COLUMBIA — Austin Eveler left last year’s Missouri state wrestling tournament wearing a silver medal and feeling unfulfilled.
Second place isn’t bad, especially for a sophomore. But coming so close to a state title gnawed on the Lee’s Summit West junior not only that day, but for the next 12 months to follow.
“That hurt me really bad. I just couldn’t stop thinking about it,” Eveler said.
Eveler turned that pain into motivation this season, and it carried him to another state title match. And then it carried him through to a 9-8 decision over William Erneste of Park Hill and the gold medal in the Class 4 132-pound division at Mizzou Arena.
“I just wanted it so bad,” said Eveler, who finished with a 51-3 record. “It’s been a long ride this year, but it ended up being a storybook season. I’ve just been obsessed with winning a title.”
After cruising through his first three matches, Eveler faced a stiff challenge in Erneste, who came in 43-3. The two never met this season before the final, but Erneste did beat Everler last season.
But Erneste did face another Titan during the season, and Eveler did his homework.
“I watched film on him from when one of my teammates wrestled him,” Eveler said. “He used the exact same moves that I used in that match. I just thought that if he could do it, I could probably get it on him, too.”
Eveler trailed 2-0 after the first period, although he nearly put Erneste on his back as time expired. Two more takedowns by Erneste put Eveler down 6-0 before he pulled back within 6-5 by the end of the second period.
Eveler went up 7-6 with a takedown early in the third period, but Erneste countered and went up again. With 15 seconds left, Eveler got a reversal for the winning points.
“You never count Austin out of a match,” Lee’s Summit West coach Ethan Hauck said. “He had major exciting come-from-behind matches three times last year, and to have something like that come in the finals at state, that’s quite a way to finish off the season.”
Eveler, the Titans’ first state champ since heavyweight Evan Boehm in 2011, was one of two wrestlers to reach the finals for West, which finished eighth in the team standings with 66.5 points. Junior Brady Nelson, 35-5, made the 195 final, where he was pinned by Michael Pixley of Blue Springs in 1 minute and 5 seconds. Pixley finished with a 46-1 record.
West also had Jacob Brasfield-Thogerson place third at 152 with a 3-0 decision over Jack Korenak of Lindbergh in the consolation final. Lawyer Beckum went 2-2 and reached the third round of wrestlebacks at 126 and Steffon Fassett went 1-2 at 145.
“It was a great finish for us,” Hauck said.
Brady Daniels of Lee’s Summit had a great finish, too, placing third at 160 pounds. After a tough 4-3 loss in the quarterfinals, Daniels won his next two matches and claimed his medal when Charlie Lipford of Rockhurst defaulted due to an injury.
“I really wanted to wrestle my last match,” Daniels said. “The loss in the quarters was a hard blow, but I just wanted to prove to myself that I could come back and win through the backside.”
Daniels was one of only two Tigers to place among their nine entries. Alan Olivas, who placed sixth at 126, was the other. Skyler Reid was 1-2 at 106, Kevin Foley went 0-2 at 113, Trey Broker was 0-2 at 120, Cartland Allan was 1-2 at 132, Austin Jones was 0-2 at 138, Juan Casteneda was 1-2 at 170 and Ali’l Loyola was 1-2 at 220. Lee’s Summit finished 10th with 34 points.
“A lot of our guys had never been here before,” Daniels said. “The lights might have got to them, the noises in the building. “I thought we had all prepared pretty well.”
Keegan McCormick of Lee’s Summit North was certainly prepared for his opponent in the fourth round of 145 wrestlebacks, Park Hill’s Canten Marriott. The week before, McCormick beat Marriott by a point in the district final. But in the rematch at state, Marriott escaped with a 2-1 victory.
“I definitely feel like I didn’t wrestle as well the last couple of matches,” said McCormick, who finished his junior year 39-9. “I just know I have to work a lot harder for next year.”
McCormick went on to beat Jesse Reser of Fort Osage 6-2 in the fifth-place match. The Broncos also had Austin Hanson go 2-1 at 113 and Evan Weidner pick up a win at 170.