Kings of the mountain!

Saturday, February 22, 2020
Monett wrestlers celebrate in the tunnel and fans in the stands above celebrate Harrison Merriman's state title and the Cubs’ state championship in Columbia on Saturday. Nancy Noll-Meyer/Special to the Monett Times

Cubs rally from 16.5-point deficit on last day to win

Prior to the MSHSAA State Wrestling Championships, Monett Coach Daryl Bradley said that he was taking eight point-scorers to Columbia.

It took every one of them for the Cubs to overcome a 16.5-point deficit on the final day to move from being down 125-108.5 to ultimately claim the 2020 Class 2 state championship with a 149.5-142 over Odessa.

Ethan Umfleet celebrates his third-place individual finish at state. Nancy Noll-Meyer/Special to The Monett Times

The Cubs entered the championship round on Saturday night in full control of their destiny. Monett led 141.5-134 and its wrestlers knew if they won all three matches, they would take home the team title.

The Bulldogs applied pressure with a win in the 126-pound state title, but Joey Semerad claimed his third career state championship with a 3-1 decision.

Things tightened up again with a Bulldog win at 145 to make the score 145.5-142, and things went from bad to worse when Gunnar Bradley dropped a heartbreaking 8-6 loss in sudden victory after leading 6-3 with 20 seconds left in the third period.

The loss opened the door for Odessa.

Needing help, the Cubs adopted two new team members named Chase Cordia and Evan Shetley.

Cordia, from Osage, defeated Odessa's Luke Malizzi, 3-2, holding off a late takedown that was not granted.

Shetley, from Sullivan, topped Jake Evinger, 3-2, riding the Bulldogs junior out the last 45 seconds, including two stalemate restarts, to shut the door. Shetley became the first Sullivan grappler to ever win a title.

With Odessa denied points in its final two matches, the Cubs mathematically locked down the team title, which took all the pressure off Harrison Merriman.

Merriman would go on to provide the cap to the evening with a 2-1 victory to claim the 285-pound title.

Monett and Odessa entered Saturday morning with both teams advancing seven wrestlers to the medal round, and it boiled down to which team could surge to the finish line.

The Cubs’ lineup, featuring Matthew Bahl, Karter Brink, Elias Barrientos and Ethan Umfleet, competed in the morning session, which would determine the third- through sixth-place finishers.

Brink and Barrientos both narrowly missed advancing to the championship round, both coming up short in sudden victory.

Bahl had fought his way to the medal round after dropping a quarterfinal match, and Umfleet ran out of gas and let a one-point third-period lead slip away in the semifinal.

The surviving quartet was tasked with outscoring three Bulldogs and giving the Cubs a fighting chance at the team title heading into the championship evening.

They immediately got to work in the consolation semifinal, winning all four bouts. Brink scored a major decision, and Umfleet secured a win by pin to give Monett 3 bonus points.

Odessa stubbed its toe a bit while prevailing in its first consolation semifinal, losing by pin in the 220- and 285-pound classes.

The point swing lifted the Cubs into a 131.5-130 lead heading into the placing matches.

In those matches, Monett flexed its muscle. Bahl, Brink and Barrientos won third-place matches — 3-1 sudden victory, 5-3 and 6-4 victories, respectively — before the Bulldogs took the mat.

Odessa appeared to right the ship in the 152-pound third-place match, rolling to a 12-3 major decision and 3 team points. Things also looked good due to the fact the Bulldogs still had their 220- and 285-pound matches left to go.
Umfleet, however, served notice that the Cubs were not playing around. He scored a first-period pin in just 24 seconds that not only swung momentum back to the Cubs — it gave them 4 team points.

Odessa then opened the door for the Cubs. In the 220-pound match, the Bulldogs won, but an unsportsmanlike penalty assessed to the coaching staff during the match stripped away 1 team point, meaning the Bulldogs netted just a single point.

In the 285-pound match, Seneca gained the support of the boisterous Monett fans, as Grant Durman scored a 1-0 victory, denying Odessa the ability to draw closer.

At the end of the morning session, the Cubs had turned a 16.5-point deficit into a 7.5 lead, 141.5-134.

More importantly, the 7-point spread was enough to negate the fact that Odessa had one extra wrestler in the finals.

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