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story.lead_photo.caption Jefferson City's Will Berendzen wrestles against Hickman's Max Neuhaus during Tuesday's dual at Fleming Fieldhouse. Berendzen won the match by fall at 160 pounds. Photo by Liv Paggiarino / News Tribune.

It may have been a late January dual for the Jefferson City Jays.

But it was against the Hickman Kewpies. And there were postseason implications on the line.

"This was big for district seeding, we feel good about how we wrestled," Jays coach Phil Cagle said after Jefferson City topped Hickman 54-15 on Tuesday night at Fleming Fieldhouse.

The biggest win came on the final match of the dual, which started at 152 pounds.

With the team victory decided several weights ago, Sam Rackers of the Jays faced Aaron Elsasser of the Kewpies at 145.

After a scoreless first period, Rackers scored a takedown with :02 remaining in the second to take a 2-1 lead. Starting down in the third, Rackers got a quick escape to make it 3-1. He then fended off Elsasser the remainder of the match to take the two-point victory.

"That was huge for down the road," Cagle said. "(Waldron) won the title Saturday at the Hickman Tournament against a kid who beat Sam in the semifinals. Now we've got head-to-head criteria on him."

Even though it was a low-scoring match, Cagle was impressed by both wrestlers.

"They were wrestling, they were both trying things," he said. "Sam wrestled a smart match and was the better wrestler tonight."

Will Kuster of the Jays got the dual off to a winning start with a pin in :44 at 152. Will Berendzen then doubled Jefferson City's lead with a win by fall in 3:47 at 160.

"Will went out there and just cranked on the guy," Cagle said. "He physically overpowered him and that was a good win for Will."

Hickman was open in the next three weights to increase Jefferson City's lead to 30-0 heading into Brant Aulbur's bout at 220.

In practice, teams have what are known as challenge matches at weight classes to decide who is in the varsity lineup. Aulbur's challenge match wasn't in the practice room, but on the floor at Fleming Fieldhouse.

"You can be a wrestling room wrestler, beat anybody you want at practice, and then when you get out in front of people, not wrestle very well," Cagle said. "So I challenged him, told him if he won, he was going with us to the Francis Howell Tournament this weekend. If he didn't, he was staying home.

"He went out, accepted that challenge and took care of business."

Aulber scored a quick takedown in his match and turned it into a pin in :27.

Brandon Backues followed with the quickest fall of the night, winning in :21 at 285.

The Jays were open at 106 before DuJual Wallace lost by fall at 113 and Christian Strope fell 4-0 at 120.

The Jays then closed the dual with three wins by decision — Hunter Walling at 126 (8-3), Joseph Kuster at 132 (6-4), Clayton Hurley at 138 (6-4) and Rackers.

Jefferson City is back in action Thursday with a dual against C.B.C. before heading Friday to the two-day Francis Howell Tournament.

"It's that time of the year, we have to be in shape and be durable," Cagle said. "We're still working on some things to try to be at our peak when the postseason starts."


Jefferson City's Ezinne Opara wrestles against Hickman's Clara Telle during Tuesday's dual at Fleming Fieldhouse. Opara won the match by fall at 160 pounds.
Photo by Liv Paggiarino/News Tribune.

In Tuesday night's girls dual, the Lady Jays posted a 30-21 victory against the Kewpies.

The key win of the dual for Jefferson City came at 135. Maddie Showers trailed for much of the match before scoring a win by fall in 5:16.

Ezinne Opara got the Lady Jays' other win on the mat, winning by fall in :27 at 166. Makayla Wallenmeyer at 110, Abbie Zimmerman at 142 and Savena Hees at 152 all won by forfeit for Jefferson City.

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