Dragons, Lady Dragons celebrate five years of Midland Empire Conference domination
The Cameron Dragons and Lady Dragons returned to the Nation’s Crossroads with Midland Empire Conference titles after taking the MEC tournament Saturday.
The Dragons edged the St. Pius X Warriors 337 to 332 in team points while the Lady Dragons more than doubled the points required for a title with 143 to second-place Benton’s 61.5.
“We just have that culture, and we’re good at maintaining that culture,” said undefeated CHS 120-pound, four-time MEC champion Caleb Husch.
Stepping down to 120, undefeated senior Caleb Husch kept his streak intact after demolishing the competition Saturday. Husch crushed 4-20 Benton So. Jonathan Dozier, 14-7 Lafayette Jr. Dawson Hangartner, 27-10 Savannah So. Creighton Cook and 16-2 St. Pius X So. Dillan Chisam with neither aforementioned wrestler making it to the second period with Husch.
“I feel pretty great. Hopefully, I can smash the 200 record. I would say I’m 10 away. The state record, I think, is 214. I don’t think I’m going to get that. It’s just the same as usual. I’m being healthy. I don’t know if I’m going to go to 120, but I had pretty successful day today.
Cameron sophomore lightweight Dylan “Bubba” Pratt, 42-2, finished first after sweeping the competition with first-period pins of Benton So. Kemper Gehring, 11-16, Maryville freshman Blake Wallace, 10-11, and St. Pius X So. Andrew Garcia, 14-4.
Senior 144-pounder Chase Short continues terrorizing MEC competitors as hear nears the 50-win, single-season milestone. Short, 47-2, opened the tournament with a 22-6 technical fall of 8-11 St. Pius X So. Austin Westfall, then crushed 19-6 Lafayette Sr. Joseph Frazier with an 18-3 tech-fall. He faced his first significant challenge in an 8-4 decision over 22-10 Savannah Sr. Lincoln LaFave and ended the day with a late third-period pin of 28-7 Benton Jr. Ethan Nash.
At 155, Gage Jones tore through his bracket until falling in the championship by an 8-3 decision after facing 29-4 Benton Sr. Bishop Rush. Jones, 40-7, began the day with a pair of victories via pin against 4-8 Chillicothe So. Elijah Hall and 9-9 St. Pius X Sr. Ethan Hunter. An 8-2 decision victory over 13-15 Savannah Jr. Nic Scheib advanced Jones to the championship round,
Junior 157 Kenton Gates picked up his third consecutive MEC title after pinning each opponent in the first period, aside from second-place 32-6 Chillicothe Jr. Cayden Larson, who lasted just a minute longer than Gates’ previous opponents. Gates, 42-5, ran through the competition with first-period victories over 10-6 St. Pius X junior Joshua Quintero, 10-23 Maryville Fr. Xander Brown, and 26-9 Savannah Fr. Braylon Ellis.
“I’ve won it every year. I’m just going to keep on working. Hopefully, we can make a pretty good run at state this year. It’s pretty nice knowing you’re the best in your conference so far,” Gates said.
Paul Viena nearly finished his senior season with an MEC title, but fell in the championship round to 6-1 St. Pius X So. Rylan Kuhn via second-period pin. Hot off picking up his 100th career victory at last week’s senior night quad, Viena neared the 50-win season milestone with a tournament-opening, second-period pin of 12-8 Benton Jr. Jason Blue. Viena, 42-7, picked up the pace with a first-period pin of 7-15 Savannah So. Trystan Chadwick, and then downed 3-4 Chillicothe Sr. Dilyn Ulmer.
Sophomore Javier Morones, a 30-21 165-pounder, finished fifth after going 1-3 on the day. Junior 175 Alec Leazenby finished fifth after going 1-5. Sophomore 190 Nic Eads, 27-21, finished fifth after going 1-5. Freshman Brennan Steeby, 17-13, finished fifth after going 1-5.
Reloaded Lady Dragons take another MEC title
Although sporting a significantly different lineup than last season, the Lady Dragons continued their tradition of pummeling their MEC rivals last Saturday.
Sophomore 110-pounder Skye Mallen, freshman 115 Taryn Hearn, senior 155 Justice Brewer, So. 170 Olivia Jensen and Sr. heavyweight Hollie Hedgpeth each won their respective weight classes while sealing the Lady Dragons fifth consecutive MEC championship.
“I’m pretty stoked about it. My goal was to get first this year. I accomplished that,” said Mallen, 25-7, whose only victory came in a first period pin of 10-16 Lafayette Fr. Jaidynn Swope. “I’m really hoping to do better in districts this year. A big goal, since I started high school, was to make it to state. Even if I don’t place, I just want to get the feeling of being at state.”
Brewer, 40-1, must have made an impression on the judges in her 1 minute and 8 seconds on the mat after winning the MEC Most Outstanding Wrestler Award. In her only match of the day, she demolished 10-14 Maryville Sr. Abby Swink by synching a headlock, and pressing Swink’s shoulders to the mat.
“It’s pretty cool. It’s a big honor. I’m honored to get it. I had one (match). I feel good. I had wrestled her before. I told myself, ‘Just go out there and do better than you did the other time.’ I go out there and improve every time I step on the mat,” Brewer said.
Mallen and Brewer were not Cameron’s only one-and-done champions. Jensen, 15-12, took gold with a pin just before the second period buzzer to defeat 1-15 Benton Fr. Jaycee Ziokowski. Hearn and Hedgpeth earned gold without ever stepping on the mat with each wrestler being the only one in her respective weight class.
Sophomore 120-pounder Jenna Gray evened her 8-8 record while taking silver. She opened the tournament with a second-period pin of 14-19 Lafayette junior Mylee Pfleiderer, but ended the day after falling via first-period pin to 15-1 Chillicothe So. Yoo Lee in the championship match. Senior 145 Abi Burnett, 29-8, took second after opening the tournament with a loss in the second period by pin at the hands of eventual champion Isabel Foster, 22-10, of Benton. However, she rebounded to take second after pinning 19-10 Lafayette Sr. Mati Womeldorff with her own second-period pin.
Senior lightweight Veronica Bailey, 15-22, finished second after falling via first-period pin to 27-4 Savannah freshman Jade Brundige. Freshman Zyra Fife, 11-21, fell to 10-12 Lafayette sophomore Brooklynn Stevens via first-period pin. Freshman 130 Delaney Jobe took second after falling in her only match of the day to 18-7 Lafayette Jr. Belleza Mendoza. Freshman 140 Payton Allen, 8-14, took second after falling to 27-5 Benton Sr. Tatum Levendahl by first-period pin in her only match of the day.