CHS’ Rader, Miller district wrestling champions
Top nine sectional qualifiers; Hornets fourth as team in district tourney here
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
With senior 2020 state medalist Sheldon Rader and sophomore Brock Miller leading the way with individual title-winning performances, Chillicothe High School’s wrestling Hornets posted a strong fourth-place team finish and advanced nine team members to the next step along the trail to the state tournament in last Saturday’s Class 2 District 7 Tournament CHS hosted.
Rader, at 113 pounds, and Miller, at 182, had different winning methods for capturing their solo crowns, Chillicothe's first district champs in three years.
The youngster pinned all three of his opponents in less than three minutes, including a surprisingly-quick 53-seconds stoppage of top seed Hunter Riley of Odessa in the finals. He opened with a 1:38 victory over Ryder Comegys of Boonville and followed up with a 2:52 win over Kirksville’s Jack Thomas in the semifinals.
The veteran didn’t get a true “fall” over any of his three foes, but did open with a third-period technical fall over Tyler James of Moberly when he took a 16-1 lead. He then out-pointed semifinals opponent Billy Lyons of Odessa 15-8, pulling away in the last period, before posting a commanding 13-4 major decision over Gavin Mills of Marshall in the championship round.
“Brock had an outstanding tournament and is wrestling really well right now!” complimented Chad Smith, CHS head coach, “and Sheldon had a great tournament and major-decisioned a state-ranked opponent in his finals match.”
By dint of their finishes, Rader and Miller project to have solid chances to place among the top three at sectional at Excelsior Springs in two weeks, the level of finish required to advance to next month’s state tournament. Rader will be after his third-consecutive state-tournament appearance, a resumé which includes last year’s sixth-place finish at 106 pounds.
Also stamping himself as a top contender for a state appearance was Hornets 152-pounds freshman Brody Cairns. He finished second at district Saturday, following a quarterfinals bye and semifinals major-decision win (22-10) over Dakotah Courtney of Moberly with a 6-2 loss to Oak Grove’s Carson Smith in the title bout.
“Brody had to avenge a (December) loss to Courtney from Moberly to make the finals,” coach Smith said of the Chillicothe ninth grader’s decisive semifinals triumph.
The other six CHS wrestlers who earned advancement to sectional – junior Wade Horton (220 pounds), sophomores Lucas Reynolds (195) and Bryce Dominique (145), and frosh Gauge Chenet (160), Justin Pyle (132), and Lane McCoy (106) – figure to have an uphill climb after finishing either third or fourth at district.
McCoy, who currently shares with classmate Cairns the team lead for bout wins (34) this season – each with one more than Rader, and Chenet snared third-place medals, while Dominique, Reynolds, Pyle, and Horton claimed the fourth and final advancement spots in their weights.
McCoy followed a first-round bye with a loss to eventual runnerup Seth Webb of Oak Grove. He rebounded with a 38-seconds pin in his consolation-semifinal “bubble-round” bout to his trip to sectional certain, then won by fall in 2:07 in the third-place bout.
Chenet might well rate as the Hornets’ “surprise of the tournament.”
Having been in and out of the varsity lineup until even earlier this month and owning only a 10-18 record at Saturday’s outset, he kick-started the Hornets’ strong day when he rallied in the third period to pin a Boonville opponent in the quarterfinals.
Even when he was “stuck” by eventual champion Gavin Gross (39-1) of powerhouse Odessa in the championship semifinals – Gross won the title bout in only 13 seconds more than that, the young Hornet propelled himself to sectional with a first-period pin of his “bubble” opponent and capped his big day with a win by fall with a half-minute left in his third-place clash with a Kirksville grappler.
Of the Hornets’ fourth-place finishers, Dominique, Reynolds, and Horton alternated wins with losses over the course of four bouts each. Both of Reynolds’ triumphs were by fall, while Horton and Dominique each had a win by pin and one by decision.
Pyle received a quarterfinals bye, so he only had three bouts. After losing in the championship semifinals, he clinched advancement to sectional with a 6-4 decision win.
At sectional, the top four District 7 finishers will be grouped with the top four from District 8 for another double-elimination competition. In order for this year’s state tournaments for each of the four boys’ classifications to be conducted on a single day, the number of qualifiers will be limited to 12, rather than 16. That means only three from each of the four sectionals will move on.
A sectional tournament between districts and state was reinstituted this year – for the first time since 2004 (ironically, also the last time CHS had hosted a district tourney) – as a means of minimizing the potential spreading of COVID-19.
Rather than bringing wrestlers and some fans from about twice as many schools to half as many sites, as has been done since 2005, the three-tier postseason approach was renewed.
In addition, the duration of the state-qualifying process was elongated with two weeks between districts and sectionals and nearly that between sectionals and state. That will allow for the possibility of a wrestler who qualified for the next level of competition, but discovered, in the immediate aftermath of the prior event, to need quarantining for the coronavirus time to potentially complete that isolation and still compete.
The nine Chillicothe advancers was perhaps slightly more than might have been anticipated, particularly given the youth of the Hornets’ district lineup; half of it was freshmen. However, it was not a shockingly large total.
Collectively, the CHS boys amassed 124-1/2 team points, leaving them right in the middle of the 7-teams pack. In a close, close finish for the district team crown, Odessa (163) nosed out runnerup Kirsville (159) and Oak Grove (157).
“Our district was, by far, the toughest in our class and our boys wrestled really well,” Smith opined. “Half of our team wrestled above their seeds.”
Of those Hornets whose seasons ended, only one managed to pick up a win along the way Saturday. That was by junior heavyweight Christian Peniston, who recovered from his 4-1 opening-round loss to pin a Marshall foe in 43 seconds. However, with a sectional berth at stake, he was pinned by a Moberly wrestler with a 39-4 record. Peniston ended his season with a 24-13 mark.
Dropping both of their bouts Saturday (final season records listed in parentheses) were sophomore Dawson Sutton (16-31) at 170 pounds, freshman Cayden Larson (20-25) at 138, freshman Logan Clark (12-20) at 126, and freshman Joel Edwards (15-21) at 120.
Coach Smith expressed appreciation to all those who in any way assisted in Chillicothe’s application for the right to host the district tournament and/or, once it was awarded to CHS, supported it with their time, work, talent, and contributions.
“It was really good for us to host the district tournament,” the Hornets program’s all-time leader in dual-match victories coached, a record he claimed late in the regular season.
“Everyone likes to compete at home and we got two home tournaments this season.”
Chillicothe also hosted a regular-season tournament for the first time since the late 1980s in mid-January.