COLUMBIA, Mo. – Kade Willis has calmly survived the occasional close call while progressing through an unblemished season on the wrestling mat.
The determined Central sophomore approached the cusp of championship glory on Friday evening, and made it look relatively routine.
Willis, who placed fifth at the MSHSAA state tournament last winter, clinched a much higher showing by controlling his semifinal bout against Riley Williams of Logan-Rogersville.
Willis prevailed 14-5 in a major decision while improving to 42-0 overall, earning his fifth takedown in the closing moments after escaping a brief predicament in the second period.
The early tone was set for a six-minute battle as Willis conceded an escape after grabbing the early lead. He was able to consistently extend the margin after Williams had pulled within 7-4.
Willis will face Matthew Bahl of Monett for the Class 2 crown at 126 pounds on Saturday night, joining two other local competitors with a chance at the richest achievement.
Ste. Genevieve sophomore Kaylee Gross (19-0) will challenge for a state title in the historic first season of sanctioned girls wrestling across Missouri.
Farmington junior Austin Wadlow prevailed twice on Friday in Class 3 action, and will carry a 35-6 mark into the 113-pound finale.
Four Ste. Genevieve boys – Dalton McNeal, Jacob Dickens, Grant Staffen and Clayton Vaughn – will place anywhere from third through sixth as medalists.
McNeal (113) was the lone member of that crew to advance past the quarterfinal round after getting a second-period fall against Hunter Tarr of Kirksville. But he was later defeated by major decision.
Seven Dragons secured at least one victory in the tournament, including three who appeared in three separate contests on Friday.
Staffen (145) recovered from a crushing 6-5 loss in the morning session to extend his senior campaign with back-to-back falls. He toppled Peter Zhang of University City at the 1:57 mark for his 40th win.
Dickens (132) improved to 42-9 by earning two consolation decisions, while Vaughn executed an escape in overtime with a heavyweight medal at stake.
Gavin Gross (106) and Noah Ogden (152) were defeated after advancing earlier in the day, and former state runner-up Isaac Boyd (220) was edged 6-4 after returning two weeks ago from injury.
Ste. Genevieve will likely need multiple wins from its remaining wrestlers on Saturday to climb into the top-four team trophy hunt.
Wadlow began his day for Farmington with an emphatic 16-6 major decision, then emerged safely from a methodical duel with Garrett Deason of Kearney to punch his ticket for the final.
Deason answered the lone and initial takedown by Wadlow, who then nabbed a crucial escape during the third quarter and effectively defended from there for a 3-2 decision.
Farmington senior Dalton Berg also won a patient match at 220 pounds, breaking loose from the down position against Chase Kirby of Hannibal for a 1-0 quarterfinal outcome.
Haiden Meyer of Union later derailed Berg 6-2, denying the Knights of a second state finalist. Berg will enter the last two bouts of his career with a 37-5 record.
Judd Cunningham (195) was unable to follow up his first-round victory, and Dayton Boyd (106) was also eliminated by 3-0 decision for Farmington.
Kaylee Gross delivered a resounding 17-0 technical fall against Gracie Lawhon of Willard in the girls 152-pound semifinals, taking the clash of unbeaten wrestlers without yielding a point.
Two teammates of Gross – Genevieve Nicholson (131) and Maggie Myracle (187) – can be assured of state medals by prevailing in consolation matches on Saturday morning.
Ste. Genevieve is sixth in the girls team standings through two days of competition. A two-school race has unfolded at the top with Lafayette (Wildwood) narrowly leading Lebanon 70-67.
Nicholson averted elimination twice by pinning Hunter Bullock of De Soto and Tatum Westendorf of Raymore-Peculiar after losing her opener on Thursday.
Myracle was less than a minute from possibly reaching the championship final, but Donavan Holmes of Wright City instead erupted late for a tying takedown and two near falls for a 12-7 win.
Farmington sophomore Claira Wampler was likewise on the precipice of competing for the top prize in the 143-pound division, but suffered a tight 7-6 defeat after rallying against Emily Knight of Smithville.
North County standout Mikayla Whatley ended her season at 24-3 on a loss by fall after dominating an earlier bout for a 12-2 major decision in the 121 bracket.
Freshman Karlee LaChance (103) was the lone girls qualifier from Central, and bowed out when Shelby Patterson of Raymore-Peculiar earned a second-period fall.
Willis is the last of five Central boys qualifiers remaining alive in Class 2. Josh Countryman (113) suffered a 4-2 defeat in overtime while Blake Bolin (145) and Garrett Smith (120) were also ousted.
Austin Harris (152) finished his senior campaign at 41-9 with an 8-3 setback, and Potosi teammate Kalub Evans (195) was eliminated by fall in the opening minute.
