UCM-signee Rader, youngsters shined on CHS mat in 2020-21

Hornets’ only senior regular headed to next level; strong potential among returnees

Paul Sturm
Chillicothe News
Sheldon Rader, a 2021 Chillicothe High School graduate and one of two 2020-21 CHS wrestling Hornets to earn a state-tournament medal, signed last month to accept a scholarship from the University of Central Missouri at Warrensburg to be a member of its mat program in 2021-22. Joining him for the signing ceremony were, from left: Front – stepfather Shaun Crockett, mother Janelle Crockett, and grandmother Martha Sue Gaston; Back – CHS assistant coach Michael Marriott, head coach Chad Smith, and assistant coach Joey Rinehart.

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor

A 2020-21 Chillicothe High School wrestling season which produced a pair of state-tournament medalists and multiple program records – including for career coaching wins – had a final feather to put in its figurative cap last month when one of its three seniors accepted an offer to wrestle on scholarship in college.

Sheldon Rader, a Class 2 state tournament sixth-place finisher at 106 pounds as a junior and 113 pounds this past March, recently signed a NCAA letter-of-intent to go to the University of Central Missouri at Warrensburg on a wrestling scholarship.

“Pretty excited about it,” he shared with local reporters after the May signing event at the high school.

“… I think it’s going to be the best competition I can get and also be close to home.”

He noted it was only last fall that the possibility arose.

“I really wasn’t expecting to go into college (wrestling), but when I started colleges interested and messaging me (last October), I took (the opportunity) and I’m going with it,” he revealed.

Rader, not only a 2-times All-State wrestler for his mat accomplishments, but also a 2-times Academic All-State wrestling honoree, acknowledged that, when he began grappling at age 8, he had no long-term ambition for doing it all the way into his post-secondary education years. However, with that opportunity having arisen, the slim Chillicothean declared, “Now that I’ve come this far, I think I can do good in college.”

“He’s worked extremely hard to get where he is,” Chad Smith, Rader’s head coach throughout his CHS career, stated after the signing.

Noting Rader has qualified to be on a team representing Missouri in freestyle competition this summer, Smith commented, “He’s one of those guys that he’s a great ‘program builder’ because of his love of the sport and it carries over to everybody else with his hard work and discipline.”

“… We’re excited he’s moving on.”

Rader finished his CHS career with 125 bout victories, seventh-most in program history.

At the NCAA Division II level, the lightest weight division is 125 pounds, so Rader, whose comparatively lanky build seems to comfortably provide a frame for adding significant muscle weight, figures to spend his first year at the regional school not only studying, but eating and weight training in “redshirt” status.

“Hopefully, getting that year (of practice, physical development) in, I get better, get stronger, and put on some weight,” Rader told reporters last month.

“His height and length is going to help him,” Smith predicts. “It’s going to be a little bit different; he’s always been trying to stay down (in weight during high school).”

While putting on the extra weight to meet the NCAA minimum-weight standard will be one target, improvement in skill and technique obviously will be required to make the step up in competition level. Smith says that Rader has proven himself capable in those areas.

“He’s very good on the mat,” the CHS coach said of the advancing youngster’s skills, particularly when in a defensive situation. “… He’s very good at picking up technique and improving.”

Beyond the physical component of the extremely-arduous sport, Rader has reached this level because of his capacity to deal with the mental and psychological sides of it.

“His competitiveness is one of the biggest things,” praised Smith of the CHS wrestler honored with this past season’s Dave Kinen “Never Quit” Award, presented to the Hornet with the greatest work ethic and “never quit” spirit the late Hornets coach and award namesake displayed during his tragic battle with “Lou Gehrig’s disease” (ALS). “He’s got a big heart. … He doesn’t ever give up on a match.

“…He’s not always the strongest guy, but he finds ways to keep himself in tough matches and win by his match strategy and mat ‘smarts.’”

