ANDERSON — The McDonald County Mustangs return three cornerstone pieces in their foundation in state medalists Oscar Ortiz, Jakob Gerow, and Bronnie “Tinker” Kinser.
With overall numbers on the rise in the wrestling program, along with the returning state medalist trio, expectations and enthusiasm are high for the Mustangs for the 2017-18 season.
“I’m excited,” McDonald County head coach Josh Factor said on Mustang Pride Night. “Two of them are seniors. Always hate to see those guys go after their final seasons, but I mean Oscar Ortiz, our top place finisher, last year third place as a freshman, and now as a sophomore, honestly we’re still trying to figure out what weight class he’s going to go. Jakob Gerow’s probably going to be 126 and so we’re still trying to work out things between Oscar and Jakob. Jakob and Oscar are close in weight, so maybe we can get Oscar down to 120. They’ve both been working hard in the offseason. I am impressed with that.
“Tinker Kinser is coming off a serious knee injury that he competed with at the state tournament last year and managed to take a sixth place finish. Having all three of those guys back, this is probably the best returning group since I’ve been around in this program. Realistically, it’s not one of those things that would be a surprise to see us finish in the top 10 for the first time as a team. That’s one of the goals we’re setting and make a name for our school. Still don’t have our first state champion, that’s always in the back of our mind, and I think all three of those guys are definitely going to battle to try and be that guy. We’ve got a long way ahead of us.”
Ortiz completed a 46-7 season last season with a 1-0 decision over St. Charles’ Ben Bohr in the 106-pound third place match.
Gerow defeated Rolla’s Zach Fennell 6-0 in the 120 fifth place match and finished the season 40-7.
Kinser lost a 1-0 decision to Harrisonville’s Austin Campbell in the 285 fifth place match. Kinser tied Ortiz in wins and took 10 losses.
As a sophomore, Gerow took fourth at 113 and posted a 38-11 mark. In his freshman season, Gerow placed sixth at 106 and had a 41-13 season. Gerow enters the season with 119 career wins.
On their pride night, the Mustangs had 18 matches and these increased numbers might put McDonald County in a competitive advantage, especially in duals.
“That’s another area of excitement,” Factor said. “We’re pushing close to 38 wrestlers on our squad and I think that’s as many as I’ve seen in our program. For the first time ever, I think we can actually go into a dual meet and not worry about giving away points for forfeits. We’ll be able to fill all our weights. That’s something that’s exciting from a team standpoint.”
Factor and the Mustangs are looking down the road at least one season, when the Big 8 Conference expands to 14 schools and there will be enough schools with wrestling programs to have official conference honors like the other sports like football, basketball, and baseball, for example.
“I visited with some of the other coaches,” Factor said. “I’m good friends with Daryl Bradley over at Monett and some of the other coaches in the Big 8 Conference, like Coach Jeff Sill at Seneca. I think it’s going to be a great thing for us to add wrestling to the conference. We’re talking about having an individual conference tournament for the Big 8 in the ’18-19 season, so giving our guys a chance to be all-conference for the first time since the Southwest Conference, it’s awesome.”
Factor mentioned area programs like Neosho, Seneca, and Monett, and the Mustangs use them as measuring sticks for the level they want their program to reach over time.
The Mustangs open their season — at the varsity level — with a flurry of activity in the week after Thanksgiving — opening November 28 in Rogers against Rogers and Rogers Heritage, then taking on area rivals Diamond and Seneca in Diamond two days later, and then wrestling in the always competitive Neosho Tournament on December 2.
McDonald County’s other tournaments include Carl Junction a week after Neosho, the Springfield Holiday Tournament in late December at Parkview, the Monett tournament in early January, the Branson tournament in mid-January, the Liberty tournament in late January, and the Class 3, District 3 tournament in Carthage in early February.
Other schools in the district are Branson, Camdenton, Carl Junction, Carthage, Glendale, Helias Catholic, Hillcrest, Marshfield, Neosho, Parkview, Republic, Rolla, Webb City, and Willard.
Eh Doh Say
Nov. 28 — at Rogers, Rogers Heritage
Nov. 30 — at Diamond, Seneca
Dec. 2 — Neosho Tournament
Dec. 9 — Carl Junction Tournament
Dec. 12 — vs. Springdale Har-Ber, Willard
Dec. 14 — vs. Grove
Dec. 28-29 — Springfield Holiday Tournament
Jan. 4 — vs. Monett, Republic
Jan. 6 — Monett Tournament
Jan. 11 — at Neosho, Webb City
Jan. 13 — Branson Tournament
Jan. 16 — at Cassville
Jan. 18 — at Glendale, Parkview
Jan. 25 — at Carthage, Marshfield
Jan. 26-27 — Liberty Tournament
Feb. 1 — at Carl Junction
Feb. 9-10 — District Tournament at Carthage