By Michael Smith
Before the third- and fifth-place match started at the Class 4 Missouri State High School Wrestling Championships, Liberty already had the state championship wrapped up.
Going into that round the Blue Jays were already 100-plus points ahead of second-place Christian Brothers College, which made it mathematically impossible for anyone to catch them. As one Kansas City area coach put it, Liberty already won the state title before they even walked into Cable Dahmer Arena.
The only question was, How many points would the Blue Jays score? They ended up with 226 as they took first Saturday at the state tournament. CBC was second with 117, Jefferson City and Nixa tied for third with 81 each.
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“Last year, our team set the bar pretty high,” Liberty junior Easton Hilton said. “And upcoming years our goal is just to beat our record from last year.”
The Blue Jays didn’t do that as they scored 241 points at the 2020 state tournament. But even so, Liberty left little suspense about who the team champion was going to be.
“Our guys just worked really hard this year and I am proud of them,” Liberty head coach Dustin Brewer said. “We have a lot of talented guys and they get to showcase that throughout the year.”
Four of those “talented guys” won state championships including Christopher Coates (120), Kage Lenger (138), Kyle Dutton (145) and Wentric Williams III (182).
Eight others won state medals including Hunter Taylor (106, third), Cooper Rider (113, sixth), Hilton (126, third), Jude Axsom (132, fifth) Logan Rathjen (152, second), Jacob Lynn (170, fourth), Jack Horn (195, second) and Jeremiah Cubuyaban (285, third).
Below is a summary of how each weight class panned out:
106: No. 3-ranked Luke Lilledahl of CBC had a tough road to get his first state medal but he got through it after he defeated No. 1-ranked Hunter Taylor 3-1 in the semifinals and No. 2-ranked Draegen Orine 4-2 in the finals.
“”It feels amazing,” Lilledahl said of being a state champion. “I am thankful that I got this opportunity and I took it. I got to my offense. Last time, I couldn’t. This time, I did.”
Taylor rebounded from his semifinal loss to pin Liberty North’s Michael Domino in 3:34 to take third. Holt’s Logan Rubinstein took fifth after pinning Lafayette’s Dylan Roth in 58 seconds
1st: Luke Lilledahl, CBC
2nd: Draegen Orine, Seckman
3rd: Hunter Taylor, Liberty
4th: Michael Domino, Liberty North
5th: Logan Rubinstein, Holt
6th: Dylan Roth, Lafayette
113: After finishing second at state last season, Nixa sophomore Zan Fugitt, ranked No. 1, took the next step forward. He pinned Staley’s Logan Burks, ranked No. 3, in 1:40 to capture a first-place medal following the title bout.
“This feels a lot better than second place for sure,” Fugitt said. “The experience was the difference. I feel like I have a lot more this year and I am a lot better at wrestling.
CBC sophomore Kolby Warren, ranked No. 2, lost by fall to Fugitt in the semifinals but came back to defeat Seckman’s Matthew Cook for third. In the fifth-place match, Republic’s Michael George defeated Liberty’s Cooper Rider 2-0.
1st: Zan Fugitt, Nixa
2nd: Logan Burks, Staley
3rd: Kolby Warren, CBC
4th: Matthew Cook, Seckman
5th: Michael George, Republic
6th: Cooper Rider, Liberty
120: No. 3-ranked Christopher Coates was not happy after he finished third at sectionals and had to settle for 3-seed despite being ranked No. 1 most of the year. However, he got it done when it mattered most as he topped No. 1-ranked Peyton Moore of Nixa 3-0 in the semifinals, and avenged a sectional loss to Park Hill junior Cael Keck, ranked No. 2, by beating him 3-1 in the finals.
“I was upset after sectionals, but the difference was I got a takedown in districts and got a takedown at state,” Coates said. “That was the goal to get a takedown because I have such good defense, no one is going to take me down.”
Moore settled for third place after pinning Seckman’s Devin Haag. For fifth place, Francis Howell Central’s David Cross earned a 12-0 major decision against Braden Werdehausen of Jefferson City.
1st: Christopher Coates, Liberty
2nd: Cael Keck, Park Hill
3rd: Peyton Moore, Nixa
4th: Devin Haag, Seckman
5th: David Cross, Francis Howell Central
6th: Braden Werdehausen, Jefferson City
126: After Rock Bridge sophomore Carter McCallister, ranked No. 2, finished second at state last season, he took a leap to first place after topping No. 1-ranked Easton Hilton 3-1 in the semifinals and beating No. 5-ranked James Homfield of Lindburgh in the finals.
Hilton took third after getting a 5-1 victory against Nixa’s Deagan Fugitt. No. 6-ranked jacob Windsor took fifth after earning a 12-2 major decision against Holt’s Hayden Ferrell.
