INDEPENDENCE — Liberty boys wrestling has started to make complete domination of the biggest class in the state of Missouri seem like the standard routine.
The Blue Jays won their second straight Missouri Class 4 state title by racking up 226 points on the strength of four state champions, two runner-ups and 12 of the 13 state qualifiers walked away with a medal. Liberty finished 109 points ahead of runner-up Christian Brothers College.
Liberty won last year’s with more points at 241, but actually increased their margin this year as Park Hill was second with 146.5.
Kyle Dutton repeated as an individual state champion while Christopher Coates, Kage Lenger and Wentric Williams III picked up their first individual titles.
Dutton (145) picked up a pinfall and tech falls of 19-4 and 18-1 on his way to years-long collision course in the finals with Ethen Miller of Park Hill.
Dutton lost to Miller in the district final during their freshman season when both still wrestled in the 126-pound weight class. Dutton got his revenge in the district final this season as the result of an injury default. Miller got the upperhand in the rivalry when he pulled out an ultimate tie breaker victory two weeks later at sectionals.
Dutton got the last laugh, however, in a match that once again needed extra time to settle the victor.
Miller got a reversal to take a one-point lead at the end of the second period, but Dutton did the same heading into the final minute of the third to force overtime.
Both competitors started out aggressive but Dutton got Miller off-balance before lifting him off the ground and taking him to the mat. Miller initially maintained control of Dutton’s ankle to avoid the loss, but Dutton continued pushing forward until he earned the deciding points in a 3-1 sudden victory.
Coates (120) took care of business quickly and efficiently on his way to a perfect outing during his first state tournament. He scored a first-minute pinfall in his opener before earning 2-0 and 3-0 decisions heading into the final.
Coates also had a score to settle with his opponent, Cael Keck of Park Hill. Coates won their first postseason battle in the district semifinals on his way to the district title. Keck did the same by beating Coates in the sectional finals on his way to taking gold there.
Coates did not give Keck much of a chance in the rubber match as he gained a 2-0 advantage with a first-period takedown. Keck made a last-minute effort but Coates matched his scoring effort to finish with a 3-1 decision victory.
Lenger did not have a rivalry rematch like the first two Blue Jays to clinch their state titles, but the 138-pound district and sectional champion still had something to prove from his finish last season.
Lenger took fourth his freshman season and did not place during his sophomore year before finishing second last year, losing to Ethen Miller in the final. He sped his way through the bracket with two pinfalls in a total of four minutes, 23 seconds as he advanced to the final once again.
Lenger controlled his match with Braxton Strick of Ozark from start to finish on the way to a 3-1 decision to complete his four-year wrestling career with the ultimate prize.
Lenger had already racked up a lot of hardware this season, including his key role in helping Liberty cross country qualify for state as a team and take fourth place in that event.
Williams joined Lenger in improving on a second-place finish from last year, but Williams had his sights set on the gold medal for an entirely different reason. Williams dedicated his performance this year to his father Wentric Williams II, who died on Sept. 26, 2020.
Williams secured a first-round pinfall in the quarterfinals and a 18-3 tech fall in the semifinals.
After experiencing a sudden victory loss in last year’s finals, Williams never let his match with Tommy Hagan of Lafayette remain nearly that close as he took a 7-2 decision to become the 182-pound state champion.
Williams burst into tears when the match ended and his name was called out as the 182-pound state champion.
Logan Rathjen and Jack Horn earned second-place for the Blue Jays.
Rathjen earned his second straight runner-up finish by taking second place at 152 after doing the same at 145 last year. He earned a 5-2 decision, a pinfall win and 8-3 decision on the way to his fifth postseason championship match against Kal Miller of Park Hill in the last two years.
Rathjen battled Miller through a zero point stalemate through two periods, but Miller earned a reversal point out of the restart. Rathjen was not able to get an advantage as Miller picked up his second state title.
Horn (195) picked up 8-1 and 5-3 decisions to reach the final but he could never really find an opening against Jack Durrah of Christian Brothers College. Durrah completed his undefeated campaign by beating Horn via pinfall in the second period.
