Sun, 23 Feb 2014 05:25:02 GMT — COLUMBIA --- Training for wrestling is year-round. The season lasts three months. The fate of this season was decided in 8 seconds. Blair Oaks senior Cole Kemna caught Lathrop senior Josh Hartzell --- who was a defending state champion --- in a headlock with 1:17 left in their match of the Class 1 170 pound finals Saturday night at Mizzou Arena. With 1:09 left, Kemna then earned three near-fall points. A 2-1 deficit had turned into a 6-2 lead for Kemna. What was at stake? Not a state championship, but TWO state championships. Kemna held on in the final 69 seconds for a 7-5 win, earning an individual state championship and the team championship for the Falcons, as his four decision points vaulted Blair Oaks past Whitfield by a slender 98-95.5 margin during the Missouri State Wrestling Championships. This was the most excitement Mizzou Arena has seen since the winter sports season started --- in any sport --- if you know what I mean. This wasn't a wow moment, this was WOW! "I knew I was going to have to pull out a win," said Kemna, who ends the season at 26-3. By comparison --- and besides being a defending state champ --- Hartzell entered the match 51-2. "I wanted it bad enough individually, already," Kemna continued. "But at that point, I blocked all the pressure out. I decided it was just one more match and I went out and got it done." So how did he block the pressure out before this winner-take-all collision? "In my case, I told coach to come talk to me, and we started talking about anything other than wrestling and joking around," Kemna said. "We talked about video games, eating pizza ... all kinds of goofy stuff. "I didn't think about wrestling until the second I went on that mat. It just took away all the pressure." Hartzell scored a takedown in the first period to take a 2-0 lead, before a Kemna escape in the second made it 2-1. That's where it stayed until the most significant 8 seconds in school history, which led to Blair Oaks' first wrestling state championship. "I did a throw-by right there on the edge," Kemna said, "and he kind of slipped and I caught him. That basically won the match for me." Logan Mudd gave Kemna this chance at glory by winning the state championship at 152. Mudd had finished fourth, fourth and second the past three years. "I finally achieved it ... it was my last year, I had to win state," Mudd said. "I would have regretted it for the rest of my life if I didn't. "We had a really strong team this year. We had some injuries, but that didn't hold us back. And we still have one of my best friends, Cole, coming up ..." Did they ever. Earlier Saturday, the Falcons' Brad Thomas beat Whitfield's Conrad Chadwick, 3-1, in a critical, head-to-head, 152-pound bout. This did not win an individual championship for Thomas. He didn't finish third. But he did take fifth --- and that win over Chadwick was another critical piece in Blair Oaks' championship drive. If he'd lost, there would have been at least a four-point swing in the team race. You do the math. "Our team, everybody contributed, everybody worked hard," said Blair Oaks coach Tim Karsten, whose team also received a second-place finish from Frankie Falotico. "We lost a couple of tough ones, but then we'd come back. We had an amazing group of kids. "It was really an up and down weekend, it was a real grind. And I don't ever remember a team winning a championship under 100 points, it was that even. You're lucky if you can sneak in there and get fourth place with under 100 points." After Whitfield's Rodney Hahn (160 pounds) capped a 53-0 season to win his fourth state championship, Blair Oaks was in second place by 1.5 points. Then came Kemna. The Green Dream was realized at exactly 7:34 p.m. Saturday, thanks to those amazing 8 seconds in one, amazing match. But it will live on forever. III Karsten was spot-on when he said less than 100 points usually won't win a state championship, as the Rock Bridge Bruins scored 126 and finished second by six points to Park Hill, which won its eighth Class 4 state title. Still, what a great weekend for another green team. "Our guys came in and wrestled extremely tough; we won almost every close match we were in," Bruins coach Travis Craig said. "And our seniors stepped huge." One of those four seniors was Cody Maly at 182 pounds. Maly ended the season with a modest record of 16-1 --- but with a state championship. His season was trimmed considerably after having double-shoulder surgery in the offseason. "He came out and wrestled extremely tough and smart," Craig said. "From going to a state qualifier last year, through those surgeries, to a state champion this year is just amazing." Sophomore Josiah Kline (113 pounds) also struck gold. "I knew I could win, no matter what happened," Kline said. "Even after he got that first takedown, I knew I still had two periods left." As it turned it, there were two periods and three overtimes left. Kline won it on an escape with 3 seconds left in the second extra period, 3-2. "I've been working out all the time, like two to three times a day, so I knew I was in great condition," Craig said. "I knew I would win." Jason Kiehne (138) and Sam Crane (145) both finished second for the Bruins. "It was an amazing weekend, we couldn't ask for anything better," Craig said. "Coming in, we thought we had a chance to do some special things. "And we did." They certainly did. III After his freshman season, Jaydin Clayton of Father Tolton had more state championships than career losses. You could probably guess those numbers --- one and zero. The numbers are now three and zero. Simply amazing. Clayton (138 pounds), a junior at Father Tolton, won his third state title with a seemingly easy win by fall in 75 seconds, capping a 38-0 campaign. "He continues to get better with every match, he continues to teach himself," Tolton coach Tony Eierman said. "He's just at another level." Another level? You could say that. Get this: None of Clayton's matches in three years --- not ONE --- has been decided by less than eight points. "It's just unbelievable," Eierman said. "But after his first year, I saw this was a possibility." Clayton is now 105-0 in his career and barring something unforeseen, he seems destined to become just the second wrestler in state history to be a four-time, undefeated state champion. The only one to achieve this astounding feat is Scott Schatzman, who went 149-0 during his career at Parkway Central from 1992-95. "I really want to be the second person to do it," Clayton said "That keeps driving me; there's only one more person in front of me. "I lost a couple of matches last summer, so I know I'm not the best in the country. So that really drives me ... I want to be the best, I want to be No. 1. I don't like the feeling of losing." Tolton had just three state qualifiers, but two state champions --- sophomore Will Tindal captured the crown at 182. "It was just a matter of keeping my head in the game and fighting all the way," Tindal said. Tindal won it with a takedown, 11-9 --- with one second left in the third period. But he knew it was over before that. "I knew he (Brookfield's J.J. Obongo, who entered the match 41-0) was broken in the second period, you could see it," Tindal said. "I could just feel his will break below me. "That's when I knew I had him, because I knew if I caught him, I could take him down easily." Tindal gives credit to Clayton for much of his success. "It's awesome having a guy like Jaydin in the practice room," Tindal said. "In the practice room, a lot of people just think about winning and that's no fun. It's more exciting to have a challenge and to get your butt kicked. "I know there's nobody in the country better than Jaydin." Tindal finishes the season 34-2, not to mention winning a state championship. So, with more than a 40-pound edge on his teammate, who wins when he wrestles Clayton? "He does," Tindal said. Simply amazing. III At last, Josh McClure achieved his goal. "Finally! Last year, I came up short and that's the only thing I've thought about since that day," said a jubilant McClure after winning the Class 2 113-pound title. McClure is 15, a sophomore at Fulton. Some goals are achieved younger in life than others. "When today came," McClure said. "I knew I had to be ready and I showed up and did what I can do." McClure finished second at 106 last year. "It's great for Josh, because he works so hard in the offseason and invests so much time in his wrestling," Fulton coach Eric Hudson, whose team finished fourth with 101 points and received a second place finish from Zach Benner at 182. So after "finally" achieving his goal, now what? You can probably guess McClure's answer. "Keep on doing it and be a three-timer," he said, "that's the goal now."
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