Persevering through injuries during multiple seasons of his prep career, Neosho senior Gannon Millard wrestled to a state runner-up finish his senior campaign at 132 pounds and helped the Wildcats earn their fifth straight Class 3 state wrestling title.

Persevering through injuries during multiple seasons of his prep career, Neosho senior Gannon Millard wrestled to a state runner-up finish his senior campaign at 132 pounds and helped the Wildcats earn their fifth straight Class 3 state wrestling title.
On Tuesday, Millard was recognized for signing a letter of intent with Labette Community College, a two-year institution based in Parsons, Kansas.
Millard wrestled to a 141-28 overall record during his varsity career and came through with a 44-8 mark as a senior and placed fourth at the Kansas City Stampede. Millard won multiple Central Ozark Conference Large and district titles. Millard posted three 40-plus-win seasons during his career.
It was an emotional day for Neosho head coach Jeremy Phillips, who saw two more Neosho wrestlers sign with colleges on Tuesday.
“I’ve been with this little guy for many, many years,” Phillips said. “He had an older brother (Matt) who wrestled for us and Gannon just seemed like he was always there … even before he was wrestling, he was probably always tagging along and always around. I think he did start (wrestling) when he was 3 years old. What an amazing career, what a testament to what hard work and persistence and loyalty and learning from shortcomings will take you.”
Phillips already set lofty standards for Millard at the next level.
“I’m good at setting out those challenges for him,” Phillips said, “and hopefully, he stays true trying to meet those expectations. The last man that took this path and fell just shy of winning a state title also went to Labette … Payne Hatter. Payne Hatter ended up being our first national champion at the collegiate level (wrestling for Northeastern Oklahoma A&M) and went on to be a Division II All-American (Ouachita Baptist).
“The path that’s Gannon taking can be very successful and (he) can accomplish many great things before moving on to the next step, whether that be a Division II or a Division I school. With that said, I truly believe the best is yet to come. He’s had a lot of success already and I know that it’s cliché to say, I do believe that if he will continue to do what he’s done thus far, the sky is the limit and he can accomplish anything that he sets his mind to. I’m very proud of him. It’s bittersweet to see these seniors go, but I am very excited to see him make his dreams and his goals happen.”
The Labette wrestling program won NJCAA national championships in 2005 and back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013. That past success was one of the factors in Millard’s decision.
“Being close to home,” Millard said. “They’re a program that’s building up and I want to be a part of something that is hunting, going after something special and hunting it down.
“It’s a team with a history of success, so it has dropped off but the last couple years, they’re building back up. Hopefully, I can be a part of a team that goes out and gets the job done.”
Neosho wrestlers have had a pattern of success at the next level, including national champions Hatter, Dallas Smith, Montana Drum and Nate Rodriguez.
“Coach Phillips puts us on a training schedule that’s harder than any other high school team in the state,” Millard said. “Our program compares to a lot of college programs just training wise, so I feel like being a Neosho wrestler is going to prepare me well for college.”
What motivated Millard to persevere through injuries probably motivates any athlete.
“When you’re with a team or a family,” Millard said, “when you’re battling for something huge, you can’t let an injury hold you down. You just have to go out and fight for your family.”