The Rolla wrestling team made the trip up to Lebanon for the Ozark Conference Tournament on Saturday, Feb. 4. The Bulldogs wrestled in the championship in eight of the 14 weight classes and finished in third place as a team.

Collin Woods kicked things off at 106 for the Bulldogs, After a first round bye, Woods pinned Waynesville's Thomas Brady in the second period to advance to the championship. Woods couldn't quite get the points he needed in the championship against Lebanon's Hunter Lewis and lost a 3-0 decision to finish second. Micah Martin wrestled for Rolla at 113, taking two losses to fall short of placing. 

"Collin's a good wrestler. He beat Anthony (Sederburg) in the wrestle-offs at the beginning of the year," said head coach Marty Hauck. "He wrestled the Lewis kid two times now and both were close matches and he has improved. He was one of the ones that I was most excited to see the improvement from this weekend. His shots and his takedowns have really come a long way and he's really doing great things as far as continuing to improve and not just be happy with being good." 

Zach Fennell gave Rolla their first championship of the tournament at 120. After a first round bye, Fennell faced off against Parkview's Andrew Swai and earned a pin in the first period. He then faced off against Gavin Sax from Waynesville for the championship. Fennell wrestled a strong match and pulled out a 6-3 win. Coach Hauck loved what he saw out of Fennell in the match.

"Zach Fennell wins another good close match to the younger Sax boy, who's another prime wrestler who beat the number one kid in the state (Kearney's Clayton Singh) that hopefully Zach runs into in the State Finals," said Hauck. "We beat the Sax kid that beat him and we've beat him twice now." 

Tristan Barr had one of the biggest surprises of the day at 126. After pinning Kickapoo's Marquese Gaton in just 11 seconds, he pinned Camdenton's Reese Negri in 36 seconds to advance to the championship. He faced off against a familiar face for the championship in Sean Sax and it came down to the final seconds of the third period. Barr earned a reversal to take a 3-2 lead with 10 seconds left, but Sax had a reversal of his own in the final second to take a 4-3 lead and the win. 

"(This was a matchup of) Two good wrestlers, outstanding wrestlers, State placers and everything else. They train together in the summer, they go to their private club team together as well in the summers," said coach Hauck. "Two outstanding, high-caliber kids that are going to go far and do well in life, not just in wrestling. A lot of respect between each other and between the coaches and everybody. I mean, the kid was the outstanding wrestler of the conference. He deserved it. Obviously, we would love to see a rematch, but that's not going to happen. We've gotta learn from it and grow and that's what we're doing." 

The loss was Barr's first of the season. While you never want to take a loss, it might take some of the pressure off of Barr as he looks to finish off his senior season. 

"You never wanna see a loss obviously and we're definitely good enough to be an undefeated kid and a State Champion," said coach Hauck. "So I can't necessarily say (it's good to get a loss out of the way), but at the same point in time, the monkey is off the back in some sense of the way." 

Datham Mickem followed Barr at 132, but he was pinned back to back times and wasn't able to place. 

Coleman Brainard got the Bulldogs back on track at 138. After a bye in the first round, Brainard needed just 58 seconds to pin Glendale's Jared Burnell in the semifinals to set up a championship against Hillcrest's Devontay Carter. Brainard needed a bit longer against Carter, but he still earned a first period pin to take the conference championship. 

"Coleman Brainard definitely sticks out. I mean, he pinned his way through conference. Not many kids can say that and he did it pretty handily and in a dominant form," said coach Hauck. "He is definitely taking a lot of momentum with him into Districts and into State, hopefully. He's wrestled solid all year." 

Next up for Rolla was Lucas Lambeth at 145. Lambeth started the tournament with a 12-7 win over Joplin's Brayden Williams, but he was tech falled in the semifinals by Waynesville's Peter Lucitt, which sent him to the consolation bracket and the fight for third place. Lambeth pinned Kickapoo's Tanner Stoops in the consolation semis to reach the third place match, but he fell just short of medaling when Gavin Devic of Parkview beat him on a 6-2 decision. 

