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Tuesday, Sep. 2, 2014

Two Sikeston wrestlers are still alive in championships

Sunday, February 22, 2004

(Photo)
Sikeston's Lance Berry works to pin Justin Guerrant of Fulton.
COLUMBIA - Heading into Saturday's Class 2 State Championship wrestling finals, the Sikeston Bulldogs stood in 15th place and had two competitors alive for a possible third place finish.

Heavyweight Joe Johnson and 160-pound Lance Berry each will be all-state wrestlers regardless of how Saturday's events unfold.

They can finish no worse than sixth place and no better than third.

Sikeston wrestling coach Chris Hodgkiss was ecstatic about Friday's events.

"Today was awesome," said Hodgkiss. "The only thing I can say about it is 'wow.' The second round wrestlebacks we had all four guys in it and all four won. Three of them won by pin so that was some real big team points for us. The kids were pumped up and they were really excited."

Johnson's final match of the day was the highlight of the evening. He was wrestling the third ranked heavyweight out of Nevada, Leonard Keller, who also defeated Johnson in last year's state meet.

Johnson was dangerously close to losing on a technical fall, which is 15 points. Johnson trailed by 14 at one point in the second period and by 13 on a couple different occasions in the third period.

Still trailing by 13 with the final seconds winding down, Johnson threw Keller to the mat and was able to secure the pin with just three seconds to spare.

Hodgkiss said the near capacity Hearnes Center crowd was stunned at the amazing turn of events.

"Fortunately it was the last match of the evening so everybody in the stadium was watching it," said Hodgkiss. "There were probably 8-to-9,000 fans in the Hearnes Center and the entire place just erupted for him when he got that pin. That's the happiest I've ever seen that kid."

Earlier in the day, Johnson beat an old nemesis, Farmington's Nathan Spain, who had defeated him three times this season. With the score tied 7-7, Johnson pinned Spain in 4:11.

Spain was ranked No. 5 in the state. Johnson also wrestled, and lost, to the No. 1 ranked wrestler on Thursday.

"Joe -- I'm just so happy for that kid," said Hodgkiss. "He amazes me of what he can do. He's had the worst draw that you can imagine, but he doesn't care. He goes out against the No. 5 ranked kid in the state who's beat him three times this year, and pins him in the third period. Then he goes out against the kid that beat him at state last year and ranked third in the state, and he sticks him. It wouldn't surprise me what Joe does. I'm just happy for him."

Berry's matches didn't hold the drama as Johnson's but they were just as rewarding.

Berry lost to Hannibal's Chris Dickman in the consolation quarterfinals 9-5.

Berry then pinned Excelsior Springs' Derek Bennett in 1:39. Berry advanced to Saturday's finals by defeating Fulton's Justin Guerrant 6-4.

"Lance had another tough kid and gutted it out with a two-point win," said Hodgkiss. "It was tied with about 15 seconds left in the match and Lance reversed him to win. He's been our top point scorer all year long, so to place at state is going to be a good end to his senior year."

Sikeston's Kyle Weeks (135 pounds) and Scotty Keenan (171) each finished in eighth place on Friday, which is not considered all-state.

Weeks pinned Helias' Zeke Vanderfeltz in the consolation second round. Weeks was eliminated from competition when he lost 5-3 in overtime to Smith-Cotton's Mike Kusgen.

"Kyle lost a heartbreaker in overtime," said Hodgkiss. "The kid got a takedown with about 20 seconds left in overtime. It was a heartbreaker. Kyle's had a tremendous year for us. He's had a tremendous career. He wrestled an excellent tournament. He really showed what kind of character he has."

Keenan posted a big win in the consolation second round by edging Farmington's Tyler Epstein 3-2. Keenan was eliminated by Timberland's Josh Ard 4-3.

"Scotty had a great tournament," said Hodgkiss. "The two matches that Scotty lost were both by one point. He wrestled a good match in the wrestlebacks today. He won a tough match in the second round wrestlebacks versus the Farmington kid that had beaten them twice already this year. Then he just lost a heartbreaker, got taken down with about 15 seconds left in the match to lose the third round wrestlebacks. For Kyle and Scotty both, finishing in the top eight in the state says a lot for the years that they've had."

Also on Friday, Dexter's Josh and Ben Robinson were eliminated in the Class 1 consolation round.