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High School Wrestling: Jackson wins fourth-straight conference title for first time

No senior class in the history of the Jackson wrestling program has ever won four SEMO Conference Tournament Championships — until now that is.

The Indians hosted this year’s conference tournament and capped off a historic run as they won by a margin of 127.5 points with a final score of 692. Only three other teams scored more than 500 points in the tournament as Farmington was the runner-up with 564.5, followed by Poplar Bluff at 550.5 and lastly Hillsboro at 547.5.

“It’s really special, and I guess what makes it even more special is the senior class I have and the team I have,” Jackson head coach Steve Wachter said. “They’re not only outstanding wrestlers, but they’re also really outstanding young men. I can’t see a class in the 38 years I’ve [coached] that has deserved it any more than this bunch.”

On top of winning the tournament title, Jackson also finished with the most individual conference champions at five as a total eight Indians wrestled for gold medals out of the 14 weight classes.

Four of Jackson’s wrestlers who advanced to the title match were returning conference champions in seniors Cole Amelunke, Alec Bailey and Noah Uhrhan along with junior Garner Horman.

The other half of Indians to advance to their respective championship match were seniors David Ekstam, Levi Kaelin, Riley Wiseman and junior Cole Parker. Wiseman finished as a runner-up while Parker took third last year.

“Our conference is very competitive,” Coach Wachter said. “There are 16 teams, and there are some outstanding individuals. There’s a lot of state medalists out here today and a couple of state champions. It’s a tougher conference than a lot of people think it is across the state, and I’m very proud of [my wrestlers] accomplishments today.”

In Jackson’s first title bout, Wiseman (35-3) faced off against North County senior Cody White (26-2) for the 113-pound championship. White was the one who defeated Wiseman for last year’s 106-pound conference title by a 6-3 decision.

The rematch was tied 0-0 after the first period as Wiseman took a 1-0 lead following the second for an eventual 3-1 win over White for Riley to win his first conference title in his final year.

The next conference championship match for the Indians was for the 126-pound title as three-time conference champion Bailey (34-4) took on Hillsboro junior James Short (33-4) for first place.

This match lasted all three periods as Bailey was unable to score against Short, who was able to come away with a 4-0 victory to capture his first conference title. Short was named the Tournament MVP for his performance.

Jackson failed to come away with an individual conference title in its next first-place match as Kaelin (32-8) fell to Farmington senior Schmuke Branch (29-12) by a 5-1 decision for the 145-pound championship.

However, the next four Indians followed those two back-to-back championship losses with wins for the 152, 160, 182 and 195-pound SEMO Conference titles.

First up was one of the team’s four returning conference champions in Horman (29-1), who faced off against Park Hills Central senior Blake Bolin (21-10) in the 152-pound title match.

This match only went two periods as Horman nearly recorded a technical fall by, but he instead pinned Bolin’s shoulders to the mat with seven seconds left in the second to become a two-time conference champion.

Also becoming a two-time SEMO Conference Champion was Uhrhan (30-8) as he went up against Poplar Bluff sophomore Justin Mitchell (27-9) for the 160-pound title. The match did not go past the first period as it only took Uhrhan one minute and nine seconds to pin Mitchell for the gold.

Horman and Uhrhan are drilling partners in practice, and Wachter said partners help each other out so much that, “Outstanding wrestlers usually come in pairs.”

“We always want to try to get bonus points when we wrestle to win championships,” Coach Wachter said. “If you can get a bonus in the finals, that’s a pretty outstanding feat. It’s hard to pull off because the other person that’s there is also outstanding because they got to that point. … I’m proud of the fact they went after that fall.”

Jackson’s next championship match ended even quicker with Parker (33-3) facing last year’s 195-pound conference champion in Farmington junior Judd Cunningham (29-8) for first place at 182 pounds.

Parker was able to cradle Cunningham quickly into the title bout, which resulted in the match only lasting 53 seconds as Parker was able to pin him soon after. The win also gave Parker his 100th-career victory at Jackson.

“We threw a leg spladle and then a banana split back-to-back,” Coach Wachter said. “We didn’t really give [Cunningham] a chance to open up on us. He’s really an outstanding wrestler, but in the world of wrestling you can get caught off guard with some things. It can escalate on you, and suddenly [the match is] over before you have a chance to really do what you’re good at.”

The final championship win of the night for Jackson came in the 195-pound bout as senior Cole Amelunke (29-0) was set to face off against Cape Central senior Josh Pullen (22-4) for the title. Amelunke did not have to wrestle to become a two-time conference champion as Pullen forfeited the match due to medical reasons.

The Indians final conference title match of the tournament was for the 220-pound championship between Ekstam (32-3) and New Madrid County Central junior Quazavio Jackson (13-1). Ekstam and Jackson went all three periods as Ekstam even took a 2-1 lead after the second, but Jackson pulled out a one-point, 5-4 win to take first place.

The rest of Jackson’s five wrestlers who were able to finish this year’s conference tournament each placed in the top five as three medaled starting with senior Rhett Wiseman (30-7) at 120.

Wiseman’s lone loss of the tournament came in the semifinals against Farmington senior Austin Wadlow (26-6) at 3-0, who won last year’s 113-pound conference title and eventually the Class 3 State Championship.

Wiseman won his third-place match over Dexter senior Bryston Pemberton (23-8) convincingly via a major decision at 10-2 to earn all-conference for the second-straight year.

The Indians next third-place finish came in the 170-pound weight class as freshman Tyler Beyatte (28-5) defeated Poplar Bluff junior Davion Steele (25-10) by a 4-2 decision for Beyatte to earn his first conference medal. Beyatte’s only loss of conference came against now three-time conference champion in Dexter senior Travis Waldner (35-0) by pinfall in the second period.

Jackson’s final third-place winner was sophomore Liam Bryant (28-7) at 285 pounds, who pinned Poplar Bluff junior Preston Tayler (23-4) in the second period. Bryant also fell to an eventual conference champion in NMCC senior Herman Jackson (24-1) by pinfall.

Nick McNeal covers high school sports, college sports and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Cape Girardeau County for the past five years. He can be reached at cbjsports@socket. net.

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