Then came Gage Maxwell at 152. After a first round bye, Maxwell faced off against Camdenton's Zion Vasquez. Maxwell dominated the match, but was called for unsportsmanlike conduct a few times in the match and it led to a disqualification from the tournament. 

Bryce O'Connor tried to get the Bulldogs back on track at 160. He got off to a great start with a second period pin of Parkview's Loren Hall in the quarterfinals. A pin of Kickapoo's Clement Rogge in the first period sent O'Connor to the championship, where he faced off against Lebanon's Brock Reeves. Reeves had the upper hand in the championship, pinning O'Connor in the first period. 

Seth Veatch followed O'Connor with a championship appearance of his own at 170. After a first round bye, Veatch pinned Waynesville's Colby Carmack in the first period to advance to the championship. Veatch faced Lebanon's Dakota Shockley in the championship and pitched a shutout, earning a 4-0 victory to take the championship. 

"Seth Veatch, he's another kid that dominated the tournament this weekend, I thought," said Hauck. "He's got one loss going into it and he's kinda that unsung guy that hasn't had the hoopla because he hasn't been undefeated the whole time, but he has one loss." 

Next up for Rolla was Colton Franks at 182. The freshman had a bye in the first round before winning a great 3-2 decision over Lebanon's Jon Berry. The win sent Franks into the championship against Waynesville's Devin Stearns. Stearns ended up taking the championship 8-2. 

Franks was followed by another first year wrestler in Xaviar Douglas. The senior had a bye in the first round at 195, before dominating Hillcrest's Tyler Tindle for a 10-4 win to advance to the championship. Douglas faced off against Lebanon's Noah Simmons in the championship and they went down to the wire in a high scoring affair. At the end of the match, Simmons had the slight edge in a 12-10 victory, putting Douglas in second place, but Douglas was inches away from earning back points at the end of the match for the win. 

"X had his kid on the back for the last 20 seconds of the match and the kid had one of his shoulders out of bounds," said Hauck. "So we were in bounds trying to pull him in and we just couldn't get him in. He was literally inches away from being a conference champion in his first year ever wrestling. It's outstanding." 

Douglas was the last wrestler in a championship match, but both of Rolla's heaviest weights were in a fight for a medal. Jacob Dobkins was pinned in his semifinal after receiving a first round bye at 220, but he had a chance to finish third with a matchup against Waynesville's Daniel Rodriguez. Dobkins ended up falling a spot shy of the medal stand when he was pinned in the second period. Alton Heyer got a win in his first match at 285 with a 15-9 victory over Lebanon's Rylan Hoard, but was pinned by Waynesville's Andrew Lietold in his semifinal. A pin of Parkview's Corbin Hill in the consolation semi sent him into the third place match, but he too fell just shy of the medal stand with a 7-0 loss to Hillcrest's Blake Schmidt. 

Those matches put Rolla at 164 points in the hotly contested race for the Ozark Conference Championship as a team. Waynesville was able to sneak past them for second place with 174 team points, while Lebanon took the Conference crown with 200.5 team points. Rolla always sets the bar high, so they were not happy coming in third place. Hauck hopes the conference tournament pushes them even harder as they head into Districts this coming weekend. 

"We win as a team and we lose as a team and they learned a valuable lesson about being a team and how you have to have everyone on the same page and working together for the same goal. A lot of people look at this sport as an individual sport and, yeah, there's a big individual aspect to it, but man it's a whole lot of fun when you get a whole team together and get a whole team working the same way," said coach Hauck. "We're gonna take that momentum and light that fire under them this week to get them going for Districts. We've got a really good shot at Districts and State. The season has just begun, everyone is 0-0 right now and we can't lose twice. We've gotta stay in the bracket and get ourselves to State next week and the higher placement, the easier our first round will be at State."

The road to Districts is now complete, but now they get off onto the highway toward the State Tournament. The Bulldogs will head up to Camdenton on Friday, Feb. 10 for day one of the two day District Tournament, which concludes on Saturday.