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Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016

Johnson, Berry medal at state

Monday, February 23, 2004

Sikeston's Lance Berry
COLUMBIA - For the first time in a number of years, the Sikeston Bulldogs wrestling team had two wrestlers place in the state tournament on Saturday at the Hearnes Center.

Junior heavyweight Joe Johnson took fourth place while senior 160-pounder Lance Berry took fifth place.

Both wrestlers entered Saturday's finals with a chance at third place, but could finish no worse than sixth.

Both finished the day 1-1, which gave Sikeston 38 team points to take 15th place in the state in Class 2.

It's the Bulldogs highest finish in the state tournament in several years as well.

In 2001, Sikeston finished with zero team points and in 2002 the team managed just two points.

Last year, behind Johnson's fifth place finish, the team notched 20 points and finished in 25th place.

"In the last 10 to 20 years, this has got to be one of the top two or three seasons that we've ever had," said Sikeston head coach Chris Hodgkiss. "I was very pleased with our overall effort. We had a tremendous year all season. We did very well in dual meets and we placed well in tournaments. I was real pleased with all our kids, and not just the five that went to state."

Johnson got a rematch with Raytown South's Robby Dingman, who defeated him in the first round of the tournament.

Johnson defeated Dingman by injury default 11 seconds into the match.

"Joe talked to me before the match about how he didn't wrestle well in the first round and he was ready to make up for it," said Hodgkiss. "He went out and threw him in the first 10 seconds."

Dingman, who was ranked No. 1 heading into the tournament, was diagnosed with a torn ACL.

Johnson led 5-0 when the referee stopped the match.

"It was just one of those things -- Joe came out real aggressive," said Hodgkiss of Dingman's freak injury. "As soon as the whistle blew, Joe had the kid locked up in the first five or six seconds and threw him straight to his back. And whenever they landed, the kid kind of got his toe caught on the mat and he came down on his head too. The referee had to stop the match a couple seconds later because the kid was kind of laying there flat. It turned out that he had a pretty bad ACL tear and he couldn't continue."

Johnson advanced to the third place match where he was pinned by Carthage's Josh Baugh in 2:14.

"I know he wanted to win that third place match, but that kid from Carthage was just really good," said Hodgkiss. "But I was real proud of him getting fourth place, especially after losing in the first round and coming all the way back through the loser's bracket."

Berry lost his first match on Saturday to Smith-Cotton's Josh Cornine by decision 8-2. Berry then defeated Carl Junction's Tyler Beck 3-1 in the fifth place match.

"That's a great way to end your senior season," said Hodgkiss. "There's not too many kids in sports that get to finish their senior season with a win. He worked hard this year and a fifth place finish for him is pretty exciting. At the state tournament you wrestle people who come in with these awesome records so you never know how your kids are going to hold up against them. But I think Lance proved to everybody that he was one of the top wrestlers in the state."

Johnson, who captivated the fans on Friday by knocking off two heavily favored competitors, including an improbable pin with three seconds to go, became a Hearnes Center crowd favorite according to Hodgkiss.

"Any time you can get a kid that throws people around, crowds like to see that," said Hodgkiss. "Plus, Joe is usually the last match in the arena, so everybody's watching his match. And the way he's just throwing people around, it's amazing the way he does it. He's not the biggest heavyweight. He's only 5-10, 250 pounds, and he's out there wrestling guys that are 6-2 or 6-3 and 260 pounds. He's just so strong that once he gets a hold of them, somehow they end up on their back every time."

Although only the top six earn medals, Kyle Weeks and Scotty Keenan both finished in eighth place in the tournament which produced some big team points.

Weeks, who shattered several Bulldog wrestling records this season, had one of his own records fall over the weekend. Johnson broke Weeks' single-season pins record by notching his 28th of the year.

Johnson and Berry also will share the Sikeston single-season record for most wins with 40 apiece.

Johnson finished the year 40-10 and Berry finished 40-7.

"We had four kids end up in the top eight in the state and we got two of them come home with medals," said Hodgkiss. "I think that says a lot for our program. I know those five that went wanted to place a little higher than 15th, but I really feel like we peaked at the state tournament -- that's where we wrestled our best at. There were many teams that went up there with more people than we did and maybe even better talent, but we just out-wrestled some of them. I am very happy with our season."