Senior Burton took 182-pounds division of Saturday's Midland Empire Conference Championship, while frosh Keithley ruled at 113. With three other runnersup, Hornets scored 314.5 points, second to Smithville's 350 – CHS highest team finish in the tournament's 10-years history

MARYVILLE, Mo. — Propelled by champions Kayde Burton (182 pounds) and Connor Keithley (113) and three runnersup, the Chillicothe High School wrestling Hornets soared to second place in the 2018 Midland Empire Conference Championships tournament Saturday, Jan. 20.
Senior Burton and freshman Keithley each won four bouts without a defeat, providing a combined 70.5 of CHS’ 314.5 team points that were second only to Smithville’s 350. Last year’s kings, the Cameron Dragons, were third with 304, followed relatively-closely by St. Joseph: Benton’s 296.
Supplementing the two CHS first-place finishers’ contributions were three second-place Hornets – senior Zack Boyles at 120, junior Lavery Jones at 132, and sophomore Matt Callen at 220. Four more Chillicotheans took third places.
The runnerup team showing is Chillicothe’s best yet in the 10 years the conference has conducted a tournament, which now decides the league’s team champion. CHS’ best finish in the nine prior conference tourneys was third place.
The last time the mat Hornets could call themselves MEC runnersup was in 2002-03, when the team crown was decided by records in round-robin dual matches throughout the season. Fifteen years ago, Chillicothe won six of its seven league duals, losing only to champion Platte County.
Chillicothe’s last MEC team title in wrestling came nearly a quarter-century ago, in 1993-94.
The Hornets’ picking of a pair of individual titles was the first time they have had multiple MEC champs in five years. Thaddeus Rinehart took the 126-pounds laurels and then-freshman Aaron Baker the 132 crown in 2013’s tourney. CHS’ only champion in the intervening four years was last year’s 132-pound title by Chase Minnick, who then continued on to win state.
Burton’s conquering of his weight class was not a surprise, although it had not been a sure thing. Neither did it come with much drama as the 2017 third-place state medalist pinned all four of his opponents and went beyond the first period only once.
He closed out his day by gaining his 31st win in 35 bouts this season with his quickest finish of the day, a 51-seconds pin of Camren Hedgpeth of Cameron. That effectively clinched the second-place team finish, too.
Keithley, being a freshman, was a less-proven commodity going in, but he was in command in all of his bouts, too, although one went the 6-minutes distance.
The youngster (28-6) began his day with an 11-0 major decision, then followed up with a pair of wins by fall – the first in the second period and the second in the first segment.
After not having an opponent for the fourth round of the 5-wrestlers class, Keithley dominated a Benton opponent in a 16-0 technical fall that was halted after 3:34.
Coming up only one win shy of titles of their own, Boyles, Jones, and Callen each won four times in five bouts, although two of Boyles’ victories were forfeits as there were only four entries in his weight division.
While Jones wrestled each of the other five competitors in his weight, the 220-pounds division in which Callen was involved had a full 8-man contingent, so it was formatted differently – with two 4-man groups which battled, round-robin style to advance two from each group to a semifinals/finals mini-bracket.
Callen (23-12) posted a second-period pin and 10-2 and 13-3 major decisions during round-robin action to earn the right to meet the other group’s second-best qualifier in the semis. The Hornets 10th grader when decisioned Cody McKimens of Smithville tio reach the title bout.
In it, Jacob Dowell of Benton won by fall at 3:14, leaving Callen second.
Jones (28-10) likewise won his first four bouts – three times by falls and then by a 7-0 decision.
His last bout ended up being a de facto championship bout with Smithville’s Blake Ackerman, who closed Jones out two seconds before the first period was to end. At the time, Jones trailed only 2-0, although Ackerman probably would have been awarded two or three more “back” points had he not completed the pin.
After Saturday’s action, Jones and Keithley now are tied for second-most 2017-18 wins by a Hornet behind Burton’s 31.
Boyles’ big day saw his ascend to the 20-wins level for the seaeson while claiming second place.
He started with a 9-4 win over a Benton foe, then had two rounds off as only four of the eight conference members had a 120-pounds entrant.
Once back on the mat, the CHS senior improved on his first showing, besting a Maryville wrestler by a 12-4 major decision that not only sent him into his last bout with a chance to be a conference champion, but also aided the team’s cause.
In his last bout – like Jones’ finale, effectively a title showdown with Cameron’s Thorin Green, Boyles (20-14) came ever so close to pulling off the unexpected championship, but ended up on the short end of a 5-4 decision.
The quartet of Chillicothe wrestlers who claimed third in their weight classes at Maryville were 285-pounds junior Keegan Valdez, 126-pounds sophomore Colton Sewell, 145-pounds sophomore Dawson Wheeler, and 195-pounds senior Erek Brose.
Brose (25-10) won two contested bouts by fall and dropped two the same way, in addition to having one forfeit win.
Valdez (15-10) also split four contested bouts with two falls each way plus a forfeit.
Wheeler (21-15) won twice by fall and once by forfeit also, but his losses were a 2-1 decision and a pin.
Sewell took his three victories the same as his fellow third-place Hornets with a pair of pins and a forfeit. His setbacks, however, were by major and regular decisions.

Next for the Chillicothe wrestlers will be only their second home appearance of the season (with one more slated after that). Tuesday night, they are to host Trenton at the middle school fieldhouse at 6 p.m.