Wrestling Hornets put half on state medals stand
Rader, Miller claim sixth-place medals
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
INDEPENDENCE — Half of Chillicothe High School’s group of 2021 state wrestling tournament qualifiers walked away from Cable Dahmer Arena at Independence with something tangible last Thursday.
Senior Sheldon Rader repeated as a sixth-place finisher – one weight division heavier this time at 113 pounds – and sophomore Brock Miller earned the same finish in the 182-pounds division in his debut in the Class 2 boys’ MSHSAA State Wrestling Championships.
“Overall, in a year like this year, to get four qualifiers through our sectional and get two state medalists – one a sophomore – is pretty exciting with the super-young team we’ve got coming back,” CHS head coach Chad Smith told the C-T after the Hornets’ final bout. “I’m pretty pleased.”
Chillicothe’s other two state participants – freshmen Brody Cairns at 152 pounds and Lane McCoy at 106 – sustained two defeats each without winning to be eliminated early. McCoy lost a 9-2 decision in the opening round and a 9-0 major decision in the consolation “wrestlebacks.” Cairns dropped a 12-4 major decision in his state debut and a 9-0 major decision in his second outing.
“Lane and Brody both had pretty tough draws because they had placed third (at sectional), but I felt like they competed very well,” commented Smith. “… I’m really excited to see what the future holds for them.”
Both Rader and Miller experienced some controversy in their medal bouts with officials’ rulings in favor of their opponents negating what would or could have been victories for each.
Facing Chris Sullivan (37-9), a Harrisonville freshman, in the finals, Rader (36-14) gained the first takedown after only 20 seconds and still had his foe controlled as the final seconds of the opening period ticked off. However, just as the whistle sounded, Sullivan was attempting to reverse control with the Chillicothean battling to hold on.
To the dismay of Rader and Hornets coaches nearby, the two officials huddled and ruled the reversal attempt had been completed before time expired, giving Sullivan two points and tying the bout after one period.
That proved ultra-critical, after the pair exchanged reverses in the second period to remain tied and the third period – with Rader on the “bottom” by his choice, trying to at least escape for a lead-seizing fifth point – ended without any scoring. Without the disputed reversal at the first-period whistle, Rader in theory would have led 4-2 and won the bout, although, under that scenario, the Harrisonville wrestler might have attempted different tactics in the last frame.
As it was, though, the official score was 4-4 and, within five seconds in the “sudden-victory” first overtime, Sullivan lunged in and got a takedown that won him the bout, 6-4, and made Rader sixth for a second-straight year.
About an hour later, Miller (36-12) opposed Lane Brattin (37-15), a junior from Pleasant Hill, in a scrambly bout with multiple lead changes and quick switches of control, one of which the Chillicothe camp deserved to produce a Miller second-period win by fall. When it was not, it led to another turnaround which keyed a Brattin comeback from a 10-6 deficit and, ultimately a Miller loss by fall after 4:21 while trailing only 13-10.
The Chillicothean gained the first takedown, but concluded the opening period tied 5-5. Brattin escaped Miller’s starting control in the second period not quite a minute in, but the Hornet swiftly attacked again. A takedown segued into Miller putting Brattin partially on his back.
As the chief referee edged in close to the wrestlers to watch for Miller to get his opponent’s shoulder blades on the mat simultaneously while counting for near-fall points, Smith reported he subsequently contended to the officials, Brattin’s attempt to scoot a bit out from under Miller’s body weight brought Miller into contact with the chief referee.
According to the CHS coach, that knocked Miller off-balance and weakened his grip on his opponent to the degree that Brattin put Miller’s back partially on the mat. While the Chillicothean came out of the exchange with the takedown and three near-fall points, the action subsequent to the contact between the official and Miller resulted in a reversal and 2-points near-fall for Brattin. Rather than the pin he felt Miller either had earned or was about to earn before the inadvertent collision or should have been awarded because of the contact which cost him control, to Smith’s disappointment after a between-periods discussion with the official, the bout was continued on to the third period with a tied score of 10-10.
