Seniors Sewell, Wheeler, Washburn joined by sophomore Peniston as Midland Empire Conference's best Saturday (Jan. 25, 2020). Largest CHS group of league champs in 22 years. Lady Hornets' Ireland takes second

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — For a third year in a row, Chillicothe (Mo.) HS’ Hornets finished as team runnerup in the Midland Empire Conference Championships Saturday (Jan. 25, 2020).
While each of the previous two had featured more-widespread contributions throughout the lineup to the high finish, this time, CHS grabbed more gold.
Having had a pair of individual MEC champions in 2018 and 2019, this year’s Hornets had their biggest haul of individual top prizes this century as seniors Dawson Wheeler (160 pounds), Isaac Washburn (220), and Colten Sewell (132) and sophomore Christian Peniston (285) all went undefeated on the day in Benton High School’s “Pop” Springer Gymnasium. For Sewell, it was a repeat crown.
The 4-kings hand the 2019-20 Hornets dealt themselves was one less than repeat team title-winner Cameron had. It equaled the most Chillicothe conference champions since 1995 when Lendy Copple, Andy Myers, Jeff Beemer, Jason Dewitt, and Jeff Marriott all reigned at the MEC tourney. The 1998 Hornets also had four league champs – John Ellis, Manion Cole, Deryck Ripley, and Wyatt Pickering.
The Dragons finished comfortably in front of Chillicothe in the team standings with 387 points. Chillicothe had 298 with Benton 51-1/2 points back of the Hornets in third.  Back when Chillicothe last had at least four individual champions at the league tourney, the conference team title was determined by round-robin dual-match results during the season, not by team points earned by a team’s wrestlers during the tournament.
While the Hornets had four champions, the second-year Lady Hornets team – with six girls participating – came somewhat close to having their first-ever MEC mat queen.
At 130 pounds, sophomore Karyna Ireland was one of only three entrants, so when she pinned her Savannah opponent in 1:22 in her opening bout, she stood only one victory away from being the conference’s girls’ champion at that weight.
However, after giving Cameron’s Kierstin Manley some trouble early on, the Lady Hornet (6-4 for the season) suffered a loss by fall 26 seconds into the second period. That left her in second place.
She proved to be the only Chillicothe girl to win a bout Saturday.
CHS’ boys’ division champions prevailed by winning either four or five bouts. Washburn and Wheeler each wrestled five, both capturing three by fall and two by major decisions. Sewell successfully defended his 132-pounds crown with a win by fall, two major decisions, and a 5-0 decision (along with one bye). Peniston swept through four contested bouts with pins, the first being the toughest as he needed five minutes to subdue Brayden Addington of St. Joseph: Lafayette. Peniston had one bye also.
Both Washburn and Peniston took on every other entrant in their weight class in full, round-robin competition, so their last bout technically wasn’t a “championship” bout. However, because Peniston’s opponent, Wyatt Burnett of Cameron, also was undefeated when they squared off in the last round, it effectively was for the crown.
In that closing bout, Peniston finished the Dragon exactly midway through, according to official results posted online. That last victory left the Hornet with an 18-5 record on the season.
Washburn, at the opposite end of the spectrum, actually met and defeated the eventual second-place finisher, Ben Walker of Savannah, in his opening bout. The Hornet took it by fall at 3:35. Washburn now has a team-most 19 wins this season, having lost three times.
At 132 pounds, Sewell won by fall in the first period in the first round, then had his bye. In against Connor Timmons of host Benton in the third round, he won 5-0. Moving into bracketed semifinals after that, the Hornet again posted a shutout, this time a 9-0 major decision.
That paired him with Cameron’s Brecken Gates in the final, since Gates decisioned Timmons in the semifinals. Once more, Sewell was in control and command throughout, registering another major decision by a nearly-identical 9-1 margin to improve his season record to 15-2.
CHS’ Wheeler, at 160, likewise won three times in his sub-group – by fall the first two bouts and then by 11-2 major decision – to get a spot on the 2-rounds championship bracket. In the semifinals, he major-decisioned Connor Weiss of Maryville 13-4 before gaining a last-period win by fall over Hunter Armstrong of Benton at 4:21. The five triumphs on the day left Wheeler owning a team-best 14-1 record.
Beyond the 4-deep honor roll of Chillicothe champions, the Hornets had one runnerup and four third-place competitors.
Junior Sheldon Rader won his first two bouts in the 4-man 106-pounds class, but Cameron’s Caleb Husch bested him 6-1 in their third-round bout which effectively was the championship bout. Rader now stands 17-3.
Finishing third in their respective weight divisions were Chillicothe’s Evan Loucks (195), Brock Miller (170), Aidan Zimmerman (120), and Bryce Dominique (138). Of that group, Miller won three of five bouts, while the others split four.
Isaih Kille did not get a chance to try to earn third place after qualifying for the semifinals at 182 pounds. The Hornet medically forfeited his last bout following a 1:28 loss by fall in the semis. Kille only recently got into competition after recovering from a late-football-season lower leg fracture.
Also competing for Chillicothe’s boys in the 2020 MEC Championships were Jaxon Albertson at 126 pounds, Ruger Cox at 145, and Nickolas Heldenbrand at 152. All either a freshman or sophomore, they managed only one win (Heldenbrand) in 13 total bouts.
The Hornets, as anticipated, did not have a 113-pounds entry.
The other Lady Hornets who competed at St. Joseph Saturday were Summer Drake (135), Abigail Clements (110), Haliey Fahling (152), Addison Lewis (142), and Gabrielle Wigchert (120).
Next for Chillicothe’s wrestlers will be a home make-up date this Monday (Jan. 27) with St. Joseph: Lafayette and Savannah the opposition in duals competition. Those two schools were slated to visit this past Thursday, but that was postponed, due to Chillicothe not having school as a result of treacherous rural road conditions.
CHS also will be on the home mat Tuesday when it hosts Trenton.