Hopes for a North County medalist also faded on Friday. Jonathon Coroama (120) was beset by two falls between and 8-6 triumph in three bouts, and Cody White (106) was dismissed by technical fall.
Valle Catholic star Trey Huck (160) fell one victory and two points shy of securing a medal in his return Class 1 state appearance after winning two elimination matches.
Tom Crouse of Gallatin slipped past Huck 3-2 for a berth among the final six after Huck withstood an earlier comeback bid from Joseph Hilburn of Polo to triumph 8-6.
Friday Match Results:
Class 3 Boys
106 – Dayton Boyd (29-15)
Lost by dec to Wyatt George (Republic), 3-0
113 – Austin Wadlow (35-6)
Won by maj dec over Cole Patton (Lebanon), 16-6
Won by dec over Garrett Deason (Kearney), 3-2
195 – Judd Cunningham (28-15)
Lost by fall to Brian Boyd (Smithville), 1:09
Lost by dec to Daylon Kanengieter (Marshfield), 12-10
220 – Dalton Berg (37-5)
Won by dec over Chase Kirby (Hannibal), 1-0
Lost by dec to Haiden Meyer (Union), 6-2
106 – Cody White (30-9)
Lost by tech fall to Kyle Carter (Webb City), 16-1
120 – Jonathon Coroama (39-8)
Lost by fall to Jacob Mann (Ladue), 2:35
Won by dec over Zion Thomas (MICDS), 8-6
Lost by fall to Alexander Sederburg (Rolla), 3:56
Class 2 Boys
113 – Joshua Countryman (18-16)
Lost by fall to Zach Lewis (Moberly), 0:46
Lost by dec to Owen Dowdy (Notre Dame), 4-2 SV
120 – Garrett Smith (17-17)
Lost by fall to Logan Blickhan (Kirksville), 1:19
126 – Kade Willis (42-0)
Won by dec over Keegan Scarborough (Oak Grove), 9-5
Won by maj dec over Riley Williams (Logan-Rogersville), 14-5
145 – Blake Bolin (23-19)
Lost by dec to Gabe Hodge (Pleasant Hill), 9-4
152 – Austin Harris (41-9)
Lost by dec to Logan Hawk (Bolivar), 8-3
195 – Kalub Evans (36-14)
Lost by fall to Chance Richards (Moberly), 0:39
106 – Gavin Gross (32-15)
Lost by fall to Owen Uhls (Fulton), 0:32
Won by fall over Deshaun Smith (Moberly), 4:31
Lost by dec to Tyler Murphy (Benton), 7-2
113 – Dalton McNeal (35-11)
Won by fall over Hunter Tarr (Kirksville), 2:52
Lost by maj dec to Ethan Day (Excelsior Springs), 10-0
132 – Jacob Dickens (42-9)
Lost by fall to Joseph Semerad (Monett), 1:11
Won by dec over Jalen McKee (University City), 9-5
Won by dec over Kevin Duong (Mexico), 10-7
145 – Grant Staffen (40-11)
Lost by dec to Blake Howard (Kirksville), 6-5
Won by fall over Peter Zhang (University City), 1:49
Won by fall over Kobie Blankenship (Sullivan), 2:19
152 – Noah Ogden (37-14)
Won by dec over Dane Millsap (Excelsior Springs), 13-7
Lost by maj dec to Luke Malizzi (Odessa), 12-4
220 – Isaac Boyd (2-4)
Lost by dec to Jarrett Kinder (Moberly), 6-4
285 – Clayton Vaughn (38-16)
Lost by fall to Dylan Barber (Hollister), 4:59
Won by dec over Keith Davis (Kirksville), 4-0
Won by dec over Maverick Sadler (Mexico), 2-1 TB-1
Class 1 Boys
160 – Trey Huck (23-12)
Won by dec over Joseph Hilburn (Polo), 7-6
Lost by dec to Tom Crouse (Gallatin), 3-2
Class 1 Girls
103 – Karlee LaChance (21-7)
Lost by fall to Shelby Patterson (Raymore-Peculiar), 2:31
121 – Mikayla Whatley (24-3)
Won by maj dec over Paige Wehrmeister (Parkway West), 12-2
Lost by fall to Paige Folkner (McCluer North), 0:52
143 – Claira Wampler (13-4)
Lost by dec to Emily Knight (Smithville), 7-6
131 – Genevieve Nickelson (22-3)
Won by fall over Hunter Bullock (De Soto), 2:32
Won by fall over Tatum Westendorf (Raymore-Peculiar), 1:31
152 – Kaylee Gross (19-0)
Won by tech fall over Gracie Lawhon (Willard), 17-0 (4:55)
187 – Maggie Myracle (12-3)
Lost by dec to Donavan Holmes (Wright City), 12-7