MARSHALL -- The Sikeston Big Dogs, a club wrestling team, qualified two for the USA Junior Nationals at the Southern Plains Junior Regional Qualifier Tournament, held on the campus of Missouri Valley College in Marshall, Mo., this past weekend.
Heavyweights Joe Johnson and Robert Madison earned trips to the national championships, to be held in Fargo, N.D., in July. Johnson and Madison qualified in both the Greco-Roman and freestyle disciplines.
USAW-sanctioned tournaments are split into two age classes, cadet -- for high school sophomores and below -- and junior -- for high school juniors and seniors.
In Greco-Roman competition, contested on Friday, Johnson placed second and Madison third in the junior division. The top three finishers qualify for nationals.
Johnson (3-1) defeated Trent Bond of Missouri, teammates Madison and Josh Northern, then lost a 9-5 decision to Texas state high school champion Alex Bland.
Madison (2-2) lost to Johnson and Bland and defeated John Ploughman of Kansas and teammate Josh Northern (2-2), who finished fourth.
Other Big Dog competitors included Craig Burton (1-3), a 135-pounder, who went 1-3 in the highly competitive cadet division. Two of Burton's losses were to Missouri Class 4 state champion Dylan Joiner of Oak Park and two-
time USA All-American Greg Garcia of Nebraska.
Gavilan Bland, who went 2-2, placed fourth in the 145-pound cadet class and Chris Northern, at 189 pounds in the junior division, failed to qualify with one win and two losses.
The seventh member of the Big Dog contingent, 171-pound Harvey Pegues, participated in no official matches because there were no competitors in his weight class, but went 1-1 in two exhibition matches.
In the freestyle competition, contested on Saturday, Johnson captured a first place with a 3-0 record, defeating Missouri Class 2 third-place finisher Matt Hohensee of Monet, 5-4.
"That was the best match I've ever seen Joe wrestle," said team leader Ivan Robison, also the Sikeston High School wrestling coach. "He was down 4-1, then hit a three-point throw to tie it with 30 seconds left, then got a one-
point takedown to win the match."
Other Johnson victims were Leland Seymour of Warrenton County and Bond. Madison (3-1) placed second in the cadet heavyweight class, including a narrow 9-7 loss to eventual champion Ploughman. Josh Northern (2-2) finished fourth.
Bland, Pegues, Burton and Chris Northern went 0-2 in their respective classes.
All non-qualifiers will have a chance to qualify for nationals through the slightly less competitive State Freestyle Tournament to be held at the Sedalia State Fairgrounds during the first weekend in May.
"It's not too late to join the Big Dog wrestling program," said Robison, "and qualify for national competition."
Wrestlers age 8 to high school seniors are eligible.
Robison also expressed gratitude to the Sikeston Elks, which covered the team's traveling expenses to the regional tournament.
Next up for the Big Dogs is the Fox Freestyle Tournament this weekend.