Hunter Taylor, Easton Hilton and Jeremiah Cabuyaban ended up losing in the semifinals match and all three responded with wins in the third-place matches.
Taylor (106) found himself in unfamiliar territory as he lost his first varsity match in a 3-2 decision against Luke Lilledahl of Christian Brothers College in the semifinal. He took down Michael Domino of Liberty North by pinfall in their medal match.
Hilton (126) ended up in the same position as he lost his second match of the season in a 3-1 loss to Carter McCallister of Rock Bridge in the semis. Hilton took third place thanks to a 5-1 decision over Deagan Fugitt of Nixa.
Cabuyaban (285) finished his semifinal match still searching for even one reversal as Hunter Tennison of Ozark won 3-0. Cabuyaban got things going early in his third-place match, controlling Tyson King of Raymore-Peculiar for a period before picking up a pinfall eight seconds into the second period.
Jacob Lynn (170) won his first two matches in tight contests as he won 4-3 and 4-2 decisions to earn a fourth-place finish. He never found his rhythm in his final two matches as he lost by pinfall to Evan Boren of Lafayette in the semifinals before dropping a 12-2 major decision to Paul Hernandez of Oak Park.
Jude Axsom took fifth place and Cooper Rider took sixth place as two of three Blue Jays to slip into the consolation bracket.
Axsom picked up a pinfall victory over Josiah Vaughn 30 seconds into his opening match. He lost a 3-1 decision against Santino Robinson of Christian Brothers College in the quarterfinals to end up on the consolation side of the 132-pound bracket. Axsom picked up decision by 4-3, 8-6 and 6-1 on his way to the podium.
Rider (113) beat Brayden Eikermann of Fort Zumwalt West by 8-0 major decision in the first round, but slid into the consolation bracket after a 16-3 major decision loss to Zan Fugitt of Nixa. Rider pulled out a 3-1 sudden victory over Bradyn Tate of Carthage and won a 7-0 decision over Aden Solomon of LIndbergh to earn his state medal.
Jeremiah Halter (160) was the other Blue Jay to work his way through the consolation bracket after taking a 7-0 decision loss to Brett Smith of Troy Buchanan in his first-round match. Halter earned a 7-2 decision over Riley Newsom of Ozark in his next match, but ultimately lost by 5-3 sudden victory against Cole Ruble of Seckman.
Liberty repeated as state champion but it was not a simple run-it-back situation. The Blue Jays had to replace three state champions and three more state qualifiers during a season heavily altered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Blue Jays still surpassed last year’s 11 medalists mark and racked up nine pins in a total of 17 minutes, 33 seconds in those bouts.
The Eagles boys wrestlers set the mark for most state medalists and most state qualifiers in program history as two of their five competitors earned their spot on the podium at the state tournament.
Michael Domino (106) finished in fourth place while Dylan Alft (138) took sixth.
Domino picked up two pinfall victories before facing a fall himself in his semifinal match with Draegen Orine of Seckman. He had the same result against Hunter Taylor of Liberty in the third-place match.
Alft found himself in the consolation bracket after a 6-1 decision loss against Andrew Doehring of Lafayette.
He picked up a narrow 4-3 decision over Seth Littrell of Troy Buchanan in his first consolation match and earned a 12-5 decision over Jacob Sinn of Parkway South in the next match to earn his medal. Alft lost to Treyvaughn Robinson of Lee’s Summit North by pinfall in the fifth place match.
Domino and Alft became the third and fourth Eagles to earn state medals in program history after Daterraion Richardson took fourth in 2016 and won a state championship in 2017 at 285.
James Lovelady (113), Joseph Knight (132) and Trevor Thorn (170) rounded out the list of state qualifiers for the Eagles.
Lovelady picked 6-2 decision in his first match before losing by 15-0 tech fall and 4-0 decision. Thorn advanced to the consolation semifinal thanks to a medical forfeit during his first match of the consolation bracket, but he lost by 9-0 major decision against William Berendzen of Jefferson City to end his day.
For more stories about boys and girls wrestling at state, return to mycouriertribune.com over the next week as we highlight the performers for Liberty, Liberty North, Kearney and Smithville.