1st: Cartier McCallister, Rock Bridge
2nd: James Homfield, Lindbergh
3rd: Easton Hilton, Liberty
4th: Deagan Fugitt, Nixa
5th: Jacob Windsor, Staley
6th: Hayden Ferrell, Holt
132: Blue Springs senior Korbin Shepherd had been to three state title matches prior to the 2021 state tournament. He lost two of them and won one by injury forfeit. Shepherd admitted none of those championship matches were ideal for him. But he finally got the ending he wanted.
The Wildcat senior, ranked No. 1, used a power half nelson to turn Christian Brothers College sophomore Santino Robinson during the championship match. He got the pin at 1:56 to claim the second state championship of his career.
After the match, Shepherd leaped into the arms of head coach Bobbe Lowe and sported an ear-to-ear smile.
“I am just on Cloud 9 right now,” Shepherd said. “This feels like my first state finals win. I got something to celebrate and be happy about. Last year, losing in overtime really sucked. But it was the best thing for me, but I worked harder.”
Lafayette’s Joel Mylin lost to Shepherd by second-period fall in the semifinals, but bounced back to take third after defeating Holt’s Tyler Bierman 7-2. Liberty’s Jude Axsom earned his first state medal after he took fifth following a 6-1 victory against Hickman’s Ethan Barr.
1st: Korbin Shepherd, Blue Springs
2nd: Santonio Robinson, CBC
3rd: Joel Mylin, Lafayette
4th: Tyler Bierman, Holt
5th: Jude Axsom, Liberty
6th: Ethan Barr, Hickman
138: No. 1-ranked Liberty senior Kage Lenger ended his high school career on a high note as he won his first state title after earning a 3-1 victory against previously unbeaten Brandon Strick, ranked No. 2, of Ozark in the finals.
“One of the greatest things is seeing my teammates being state champion or a state medalist,” Lenger said. “It’s just crazy to watch their growth. It’s just really exciting.”
No. 3-ranked Andrew Doehering of Lafayette took third after falling to Strick in the semifinals 7-0 and rebounding for a 4-3 victory against Jefferson City’s Joseph Kuster in the third-place bout. Lee’s Summit North junior Trey Robinson earned his first state medal after taking fifth in the consolation finals following a pin over Liberty North’s Dylan Alft.
1st; Kage Lenger, Liberty
2nd: Braxton Stick, ozark
3rd: Andrew Doehring, Lafayette
4th: Joseph Kuster, Jefferson City
5th: Trey Robinson, Lee’s Summit North
6th: Dylan Alft, Liberty North
145: Two familiar opponents faced off against each other in the finals of this weight class as Liberty’s Kyle Dutton, ranked No. 2, took on Ethan Miller, ranked No. 1. The pair faced each other three times prior to the state tournament, with Miller taking two wins. Dutton evened the score, however, as he got a clutch takedown in overtime to take a 3-1 win, netting himself his second state title.
“There have definitely been some heated moments between us,” Dutton said of Miller. “I wouldn’t say we are friends or anything. It was sweet. He’s beaten me a few times in the past. It was good to get him on the last one.”
No. 3-ranked Alex Nicozisin of Marquette bounced back to take third after a tech fall loss to Dutton in the semifinals. He defeated Jackson’s Jace Davis in the third-place bout. Carthage’s Davion King took fifth after a pin of Ozark’s Brock Sundie.
1st: Kyle Dutton, Liberty
2rd: Ethen Miller, Park Hill
3rd: Alex Nicozisin, Marquette
4th: Jace Davis, Jackson
5th: Davion King, Carthage
6th: Brock Sundlie, Ozark
152: The finals of this weight class was a rematch of last year’s finals as Park Hill’s Kal Miller, ranked No. 1, faced off against Liberty’s Logan Rathjen, ranked No. 2, once again. The pair had five matches this season, as well, all resulting with Miller coming out on top, this time in a 1-0 decision. It was Miller’s second state title.
“That match was great. It was closer than I expected it to be,” Miller said. “Logan is a great wrestler. He’s good. He fought hard. I am proud of myself for sure.”
1st: Kal Miller, Park Hill
2nd: Logan Rathjen, Liberty
3rd: Aidan Rudman, Francis Howell Central
4th: Cannon Newhouse, Northwest (Cedar Hill)
5th: Jake Waldron, Hickman
6th: Aidan Hernandez, Francis Howell Central
160: After missing out on a state during his first two seasons, Staley junior David Brooks finally got one. He tossed off his headgear immediately following his 6-4 victory against No. 4-ranked Brett Smith of Troy in the finals. Brooks also took down No. 2-ranked Kaden Hart of Francis Howell Central 7-6 in the semifinals.
“It felt amazing,” Brooks said of winning a state title.
Hart rebounded to take third after he earned a 6-2 decision against Jaxson McIntyre in the third-place bout. No. 1-ranked Garner Horman of Jackson took fifth after a 3-2 decision against Seckman’s Cole Ruble.