“I felt like the match should have been stopped right there,” the CHS coach commented to the C-T afterward,” referring to the Miller-referee contact which put the Hornet at an undeserved disadvantage, “but the referee’s always right.
“… They ended up sticking with their original call and you’ve got to respect them for that. It’s their job. (Your job as a coach) is you’ve always got to fight for your guys.”
With Miller having chosen the “bottom” position for the third segment, the Pleasant Hill wrestler kept him down until finally getting the Hornet partially on his back for a 3-points near-fall 45 seconds in. Not quite a half-minute later, Brattin at last earned the win by fall at 4:21.
While their near-miss closing bouts brought some dismay, it was moderated some by the fact that both subsequently stood on the medals podium.
That was because, when it came “do-or-die” time in the consolation semifinals, each delivered a dominating, medal-securing win by fall – and in the exact same length of time – 2:22.
Following his senior teammate’s example, Miller scored all seven points of his bout, surging to a 5-0 lead with a takedown and 3-points near-fall in the first 15 seconds. Ahead by that score after the first period, he gained another takedown 12 seconds into the next one before, 70 seconds later, punching his ticket to the medals podium Thursday evening.
For Rader, battling on the pressure-packed consolation side of the state-tournament bracket apparently was no big deal.
One year after marching through the consolation bracket of the 106-pounds division of the 2020 Class 2 state championships with 4-consecutive victories to reach the medals stand, he posted a second-straight second-period “wrestlebacks” win by fall at mid-afternoon Thursday to clinch a 2021 medal.
Rader seized a 2-0 lead over freshman Bryant Schwent of Ste. Genevieve after one period when he completed a takedown with eight seconds remaining. In the second period, the Hornet reversed Schwent for a 4-0 advantage about 45 seconds in.
In short order, Rader put the Ste. Genevieve youngster’s back partially on the mat for five seconds, giving Rader three more points for a near-fall before he positioned himself with better leverage to earn the pin at 2:22.
As was recognized beforehand, Rader’s route to returning to the medals stand almost surely would require winning a pair of consolation bouts because, even if he won his opener as he did, it would pit him against a defending state champion, Sam Ewing of Pleasant Hill, in the championship quarterfinals.
Ewing (46-1), a sectional champion and thus owner of a first-round bye, made the expected short work of the CHS senior on his dominating way to the 113-pounds title. He gained a takedown of Rader at 15 seconds and, after an escape by the Hornet, again at 43 seconds.
This time, Ewing kept him there, earning two near-fall points at the 1-minute mark and completing the pin at 1:29.
Under different circumstances, Rader might well have finished fourth, his head coach noted.
“It was a tough draw.,” Smith noted. “A kid (from Savannah) that he had pinned twice during the season made the (state) semifinals and he got third in our district (behind Rader).
“It’s just the way the draw goes sometimes.”
In the title bout, Ewing posted a 10-0 major decision over Caleb Husch, who Rader defeated for the Midland Empire Conference Championships crown earlier in the season before losing to him in the sectional finals.
Said Smith of the lone senior the Hornets had in their postseason lineup, “Two-times state medalist and 2-times academic All-State for Sheldon, winning conference, district, and our home tournament, and breaking 100 (career) wins – he had a real good season.”
As for Miller, “Brock wrestled extremely well,” Smith summarized the sophomore’s performance throughout the tourney. “Just been trying to get him to have some confidence and he was just clicking at the right time.
“I think winning district was huge for his confidence. … They put him in the state (top-10) rankings and his confidence has grown and this is only going to help.
“In a (mainly) senior-junior weight class, for a sophomore to come in there and get a medal is going to be big for him in the future.”
While neither CHS freshman came particularly close to victory in their state bouts, neither Cairns nor McCoy looked intimidated by the atmosphere or stakes, both getting in 11 valuable-for-the-future minutes of competition against high-level opposition.
“That is the one good thing about our sectional (tournament’s difficulty),” Smith observed. “If you get here, you belong here. There weren’t any ‘free rides.’”
Given that Miller also was a first-timer at state, the Chillicothe coach was pleased by what the Hornets quartet showed.
“I thought the boys wrestled really well overall, especially three of them being new to the state tournament,” said Smith.