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Nine Hornets wrestlers eye state qualifying Saturday

Class 2 sectional tourney at Excelsior Springs then; no Lady Hornets make state

Paul Sturm
Chillicothe News
Brody Cairns, Chillicothe High School freshman, has a headlock on Dakotah Courtney of Moberly during their semifinals bout in the Class 2 District 7 tournament in Chillicothe Feb. 13. Cairns won a major decision in the bout before finishing second. He'll be among nine CHS Hornets competing this Saturday (Feb. 27) in the Class 2 Sectional 4 tournament, trying to advance to the March 11 state tournament.

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor

Nine Chillicothe High School wrestling Hornets continue to prepare for their crack at advancing to this year’s unique state tournament this coming Saturday, but a pair of Lady Hornets had that possibility eliminated last Saturday.

Having advanced two of their three district-tournament entrants on to the sectional tournament at Platte City as fourth-place finishers, the Lady Hornets didn’t have particularly good prospects for having either 112-pounds entrant Abby Clements or 137-pounder Karyna Ireland post the top-3 finish at sectional necessary to advance to state. As it turned out, the two juniors – each in their third year with the CHS program – had to settle for the distinction of being the first Chillicothe girls ever to move beyond district.

In this past Saturday’s action at Platte County High School, Midland Empire Conference champion Clements had the slightly-better showing, even though both she and Ireland dropped both of their bouts.

Better things are expected when district champions Brock Miller and Sheldon Rader lead the Hornets into their sectional competition.

Also competing will be district runnerup Brody Cairns, third-place finishers Lane McCoy and Gauge Chenet, and fourth-place finishers Wade Horton, Lucas Reynolds, Bryce Dominique, and Justin Pyle.

A sectional tournament between districts and state was reinstituted this year – for the first time since 2004 – as a means of minimizing the potential spreading of COVID-19.

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.

“This year's district and sectional tournaments are as tough with top-level competition as I ever remember,” Chad Smith, Chillicothe seventh-year head coach, assesses for the C-T.

“Then you limit the state bracket to 12 wrestlers, meaning only three will get to move on (in each weight class) and every wrestler from each team is going to have to wrestle well if they want to move on to the state tournament.

“For example, at the 285-pounds weight class (which doesn’t involve any Chillicotheans), you have Nos. 2-5-ranked guys in the state and only room for three of them. There are several weight classes that are deep like that.”

Prospectively, being a first- or second-place finisher at district suggests that wrestler has at least a decent chance to get through to state, but, with only three spots available per sectional, even being a district champ won’t be even a near-guarantee of advancement.

Rader, at 113 pounds, hopes to return to state a third time. He went at 106 the past two years and rallied all the way through the consolation bracket last year to capture a sixth-place medal.

He enters the sectional with a 32-11 record.

Miller, only a sophomore, stands at 31-9 on the year going to sectional.

His performance at district helps his positioning on the sectional bracket, but he still figures to have to duplicate the quality of his district performance or better it to battle his way into the top three at 182 pounds this weekend.

On the “plus” side for him, while Midland Empire Conference and District 8 champ Jay Greiner, who defeated Miller by technical fall in the MEC Tourney finals, will be among the opponents at sectional, Miller owns wins by fall over a majority of the other six.

Cairns, the 2020-21 Hornets’ current wins co-leader at 34-14, figures to be on the borderline, as far as getting through sectional to debut at state.

In addition to District 7 champ Carson Smith of Oak Grove, who decisioned him 6-2 two weeks ago, he’ll have to contend with District 8 champ Bishop Rush of St. Joseph: Benton, who wrestled at 145 pounds when Cairns won the MEC title at 152. The Hornet’s advancement might come down to besting senior Clinton McCauley (21-14) of Excelsior Springs. the District 8 runnerup, but it’s also possible Cairns might work his way into the title bout, which would mean he already was state-bound.

“They put themselves in a good spot, but will still need to wrestle well to qualify,” Smith says of those three Hornets.

Despite a strap from his headgear having shifted to right across his eyes, Chillicothe (Mo.) HS junior wrestler Wade Horton maintains his concentration and, back to his opponent, spreads his weight across the torso of Christian Medina of Marshalll just before being awarded a win by fall at 2:08 of their 220-pounds consolation-semifinal bout in the Feb. 13 Class 2 District 7 Tournament in Chillicothe. The win clinched for Horton advancement to this Saturday's state-qualifying sectional tournament.

McCoy (34-10) at 106 pounds and Chenet (13-19) at 160 pounds figure as moderate longshots to get through, but McCoy might have a path.

The District 8 runnerup has only a middling record and might be vulnerable. It might come down to the Hornet finding a way to reverse his 8-2 loss to District 7 runnerup Seth Webb of Oak Grove two weeks ago. Considering Webb has only a 10-016 record, that’s far from inconceivable.

Fast-finishing freshman Chenet could be a wild card, despite his sub-.500 record, but he’d need to leap-frog several participants with strong records to do so in the usually-highly-competitive weight division.

As for Dominique (145), Reynolds (195), Pyle (132), and Horton (220), the odds against them are very long. However, since all are underclassmen, the opportunity will be valuable, in terms of experience gained. Tangibly, sophomore Reynolds would like to win at least one bout to reach 30 for the season.

“Some of our wrestlers are going to have to climb uphill,” acknowledged Smith, “having to have some upsets if they want to move on, which is possible.”

Of the mindset for the two weeks of practice prior to sectional day, the Chillicothe head coach stated, “What we are trying to focus on is being aggressive and getting to the positions where we are strong and making sure we are in top physical condition .

“This group has wrestled a strong schedule and I feel they are excited about the challenges ahead. …We need to have a solid week of practice to prepare to wrestle our best!”

As of Monday’s writing of this preview, Smith reported all nine CHS sectional qualifiers were in good health at his last report, but noted that last-minute injuries, contraction of the novel coronavirus, or falling subject to a quarantine related to COVID-19 are variables which could come into play at any time, right up to the start of the wrestling at Excelsior Springs High School Saturday.

“That is a major concern for all teams,” he shrugged.

For the Lady Hornets last Saturday, Clements opened the tourney by not only lasting the full six minutes against Chloe Sheckells of Kansas City: Staley, but being relatively competitive in losing by only a 6-1 decision.

That put Clements on the consolation side of the bracket, from where a third-place finish still was a possibility. However, there, Marceline’s Sarah Kussman gained a 4:50 win by fall to eliminate the Lady Hornet. Clements concluded her season with an 11-9 record.

Ireland dropped her opening bout in the 8-competitors event by fall to Finley Bickford of Riverside: Park Hill South at 2:49 and her initial consolation-side outing by fall at 1:42 to MaKayla Provin of Cameron. Ireland closed her season with a team-best 14-7 record.