1st: David Brooks, Staley
2nd: Brett Smith, Troy
3rd: Kaden Hart, Francis Howell Central
4th: Jaxson McIntyre, Blue Springs
5th: Garner Horman, Jackson
6th: Cole Ruble, Seckman
170: CBC senior Lucas White, ranked No.1, ended his career on top after he took a 9-6 decision against No. 2-ranked Evan Boren of Lafayette in the finals. White also earned a 7-0 victory against No. 3-ranked Paul Hernandez of Oak Park in the semifinals.
“I am going to celebrate by playing some video games, probably Skyrim,” White said.
Hernandez earned his first state medal after taking third in a 12-2 major decision over Liberty senior Jacob Lynn. William Brendzen took fifth after a pin in 2:51 over Ozark’s Thomas Rushing.
1st: Lucas White, CBC
2nd: Evan Boren, Lafayette
3rd: Paul Hernandez, Oak Park
4th: Jacob Lynn, Liberty
5th: William Berendzen, Jefferson City
6th: Thomas Rushing, Ozark
182: Wentric Williams III overcame adversity as he had to deal with the recent passing of his father. The Liberty junior was overcome with emotion and tears after winning his state title in a 7-2 decision over No. 2-ranked Tommy Hagan of Lafayette.
“It didn’t feel real and it still doesn’t feel real,” Williams said. “I was standing on the podium and someone asked me what I thought of the championship. I said, ‘It doesn’t feel real.’ He then asked, ‘What would make it feel real.’ And I said, ‘’My father being here.’
“He passed away during football season. I dedicated this season to my dad. It was for him.”
Staley freshman Dai’Mont Mucker took third after a 5-3 decision over Cole Parker of Jackson. Ray-Pec senior Coleton McElliott ended high school career with a state medal after taking a 1-0 victory against Michael Friederick of Jeff City.
1st: Wentric Williams III, Liberty
2nd: Tommy Hagan, Lafayette
3rd: Dai’Mont Mucker, Staley
4th: Cole Parker, Jackson
5th: Coleton McElliott, Raymore-Peculiar
6th: Michael Friederich, Jefferson City
195: No. 1-ranked Jack Darrah of CBC ended his season undefeated and he earned a state title after pinning Liberty’s Jack Horn, ranked No. 3, in 2:48 during the finals.
“It felt great. I fell short last year in the finals,” Darrah said. “I had a chip on my shoulder coming into this year.”
No. 6-ranked Aaron Barnhill of Lee’s Summit North captured his first state medal in the third-place match following a 10-7 victory against No. 2-ranked Jakeil Hayes of Jeff City. In the fifth-place match, Northwest (Cedar Hills) Johnny Daffron beat Holt’s Isaiah Slaughter 8-4.
1st: Jack Darrah, CBC
2nd: Jack Horn, Liberty
3rd: Aaron Barmhill, Lee’s Summit North
4th: Jakeil Hayes, Jefferson City
5th: Johnny Daffron, Northwest (Cedar Hill)
6th: Isaiah Slaughter, Holt
220: North Kansas City senior Xavier Doolin was finally able to capture the elusive state championship and he did it in dominant fashion. He only went into the second period twice all year. The second time was in the finals against Jeff City’s Brant Aulber as he got a 17-2 tech fall victory in 2:08.
“I plan for everything like that,” Doolin said of going into the second period. “It didn’t faze me. I wanted the pin, but (Aulber) did a good job defending what I do on top.”
Nixa’s John Gholson took third after pinning Blue Springs South’s Tommy LaPous in the first period. William Nelson of Eureka took fifth following an 8-3 victory against Dom Howlett of Blue Springs.
1st: Xavier Doolin, North Kansas City
2nd: Brant Aulber, Jefferson City
3rd: John Gholson, Nixa
4th: Tommy LaPour, Blue Springs South
5th: William Nelson, Eureka
6th: Dom Howlett, Blue Springs
285: Ozark senior Hunter Tennison didn’t place at state last season, but he made a huge jump this time around, taking first after earning a 4-3 decision against Washington’s Gavin Holtmeyer in the championship match.
“It feels amazing,” Tennison said. “I am really humbled to be able to come here and show everyone what I got.”
Liberty junior Jeremiah Cubuyaban fell to Tennison 3-0 in the semifinals but rebounded for a pin in 2:08 against Ray-[ec’s Tyson King in the third-place bout. Liam Bryant of Jackson took fifth after a pin in 2:19 against Francis Howell’s Judah Jackson.
1st: Hunter Tennison, Ozark
2nd: Gavin Holtmeyer, Washington
3rd: Jeremiah Cubuyaban, Liberty
4th: Tyson King, Ray-Pec
5th: Liam Bryant, Jackson
6th: Judah Johnson, Francis Howell