Roberts ends career with championship

Eli Roberts of Blair Oaks (bottom) takes on Dylan McClain of Plattsburg in the Class 1 182-pound championship match Saturday at Mizzou Arena. Roberts won 6-4 to capture the state title.

Eli Roberts of Blair Oaks (bottom) takes on Dylan McClain of Plattsburg in the Class 1 182-pound championship match Saturday at Mizzou Arena. Roberts won 6-4 to capture the state title. Photo by Kris Wilson.

COLUMBIA, Mo. — The “0” in 48-0 stands for “Oh, so sweet.”

Blair Oaks’ Eli Roberts capped off a magical senior season by notching a 6-4 decision in the title match of the 182-pound weight class Saturday at the Class 1 state meet.

Roberts never trailed in his wrestling match with Plattsburg junior Dylan McClain and put together a workmanlike effort to snag the crown.

In fact, the most threatened Roberts might have felt was when he got enveloped in a huge bear hug by Blair Oaks assistant coach Brian Markway after the victory.

“He and I have been drilling hard all year long, really wanting that state title, so it really meant a lot to me and him that I got it,” Roberts said with a smile.

Roberts became the first undefeated champion in school history, and just the second title-winner overall, as Craig Clark pulled off the feat last year.

“That undefeated record was so heavy on me, because everyone was like, ‘Oh, you’re going to win it,’” Roberts said. “But it’s not that easy. There are a lot of good kids. Dylan McClain is a stud, it was hard to go get it, but I’m just relieved that I got it done.”

Roberts said he was glad to join Clark among the program’s elite.

“It feels pretty awesome,” Roberts said. “I wanted to be the first (to win a title), but I lost in the semis last year and Craig went on to do it. I was happy for him that he took first, but it’s nice to be the first undefeated champion.”

Blair Oaks coach Tim Karsten was quick to point out Roberts’ record wasn’t fattened up by weak opponents.

“We wrestle hard competition,” he said, “and we need that to make our guys tough, so he has really done something here by going undefeated with our schedule. I’m real proud of him.”

Roberts got a takedown just :36 into the title match, then let McClain up for an escape. But Roberts got another takedown with :16 left in the period and added two near-fall points to build a 6-1 lead.

McClain got an escape in the second, and it stayed 6-2 heading to the final period. McClain got a takedown with :08 left in the match, but couldn’t get Roberts onto his back.

“Wrestling (McClain) three times before, you never know what his coaches would see on film and try to work on, but Eli stayed in great position, was the aggressor, got a big lead and hung on to it,” Karsten said. “I’ve been coaching him since third grade and it’s great to see him reach his goal. He’s really worked hard for it.”

The state title was extra sweet for Roberts after the Blair Oaks football team came up just short of a crown, falling in the state championship game back in November.

“That went through my head,” he said. “That was tough on me because I love football. I talked to my football coach (Brad Drehle) right before this match and he said, ‘Go get it done,’ because he wanted to see me get it.”

III

The Falcons had a chance to win another state title earlier in the day, but unfortunately for Blair Oaks junior Logan Mudd, Whitfield senior Chris Wilkes was standing in his way.

Wilkes, one of just 11 wrestlers from Missouri appearing in Intermat’s national rankings of high-schoolers, proved why. The senior won his second straight state title by capturing a 7-2 decision in the 138-pound match.

During the regular season, Wilkes squeaked out a 7-5 win over Mudd.

“You’ve got a kid ranked 14th in the nation and Logan’s wrestled him twice really tough,” Karsten said. “So he showed himself to the country as someone who’s pretty good, too. He hung in there with (Wilkes) in two matches, so he deserves a lot of credit for that.”

Wilkes got a takedown halfway through the first period and turned it into three near-fall points. After another takedown for Wilkes to start the second period, Mudd got one escape in both the second and third periods to round out the scoring.

Earlier on Saturday, Blair Oaks freshman Frankie Falotico wrapped up a fifth-place finish at 120 pounds by splitting a pair of matches.

He started the day by dropping an 8-3 decision to Plattsburg junior Coleman Kennedy in the fourth-round wrestlebacks.

But Falotico came back strong and notched a 3-0 win over Rock Port senior Dillan DeRosier in the fifth-place match.

Falotico got a first-period takedown and after neither wrestler scored in the second, started down in the third and eventually got an escape for the final point of the match.

“He was the only freshman to come up here and was without any of his buddies,” Karsten said. “He did a great job and had composure like the upperclassmen, so I’m real proud of him. I’m looking forward to his next three years.”

The Falcons, who had earned a state trophy for a top-four team finish the previous two years, came up short this time around, coming in ninth with 73 points. Whitfield won the title for the second straight year, racking up 126 points.

“We had one guy wrestle above what he should have and one guy wrestle below, and it always happens that way,” Karsten said. “You have some hard knocks and you’ve got to overcome them. ... With the guys who came up here, they did their best and I’m well pleased.”

The Falcons will have a good base to build around next year.

“We had eight qualifiers and three of them were seniors, and we’re going to miss them,” Karsten said. “But if you throw (injured) Cole (Kemna) in the mix, that will be six returning state qualifiers, so it’s a good nucleus to build around.

“We’ll also have a big freshman class coming in, nobody quite as flashy as Frankie, but the numbers there will help push competition, which always helps.”

More:

MSHSAA state championship results for area wrestlers

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