” Phillips added, “but I believe he needs to stick with wrestling. Like I said with Joey (Williams) and like I say with all my kids, I truly believe the best is yet to come. Neosho wrestling, I feel like we lay a very good foundation for him and it’s not just with technique. Hopefully, it’s laying something that will allow him to be successful, whether it’s on the mat or in the recording studio or a job later in life.”

Phillips said that he’s proud of Hitchcock for taking on a stronger leadership role in a wrestling program struggling a little bit with overall numbers.
Hitchcock said that he was attracted to attending Lindenwood for all the usual reasons, but he also named some more sartorial ones.

“It’s easy if you don’t have to switch out your colors much,” Hitchcock said. “They’re black and gold, we’re black and gold, so I won’t have to go clothes shopping and still be representing. That’s good.”

The fact that Lions (Lindenwood) and Wildcats (Neosho) are not far apart on the evolutionary ladder also helped with Hitchcock’s decision.

“You’re right, it’s a cat,” Hitchcock said. “That’s good.”

Lindenwood — based in St. Charles — is coached by head man Jimmy Rollins and the Lions’ staff includes head assistant Dallas Smith, a former standout at Neosho High who finished off his collegiate wrestling career at Ouachita Baptist with a NCAA-II national title at 184 pounds. Hitchcock’s former teammate Zach Plummer signed with Lindenwood after last season.

“We’ve talked a lot,” Hitchcock said. “They’ve been recruiting me, looking at me a little bit since my freshman year, so we’ve had that connection and over time, it’s been built. Of course, Dallas being from Neosho, he knows what it takes … he’s been a national champion also, so he’s been there, went to Neosho, and been through the tradition.

“Coach Rollins, he’s very intense. He’s really into hard work. I like that and it reminds me of Coach Phillips. That’s one of the reasons I’m going to Lindenwood.”

“I am very excited to see what he’s going to do at Lindenwood,” Phillips said. “He’s joining forces with Zach Plummer, who there’s now, and in addition to that, Dallas Smith is the head assistant coach. Dallas was a state champion for us and a Division II national champion at the college level, so I am excited to see (Hitchcock) training under one of our own and being teammates with one of our own.”

Phillips mentioned recording studio in talking about Hitchcock and a reporter asked if Hitchcock was going to give up his hip-hop career in favor of focusing 100 percent on wrestling. Hitchcock had a very simple and strong response.

“Of course not,” Hitchcock said. “It’s going forever.”

Hitchcock became an Internet sensation this past February after celebrating his state title with an epic dance. Does the colorful young man have a plan for his senior season?

“There’s going to be something new after state this year if I were to come through and win it again,” Hitchcock said. “If I’m blessed enough, yes, there’s something new that I’m going to do and I hope everybody likes it.”

Hitchcock said that his celebrations and colorful antics do not detract from his work ethic or show up his opponents in any way shape or form.

“I enjoy the flash,” Hitchcock said. “I enjoy that stuff. Of course, I know I’m the one putting in the hours. I’m working hard, late nights and early mornings. So, I like to celebrate like that … I deserved it, I earned it.”

Over the course of their careers, Hitchcock developed friendships with Carl Junction’s Zeke Wall and McDonald County’s Bronnie Kinser, three of the best heavyweights in Missouri last season. Hitchcock wrestled Wall for conference, district, and state titles, in fact, last season.

“We’re all very close friends,” Hitchcock said. “I love them. I love Zeke and Bronnie both, I really do. They’re both studs and they’re both really good. They’re tremendous athletes and I respect them. We’re amazing friends, but once we get on the mat, of course that has to change, which I’m upset about, but … it sucks competing against your friends, but they understand it’s the nature of the beast.”

Neosho opens its newest season December 2 with its annual home invitational tournament.