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Jackson and Notre Dame wrestling each have conference champions

Jackson sophomore Brysen Wessell (30-3) became a first-time SEMO Conference Champion by winning the 215-pound title in the conference tournament over the weekend at Sikeston. Submitted photo

Over the weekend in Sikeston, Jackson and Notre Dame’s wrestling teams competed in the annual SEMO Conference Tournament.

While neither program came away with the top prize, each school had individual wrestlers finish in the top spot on the podium in their respective weight class. A total of three Indians finished as SEMO Conference Champions between the boys and girls teams, while one Bulldog brought home a title of their own.

As a team, Jackson’s boys placed third overall with 295.5 points and Notre Dame boys ninth with 73 as Hillsboro took home the team conference championship at 349.5 with Farmington (312) taking second.

Potosi won the SEMO Conference title on the girls side, scoring 223 points as Ste. Genevieve (208) and Park Hills Central (153) finished second and third, respectively. The Indians girls team (73 points) came in seventh place, while the Bulldogs (30) took 10th.

Coincidentally, all three of Jackson’s individual conference champions were sophomores as Kayleigh Milam won at 110 pounds for the girls team, while the boys had Graidy Rice and Brysen Wessell take home gold at 113 and 215 pounds, respectively.

Bringing home the only individual conference title for the entire Notre Dame wrestling program was senior Lily Ahlvin at 135 pounds. Ahlvin is the second-ever conference champion for the Bulldogs, following in the footsteps of 2023 graduate Emma Steimle, who won the 190-pound championship last winter.

Milam continues the trend of a Jackson girls wrestler winning a conference title, joining the list of prestigious champions in the recent past like former Indians Mallorie Metzger, Gracie Metzger, Kayla Hodges, Kassie Hodges and current teammate sophomore Mollie Metzger.

Kayleigh (22-6) won her first-ever SEMO Conference Championship in dominant fashion by pinning all three of her opponents in the tournament. For the 110-pound conference title, Milam defeated Ste. Genevieve senior Paityn Basler (16-6) as she pinned her with 32 seconds left in the second period to take home the gold.

Milam reached the championship bout with another second-period pin over a senior in Park Hills Central’s Taylor Sharp (8-2) at the 2:32-mark in the semifinals. Kayleigh’s opening match of the conference meet actually lasted the longest as she pinned Farmington sophomore Ashlyn Robinson (5-8) with 54 seconds left in the third and final period of the quarterfinal round.

Moving to the boys conference champions for Jackson, Graidy Rice (25-6) became a first-time champion by defeating Hillsboro sophomore Evan Litzsinger (24-6) via a 6-4 decision for the 113-pound title.

Rice made light work of his opponent in the semifinals by pinning Cape Central sophomore Caleb Moore (12-2) with 10 seconds left in the first period. Graidy also picked up a pinfall to start the tournament as he did so versus Valle Catholic sophomore Easton Koetting (8-6) 39 seconds into the third.

As for Brysen Wessell (30-3), who is filling in the same weight class for 2023 Class 4 state runner-up Tyler Beyatte, he won his championship match at 215 pounds by a 1-0 decision. He did so over Farmington senior Rowdy Vaugh (19-6) to become a first-time conference champion with two years left in his high school career.

Like Rice, Wessell also pinned each of his opponents leading up to the finals. Brysen ended Notre Dame senior Charlie West’s (17-1) perfect season by pinning the Bulldog with 51 seconds left in the semifinal match.

Outside of those two seniors that have previously qualified for state, Wessell pinned Hillsboro sophomore Caden Romaine (20-7) 28 seconds into the second period of the quarterfinals.

While West was one win away from reaching a conference championship match for Notre Dame, Lily Ahlvin (5-3) did not disappoint for the Bulldogs girls team. Being the only wrestler on the girls team, Ahlvin pinned North County senior Memory Raker (13-4) with 48 seconds left in the second period to capture the 135-pound conference title.

Lily only had one other match than the championship bout versus Raker as she also pinned Ste. Genevieve sophomore Ragan Picou (17-8) at the 3:40-mark of the semifinal round. Ahlvin placed second in last year’s tournament and fourth the year before that.

Moving back to Jackson, the Indians had four other wrestlers advance to their respective championship final outside of their three first-place finishers. Senior Hayden Wessell (19-7) fell one point shy in the 190-pound title match, while sophomore 132-pounder Kade King (26-8) and freshman 138-pounder Caleb Schlick (23-12) were both pinned in the finals.

On the girls side, Jackson junior Haley Sanders (7-10) was pinned in the 235-pound championship match as former conference champion Molle Metzger (17-10) was defeated in the semifinal round and ended up taking fourth at 125 pounds.

Other wrestlers to finish in the top six of their weight class for the Indians boys team include third-place finishers senior Landon Vassalli (28-4) at 126 pounds and sophomores Kamden Ger-hardt (29-5) and Kadon Shaw (18-9) at 106 and 120, respectively.

Jackson sophomore Jordan Sostillo (25-9) took fourth at 175 pounds, while 144-pound junior Jacob Milam (32-15) and 165-pound freshman Joah Moore (27-7) placed fifth. Lastly, Indians junior Tyler Hudson (17-13) took sixth place at 285 pounds.

Even though Charlie West fell in the semifinals to eventual conference champion Brysen Wessell, he still placed third overall at 215 pounds to lead Notre Dame’s boys team. Outside of West, sophomore Parker Lemmons (13-9) and freshman Oscar Kester (10-10) took sixth place at 144 and 106 pounds, respectively.

Nick McNeal covers high school sports, college sports and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Cape Girardeau County for the past five years. He can be reached at cbjsports@socket. net.

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