ST. JOSEPH — Behind a pair of individual championships – the first time they've had that many in a single year since 2006, the Chillicothe High School Hornets figuratively got up off the mat in the annual Midland Empire Conference Championships tournament Saturday at Benton High School's "Pop" Springer Gymnasium.
Behind title wins by junior Thaddeus Rinehart at 126 pounds and freshman Aaron Baker at 132, the Hornets zoomed from a last-place finish in last year's tournament among the seven MEC wrestling schools to third place this year, their first under new head coach Drew Passley after the illness-forced retirement of long-time coach Dave Kinen.
Also fueled by a pair of runnerup finishes from sophomores Kyler Sewell and Luke Plummer, as well as a couple of thirds (Matt Scobee and Matt Shaffer) , the Hornets generated 243 team-scoring points in the mixed-format league event. Smithville captured its second-straight MEC mat championship in a tight battle with 2010 and 2011 champ Cameron, edging the Dragons 3651⁄2 to 3611⁄2. Host Benton was fourth, 231⁄2 back of CHS, which had last finished as high as third also in 2006.
Although seven MEC members have wrestling (newest member St. Joseph: Bishop LeBlond does not), only one weight class had seven entrants; some had as few as four. Thus, the competition format was tailored, weight by weight, to the number of entries. Some weights used a championship/consolation-wrestleback style, but most with fewer than a full seven competitors were conducted in round-robin style (each wrestler facing every other one) to attempt to most-fairly determine the conference's individual champions for 2013. Differing team-points-scoring scales were used for each.
To claim his individual championship, Chillicothe's Baker had to win five times, while Rinehart managed it even while losing once in four outings.
The Hornets will visit Trenton tomorrow night at 6 o'clock.