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Responding to loss in last year's State final, Strick 'has found a way to be better for it’


With MSHSAA’s State Wrestling Tournament pushed back by about a month last year, Braxton Strick’s wait for another shot at a state championship is due to be shortened by 22 days.

Even if the Ozark 152-pound junior would have had to wait the usual 365 days, he reports time wouldn’t have seemed to be at a standstill.    

“It’s kind of flew by. Time just went,” Strick said.

That simple statement speaks volumes of the manner in which Strick responded to his 3-1 loss in the Class 4 138-pound state championship match last March 13. He hasn’t forgotten about the past, but hasn’t dwelled on it, either.

“Of course, I was upset about it at the moment,” he said of his only loss his sophomore season. “I was pretty upset that night.”

Come sunrise the next morning, Strick was back to his usual highly-motivated, positive-thinking self. He was also back on a mat.

“Coming in the next day (for a workout), I was ready for next year and ready to get more,” Strick said. “I couldn’t stop thinking about next year at this time.”

The post-season arrives this weekend for Ozark, Nixa and the rest of the Class 4 District 3 16-team field that will congregate at Nixa. The District’s opening two rounds will play out Friday and four State berths in each weight class will be earned Saturday.

Strick owns a 38-3 W-L record this season and is 130-11 for his career. In addition to his runner-up finish at State a year ago, his profile also includes two District championships, one Sectional title and a third-place finish at 126 at State two years ago.

Ozark coach Tod Sundlie, who doubles as a psychology teacher, feels Strick’s response to being a takedown away from a state championship has proven his winning mindset.

“From what I’ve seen with Braxton, he’s found a way to be better for it,” Sundlie said “Losing is no fun. But it can be an opportunity to be better than you would have been otherwise. You win that match and you might think too highly of yourself and you lose that desire and passion a little bit. You have to take what was given to you and find a way to better for it.”

To that end, Strick points to his strategy and technique as areas he felt he needed to improve on this season.

“I’ve worked on my takedowns more and become more active on my feet,” Strick said. “That’s what was my demise in the finals last year. I couldn’t get one more (takedown).

“I want to move forward and get to my shots,” he added. “A lot of kids who wrestle me, they don’t like to do a whole lot. I’ve got to force the action myself by going for takedowns, pushing the pace and being the aggressor.”

Both Strick and Sundlie like the fact Ozark’s schedule was once again formidable this season, with the Kinloch Classic back to being one field instead of two and most importantly, the Kansas City Stampede and Winnetonka Tournaments returned.

Strick’s three losses came at the Stampede and Winnetonka.

“Braxton has been given what he needs as far as feedback and what he needs to work on,” Sundlie said. “I feel like he’s in a good place mentally.”

Strick split two matches with Liberty’s Logan Rathjen (25-7), who is ranked No. 1 in Class 4 at 152 by MissouriWrestling.com. Strick lost his only match to Francis Howell Central’s Aidan Hernandez (36-1), who is ranked No. 2.

“It’s like a big triangle because I beat Rathjen, Rathgen beat (Hernandez) and (Hernandez) beat me,” Strick said. “I’m excited to see how it shakes out. We’re all in separate Districts, so we’ll all probably be No. 1 seeds at State.”

Strick will be an overwhelming favorite to take his third District title. He’s likely to face Trey Robinson (28-3), of Lee’s Summit North, in the 152 final. Strick posted a third-period pin against Robinson in the second round at State last year.

“He’s a tough kid,” Strick said. “I’m going to be excited to put on a show for this area. I’ve got to represent Ozark. I’m ready to go.” 

Over the course of his career, Strick hasn’t been the victim of an upset of sizeable proportions. His losses have been to legit opponents. 

“I respect opponents outside (of the mat) when we’re not wrestling. But when we’re wrestling, an opponent is an opponent,” Strick said. “I’m going to execute and do what I do. The mind definitely plays a big part in it. For me, it’s about 85 percent mental and 15 percent physical. If I’m 80 percent mentally sound, I think I’m going to go out and do great. I know my physical abilities, I just need to have the right mindset.”

Strick draws plenty of motivation from the endless hours of mat time, along with the strength and conditioning drills, that he has logged.  

“Getting up in the morning and working out, staying after school and working out, working out at home and sometimes I’ve had three workouts a day, I know most kids aren’t doing that,” he said. “I have the upper hand in that category. I can’t let all my hard work go down the drain.”

Strick certainly hopes that if his journey this season does lead to a gold medal in Columbia next weekend that he won’t have to worry about his name being misspelled. His name has repeatedly been seen as Strict on TrackWrestling.com and consequently media outlets have followed suit.

“Oh my gosh, don’t even get me started on that,” Strick said. “It’s weird. People have texted me about it and I don’t know what to tell them or how it got started. In the yearbook one year, that’s how they spelled my name and in another year it was just Stick.

“I hope it’s fixed for Districts,” he added. “I might be a little upset it it isn’t.”