In Rader’s senior season in CHS Hornets red and black, his example and leadership, as well as his competitive performance, helped paced Chillicothe wrestling to another quite-successful campaign.

In team terms, the Hornets posted a 22-7 record in dual-match competition, third-most wins in a season in program history.

On the way to posting those 22 dual wins, this year’s squad boosted Smith into the top spot on the Chillicothe head coaches’ list for match triumphs.

Entering the year 118-33, 18 victories behind long-time coach Doug Long’s top total, after only a 6-6 start to the campaign, a 9-1 stretch in early January allowed Smith to pull even in wins with three victories at St. Joseph: Lafayette on Jan. 21.

After a pause for the MEC tournament and a cancellation, at Macon on Jan. 28, a double-dual with the host Tigers and North Callaway resulted in a pair of triumphs and the breaking of Long’s standard.

On Jan. 28, 2021, the Chillicothe High School wrestling Hornets defeated both host Macon and North Callaway in dual matches, pushing head coach Chad Smith (sixth from left) to No. 1 on CHS' career coaching wins list.

When two more victories were tacked on in the regular-season finale a few nights later, Smith concluded his seventh season at the wrestling Hornets’ helm with a 140-40 record in duals.

The ’20-’21 Chillicothe squad also earned second place in the Midland Empire Conference Championships tournament for a fourth year in a row, while qualifying four members for the Class 2 state tournament.

At state, with its unique 1-day format this year (due to COVID-19 precautions) while highly-promising freshmen Brody Cairns (152 pounds) and Lane McCoy (106) saw their “baptism” last only two bouts before being eliminated, Rader and sophomore Brock Miller (182) each earned their way to the medals stand with a split of six bouts. Like Rader, Miller claimed sixth place. It was the first time since 2017 that Chillicothe had produced two state medal-winners.

During CHS’ 2020-21 season, in addition to Smith cracking the coaching wins mark, three “on the mat” marks fell, two taken down by the freshman state qualifiers.

Cairns finished with 22 wins by fall, eclipsing former 2-times state medalist Colten Sewell’s freshman mark of 21 in 2016-17.

McCoy earned 215 team-scoring points as he went 37-13 for the year, claiming 20 victories by fall, 13 by forfeit, two by technical fall, one by major decision, and one by decision. That also exceeded a Sewell ninth-grade record (198).

The other varsity-level record was claimed by sophomore Lucas Reynolds when he pinned a 195-pounds division foe after only nine seconds. The previous fastest CHS win in that weight division (or its prior nearest equivalent of 189 pounds) had been 13 seconds – done first by Cory Lowe in 2005-06 and matched by Erek Brose in 2016-17 and Evan Loucks in 2019-20.

Other statistical team leaders included: Most wins – (boys) McCoy, Cairns (37), (girls) Ireland (14); Most wins by fall – (boys) Miller (29), (girls) Clements, Ireland (7) Most takedowns – (boys) sophomore Bryce Dominique (88), (girls) Clements (nine); 

In terms of special award recognition given to 2020-21 CHS Hornets and Lady Hornets at season’s end, sharing the girls’ program’s Dave Kinen “Never Quit” Award were juniors Abby Clements, Chillicothe’s first-ever MEC girls’ champion at 112 pounds, and Karyna Ireland.

The past season saw Clements and Rader joined as conference champions by Cairns. All told, nine Hornets and four Lady Hornets placed in the top three in their respective league tournaments, giving them some level of all-MEC status.

For the Lady Hornets, tha group included Addison Lewis, Hailey Fahling, and Ireland. For the Hornets, it encompassed Joel Edwards, Dawson Sutton, Wade Horton, Christian Peniston, Reynolds, Dominique, and Miller.

In the postseason, Miller and Rader were district champions, while Gauge Chenet, Justin Pyle, Ireland, Clements, Horton, Reynolds, Dominique, Cairns, and McCoy also were sectional qualifiers.