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Three Tigers Advance To State
Tiger teammates and coaches react to the pin that earned Tyler Dawson a spot in the state tournament.

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Junior Michael Taylor will make his third trip to the state wrestling tournament, and this year, he’ll be joined by two newcomers. Jonathan O’Connell earned a state berth after narrowly missing out as a freshman. Tyler Dawson punched his ticket with a last-second pin in his win-or-go-home bubble match in the consolation semifinal.

Taylor ended up with a fourth-place finish in the 120-pound division. He lost his third-place match to Dalen Moore of Carthage, but will take a 44-10 record into the state tournament next week. Before the medal rounds, Taylor overcame a 3-1 deficit to defeat Josh Copher of Webb City in the bubble match.

”He’s wrestled Copher … a couple of times this year and they’ve never been a blowout. They’ve always been close. So you’re always kind of nervous going into a match like that, because anything can happen. We’re just glad he stuck with it and kept pushing the pace and came out with a win,” says Morton.

O’Connell was Republic’s top finisher. He was runner-up at 132 pounds. Trenton Young of Neosho beat him 3-0 in the championship match.

”He’s been wrestling exactly like he’s been all season,” Morton says of O’Connell. ”He’s guns-a—blazing, coming at you full-throttle the whole time. He’s just doing what we expected all year so far.”

Dawson rebounded from a second-round loss and fought his way through wrestle-backs to place third at 195. He pinned William Prince of Carthage in the third place match, earning his first state trip in his last opportunity, as a senior. Morton says it’s been gratifying watching Dawson’s growth as a wrestler for the past four years.

”That’s the sweet thing about the wrestling. You get a kid that comes in as a freshman, and you’re like, ‘How’s this kid ever going to make it?’ But with wrestling, it’s not about the talent that you’re given. It’s about the work you put in. And so he’s coming in in the off-season and he’s one of the ones that put in the summer workouts, and it’s paying off for him. So he accomplished a ton.”

Dawson says he was not necessarily ”expecting” a state berth, but he was hopeful when the weekend began. His bubble match opponent, Colton Franks of Rolla, had beaten Dawson by a point in a previous match.

”I was hoping, because anything can happen at districts,” he says. ”I was trying to go in there as hard as I could and beat [Franks.]”

After taking the lead, with time winding down, Dawson says he just kept telling himself, ”Don’t lose, don’t lose, don’t lose.” He took it one step further, securing a pin just before time expired.

Senior Seth Wild was on the disappointing end of the bubble match drama. He fell one match short of qualifying for state, losing to Collin Andrews of Branson in his final match as a Tiger.

Taylor, O’Connell, and Dawson will participate in the state tournament next weekend in Columbia, starting Friday.

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