Cameron outdistances Hornets by 25-1/2 points in team race with Chillicothe trying for first Midland Empire Conference team championship in 25 years Monday at Savannah

SAVANNAH, Mo. — With two individual Midland Empire Conference champions for a second year in succession, the Chillicothe (Mo.) HS wrestling Hornets made a big bid for their program’s first Midland Empire Conference team crown in a quarter-century Monday, but came up a bit short.
With the departure to a different conference of last year’s league champion Smithville, Chillicothe looked to have its best opportunity in many years to wear the MEC crown, but, instead, 2017 champ Cameron returned to the top of the heap in a close finish.
Despite the 132-pounds division title won by Chillicothe’s Colten Sewell and Matt Callen’s 220-pounds championship, Cameron finished 25-1/2 points ahead of the Hornets in the team standings, 344.5-319, in the weather-delayed MEC Championships.
The 7-teams tournament (St. Joseph: Bishop LeBlond does not have a wrestling program) at Savannah originally was scheduled to take place last Saturday, but was snowed out and reset for Monday.
When the competition occurred, it unfolded much as anticipated with Cameron, Chillicothe, and St. Joseph: Benton separating themselves from the other four, including Smithville’s replacement in the loop, Kansas City: St. Pius X.
Defeated by Cameron twice in dual matches previously in 2018-19, Chillicothe knew it had an uphill climb in overtaking the Dragons in the tournament setting, but held out hope returning recently-ailing Isaac Washburn and Donald McCracken to the lineup might be enough to get the job done.
It helped, but not quite enough.
McCracken’s stepping back in at 170 pounds and Washburn at 182 meant the Hornets had a full, 14-man lineup, the same as Cameron. Had either not been recovered and healthy enough to answer the bell, there would have been little or no way for Chillicothe to take a run at the Dragons.
As it was, even with senior Callen and junior Sewell earning their respective individual crowns, six other team members placing second, Washburn providing three wins, and McCracken two, the Hornets had to settle for runnerup for a second-straight time.
Chillicothe’s hefty list of conference individual runnersup included Keegan Valdez at 285 pounds, Sheldon Rader at 106, 2017-18 MEC champion Connor Keithley at 120, Lavery Jones at 138, Dawson Wheeler at 152, and Isaih Kille at 195.
Sewell, at 132, won twice each by fall and major decision and once by technical fall to earn his spot on the top step of the medals stand. Both of his pins happened quickly – one with school-record-matching rapidity.
In his second-to-last bout, against Connor Drake of Maryville, the Chillicothe finished the bout in a mere 12 seconds, matching a win 2017 state champion Chase Minnick posted at that weight in a 2015-16 bout.
Gaining his other pin in 43 seconds, Sewell actually went the full six minutes in his tech fall, winning 16-0. His major decisions were by 8-0 and 12-3 margins, the latter in his final bout against Cameron’s 132-pounder.
Callen led the way at 220, going 4-0 with three wins by fall – one in the first period and two in the second. He secured the title with a 6-2 decision over Cameron’s Jacob Husch.
He exited the conference tournament with a team-best 32-2 won-lost record for the season.
Of Chillicothe’s half-dozen second-place medalists, the busiest were Jones, Wheeler, and Valdez, each taking the mat for competition five times.
Valdez might have been the most disappointed Hornet of the day when the big senior missed a conference title by virtue of a loss by fall to St. Joseph: Benton’s Jacob Dowell only four seconds before the whistle would have rescued him at the end of the first period. The loss in Valdez’s third bout of the day came after the Hornet had pinned Dowell in the second period of a tough bout at home last week.
Each of the Chillicothe heavyweight’s four wins were by fall.
Like Valdez, senior Jones couldn’t quite get to the top step of the MEC awards podium in his final attempt in a very good career.
The 138-pounder won twice by fall and once by decision, but actually lost twice – by decision against Cameron’s entrant and by fall to a Benton foe. His three wins Monday did push him to 30 this season and 110 for his career, the seventh-most careers victories in Hornets mat history.
Junior Wheeler and sophomore Keithley came the closest of the CHS runnersup to making it a trio or even quartet of Chillicothe conference champions.
Wheeler had a smorgasbord of results in the tourney – one win each by fall, major decision, decision, and injury default. Right in the middle of his slate of bouts, however, he was edged 1-0 by undefeated Kaden Ehrhardt (10-0) of Savannah, leaving that as all that stood between the Chillicothean and an MEC crown. Ehrhardt was not in the Savannah lineup when the Hornets dominated the Savages in a dual last Thursday.
Keithley, who prevailed in the 113-pounds division as a freshman, dominated his first three foes with two first-period pins and an early-third-period technical fall. However, in his fourth and final outing, he came up just short against Cameron’s Brecken Gates, losing a 5-4 decision. Those two were meeting for the first time this season.
Freshman Rader improved to 25-8 on the season with two 106-pounds wins by fall and one by decision during his four bouts. His only loss was a mid-third-period loss by fall to an outstanding (30-2) Benton opponent.
Kille, who came in with only five 2018-19 bouts under his belt, due to continuing rehab of a football injury, had the lightest workload of any Hornet Monday, being one of a mere three entries in the 195-pounds class.
The junior, now 6-1, provided a key triumph, from the team race perspective, in his first outing, pinning a Cameron opponent with only 11 seconds left in the bout. With a chance to nab a league title with only two bouts, however, he was pinned by a Maryville Spoofhound after only 51 seconds.
Washburn was one of two Hornets to finish third, but the ways he and 113-pounder Aidan Zimmerman did so were quite different.
Like Kille, frosh Zimmerman was one of only three wrestlers at his weight, so he got third, even though he lost both times he wrestled.
Washburn, by contrast, twice won by fall and once by injury default. His two losses were by pin and injury default.
Chillicothe middleweights Kaleb Mullikin (160) and McCracken (170) garnered fourth-place finishes at conference with two wins and three losses each. Both McCracken triumphs were by fall, while Mullikin had a pin and a decision.
Rounding out the Hornets’ lineup in the league tourney, Jake Chapman (145) dropped his four wrestled bouts, but did get an injury default win in the last round, while Gage Leamer (120) came up empty-handed in five attempts.
Following Cameron and Chillicothe in the 2018-19 MEC Championships standings Monday were Benton in third with a strong 288 points, St. Joseph: Lafayette fourth with 173, Savannah with 164, Maryville with 161, and St. Pius X with 140.
Catching a physical break, the Hornets' scheduled road dual match at Trenton tonight (Tuesday) has been postponed, due to the potential for hazardous travel conditions. That makees their next scheduled competition their final home appearance of the season, hosting Lathrop and Lawson this Thursday (Jan. 24) night at 5:30.

A win in either of Thursday's home matches would give CHS head coach Chad Smith his 100th dual win in five seasons guiding the program.