Hornets senior Lavery Jones at 138 pounds and junior Colten Sewell at 132 were first-round victors Thursday (Feb. 14, 2019), Jones by forfeit. Keithley, Callen still going in consolation bracket

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor

COLUMBIA, Mo. — With seven members of their 10-men 2019 Class 2 state tournament contingent underclassmen and half of them state rookies, the chances of the Chillicothe High School wrestling Hornets advancing a significant number, especially a majority, of them weren’t very high. Getting four – Colten Sewell, Lavery Jones, Connor Keithley, and Matt Callen – through to Friday’s action, even if that came with the aid of a couple of byes, was nothing to sneeze at.

Junior 132-pounds entrant Sewell was the only Chillicothean to win a contested bout on day one, but is one of two Hornets to emerge from Thursday’s action still with a chance to win a state championship.

That’s because senior 138-pounder Jones was awarded a forfeit in his first-round bout when slated foe Jaelen Woods of Normandy, a senior with an excellent 34-3 record, failed to make the weight limit.

That puts Jones (38-9) in against Blake Schmidt (35-9)  of Southern Boone County in a championship-quarterfinals clash of seniors this morning. The winner of that bout clinches a state medal and top-6 finish.

“He’s moving into the quarterfinals against a guy that I think he can do well against,” Chillicothe head coach Chad Smith following Thursday’s session. “I think if we get on the offense and stay after (Schmidt), we can get Lavery through” to tonight’s title semifinals.

The coach said he didn’t anticipate Schmidt’s having had a bout the day before will be a factor against the Hornet, who’s at state for the second-straight year.

“He’ll be all right. We’ll get in a workout (later Thursday) somewhere,” Smith stated.

Sewell will have a defending state champion to deal with next.

After dispatching Jalen McKee (31-7), a University City sophomore, in only 1:17 in the opening round, the CHS 2017 state medal-earner (fourth at 106 pounds) advanced to clash today with Jay Strausbaugh of Logan-Rogersville.

“Colten wrestled really well,” Smith assessed the Chillicothe 11th grader’s opening performance. Sewell scored a first-minute takedown with a hip toss, the coach related, then used a body lock to get leverage for the pin.

Junior Strausbaugh, last year’s 132-pounds champion, improved to 52-1 this year with a 2:55 win by fall yesterday.

“He’s tough,” Smith understated. “Colten’s going to have to come out and wrestle really well to match him. We need to have the intensity level high from the get-go, right out of the gate, if we want to have a shot to beat him, but the thing about Colten is he’s never out of a match. He’s got ‘big move’ capability and he’s solid and he’s wrestling really well right now.”

As with Jones, the winner of the Sewell-Strausbaugh bout this morning is assured of a medal and potentially could be a state champion.

The other two Hornets who’ll continue their 2018-19 season today are senior Callen at 220 pounds and Keithley 100 pounds below that.

Callen (34-10) lost a 5-1 decision to Moberly’s Jarrett Kinder (41-6), a sophomore, then advanced immediately to the second round of consolation wrestlebacks because of a vacancy in the would-be field of 16 entrants. Callen’s only point in his Thursday bout was on a second-period escape.

The Hornets senior won’t know who he’ll oppose at midday today until this morning’s championship quarterfinals are finished.

Keithley finds himself in the same position as he was in as a freshman last year, just one weight-class higher.

A year ago, he lost his opening bout at 113 pounds, then won three times in a row before losing by a close decision in the consolation quarterfinals. Had he won that bout, he’d have medaled.

His challenge now is the same after suffering a 3-0 loss to Logan Blickhan (26-13) of Kirksville. The bout’s only points came in the third period when, with Keithley (24-6) in the defensive position, Blickhan got him turned to his back long enough for a 3-points near-fall.

The Chillicothe 10th grader then bounced back to dominate and finally pin Joseph Lewis (13-26) of Sullivan at 4:09 in the first-round “wrestleback” late yesterday morning.

“Connor wrestled really good on the ‘back’ side,” Smith said of the 120-pounder’s victory over Lewis.

He agrees having the experience of going the “wrestleback” route with some success last year should benefit Keithley today.

“He’s been there and he’s done that. He’s a very tough kid and I think he’s going to be up for the task,” the coach remarked. “He looked really good this last round.”

Of Thursday’s CHS results overall, Smith acknowledged, “We had some matches that did not go our way. Everybody’s tough here. … I felt like our guys gave it their best shot.

“… We’re just going to regroup and try to get after it (Friday).  … We still have a lot of goals we can attain with the guys we have left.”

Not only did the first day of state mark the last day of the season for a half-dozen Hornets, but the final bout was a tough one to end on, not only for ending that Hornet’s season and his career, but for how it happened.

Senior heavyweight Keegan Valdez, defeated in 4:34 by Raymond Villalta (30-6) of Monett in his opener, had scored five consecutive second-period points against Keith Davis of Kirksville in his initial consolation bout with an arm drag takedown and 3-points near-fall that takedown led to.

However, with about 25 seconds left in the second frame, when Valdez tried to execute the same maneuver, he lost his grip as he tried to hook Davis body with his right arm. The misfire left Valdez dropping to the mat off-balance and Davis, who stayed on his feet, covered him for not only a reversal, but good enough positioning that, about 12 seconds later – with a mere eight seconds between himself and the end of the period with its chance to regroup, Valdez was pinned.

That unexpectedly terminated his season with a 39-7 record and completed a career that included three trips to state.

“He had a great season, a great career,” praised Smith.

The other five Chillicotheans who advanced to state also went two and out, none of them able to seriously contend for a win in either bout.

At 152 pounds, junior Dawson Wheeler (37-12) lost to Tristan Morris (38-10) by fall at 3:40 in the opening round, then in 2:22 to Noah Ogden (36-13) of Ste. Genevieve in the wrestlebacks.

At 195, another 11th grader, Isaih Kille (9-7) was finished in 2:47 by Wesley Merriman (35-11) of Monett in round one and by Kaleb Evans (36-13) of Potosi on the consolation side.

At 106 pounds, sophomore Sheldon Rader (31-16) lost by fall after 53 seconds against Owen Uhls (51-1) of Fulton in his state debut and then at 4:14 against Kaden Scarborough of Oak Grove in his consolation bout.

At 182, fellow sophomore Donald McCracken (15-15) was stopped after 2:59 by Evan Shetley (48-5) of Sullivan in his first-round outing, then was pinned by Andrew Bunn (28-26) of Bolivar.

The lone freshman in the Chillicothe group, Aidan Zimmerman at 113 pounds, lost by fall at 51 seconds to Dalton McNeal (34-10) of Ste. Genevieve in his opening bout and then to Canyon Cunningham (38-10) of Bolivar after 2:53 in the wrestlebacks. Zimmerman ended his year with a 16-23 record.

Noting that 70 percent of the Chillicothe state qualifiers were non-seniors, Smith reflected, “We’re still a pretty young team and a lot of these guys got a lot of experience here. … We’re just going to keep moving forward.

“… Getting here is really big for next year’s team.”

With all of the competitors in town, state tournament competition should be able to continue unimpeded today and tomorrow, even if mid-Missouri gets the 2-4 inches of snow considered possible. The weather and travel conditions might interfere with fan attendance to some degree, but probably not much, since most of the wrestlers’ families are either staying at hotels and motels in town or within relatively-short driving distance.