(Updated Feb. 16 at 11:30 p.m. with video, action photos) Seniors Isaac Washburn and Dawson Wheeler will make the trip a third time each, while junior Sheldon Rader does so a second time and sophomore Christian Peniston debuts following top-4 finishes in district tourney Saturday (Feb. 15, 2020)
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
EXCELSIOR SPRINGS, Mo. — Four Chillicothe (Mo.) wrestling Hornets – two seniors, a junior, and s sophomore – will comprise CHS’ representation in next week’s (Feb. 20-22) Class 2 Missouri High School Wrestling Championships after earning top-4 finishes in Friday’s and Saturday’s (Feb. 14-15) tough District 4 tournament at Excelsior Springs High School.
Seniors Isaac Washburn at 220 pounds and Dawson Wheeler at 160 will make the trip to state tourney site Columbia after placing second in their respective weight divisions at district. For each of them, it is their third time qualifying for state, but both remain in search of a first state medal.
Headed to state as a third-place finisher at district is CHS junior Sheldon Rader. He repeated his 2019 qualification in the 106-pounds class.
Making his state debut in a few days will be sophomore Christian Peniston. Like Wheeler and Washburn a 2019-20 Midland Empire Conference champion, he gained for fourth place in the 285-pounds division at district.
Sadly, a probable fifth CHS state qualifier – 2-times state medal-winner Colten Sewell – couldn’t answer the bell for this year’s district tournament, due to lingering soreness from a late-season knee injury, CHS head coach Chad Smith shared with the C-T at the tourney site Saturday.
Had Sewell felt healthy enough in body and mind to compete at district at anything near normal capability, he’d almost certainly have qualified for state a fourth time.
If not for the knee injury he sustained while winning the 132-pounds title at the conference tournament in late January, the CHS senior lightweight probably would have won that weight class at district. The opponent he handily major-decisioned 12-1 in the MEC tourney title bout ended up with the district crown Saturday.
Without Sewell available, CHS had fewer seniors (three) than freshmen (four) in its 13-members district lineup (as virtually always, it was without a 113-pounder) and had eight ninth or 10th graders competing. While their composite showings during the tournament were not successful, in terms of contested bouts won, the experience they got, in addition to savvy accumulated during the regular season should offer hope for a bright CHS wrestling future.
“Most of the year, we had 10 freshmen or sophomores in and out of our varsity lineup, so this experience is huge for them, especially if they made it to state or the ‘bubble’ round,” Smith said of the youngsters he utilized at district.
“We’ve got some really good classes coming up in the middle school, so the future is exciting for Chillicothe.”
The near future, however, will involve trying to extend CHS’ current run of 10 consecutive years with a state medal-winner.
To get that opportunity, Washburn won twice by fall and then by an 11-3 major decision in the semifinals at district to raise his season record to 31-4.
In the title bout, he lost by fall to Odessa’s Colby Wilson in 3:51.
Wheeler followed a first-round bye with a win by fall and then a 6-1 decision victory in the semifinals to earn his crack at a district crown. However, he also was pinned a foe from team district champion Odessa in the finals, lasting 2:13. He’ll tote a 25-5 record to state.
As district runnersup, Wheeler and Washburn figure to get an opening state match against a third-place finisher from other districts. Given the traditional strength and history of success of District 4 representatives at state, both Hornets would seem to possess reasonably-good prospects for notching their first-ever bout wins at state next week.
“Wheeler and Washburn, they wrestled really good tournaments,” complimented the CHS coach.
With only about a handful of entrants in the District 4 106-pounds class this weekend, Rader technically advanced with byes through the first two rounds before losing his first contested bout by a decision.
That put him in the consolation “wrestlebacks,” where he’d have one bout to either clinch a top-4 finish and state berth or be eliminated.
Despite accidentally getting poked in the eye or scratched around the eye in the second period of that do-or-die bout, Rader came on strong following the injury stoppage and earned a pin over a Kansas City opponent at 2:42 to punch his second ticket to state.
For good measure, the Hornet lightweight outlasted a Savannah opponent 12-8 in the third-place bout, notching his team-high 32nd win of the season. Rader’s lost eight bouts.
Rounding out the red-and-black state contingent will be heavyweight Peniston.
He picked up a first-round bye, then pinned his first opponent to be one victory away from state. The CHS sophomore didn’t get that win his next time on the mat, losing to Odessa’s 285-pounder 3-0 in the championship semifinals, a result that put him in a so-called “bubble” bout in the consolation semifinals.
With extension of his season hanging in the balance, Peniston was in a close battle with a Kansas Citian early in the second period when he caught his foe off-balance or out of position and dropped him to the mat. Quickly following up his positional advantage, the Hornet got his weight atop the foe and finished him at 1:27.
That put the Chillicothean in the third-place bout, in which he lost on a second-period fall, leaving Peniston with a 28-12 season record prior to state.
While Rader and Peniston delivered when they absolutely had to in the consolation semifinals, three CHS sophomores were thwarted.
At 120 pounds, Aidan Zimmerman was left one win short of returning to state when he was decisioned 5-0. At 126, Jaxon Albertson sustained a second-period loss by fall at 1:34 to be ousted and, at 152, Nickolas Heldenbrand was stopped after 2:18 to end his day and season just short of continuing on to Columbia.
“I thought the guys came and wrestled really well, even the guys who didn’t get through (to state),” Smith saluted. “We had a lot of guys make it to the ‘bubble’ (consolation semifinals) round that wrestled really well.”
Also competing at district for Chillicothe this weekend were senior Isaih Kille, junior Evan Loucks, and freshmen Brock Miller, Ruger Cox, Bryce Dominique, and Gavin Funk. Funk was the last-second fill-in for Sewell.
Miller had the best showing of that group, winning twice by fall at 170 pounds before his first high school season ended with a fine 25-13 record.
Observed the Hornets’ head coach, “We had a lot of really good performances, all the way from Brock Miller and Bryce Dominique and Isaih Kille, Nickolas Heldenbrand, Jaxon Albertson, and Aidan Zimmerman I thought all wrestled really well – Evan Loucks, as well.
“(They) Had good tournaments and advanced and won matches for us, so I felt like overall we did pretty good.”