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Tigers’ 152-pound State champion Strick goes from ‘underdog’ to ‘top dog’


COLUMBIA — Fittingly, Braxton Strick achieved a new status for himself as a state champion by going to a counter-move he had never before tried in a match.

Strick continued his climb up the podium at the State Wrestling Tournament by claiming a 3-1 victory versus Liberty’s Logan Rathen in their 152-pound title tilt showdown Saturday.

The Ozark junior captured a gold medal, after he had claimed a third-place medal as a freshman and a runner-up medal as a sophomore.

Strick’s theme going to State was all about aggression and he responded with daring defense. He and Rathjen were tied 1-all in the third period when Strick turned a shot for a takedown attempt by Rathejen into what proved to be a winning takedown of his own.

“He went for the shot and I tried something I’ve never tried before in a match,” Strick said. “I had only tried it in practice. I’ve been doing it in practice the past three weeks, trying to get good at it and I did it tonight. I tried to throw caution to the wind and go for it.

“He tried almost an outside-single (takedown attempt) and actually almost got it,” Strick added. “I came over the top, reached between his legs, grabbed his hand and I rolled over the top. It was a gamble and it definitely paid off. I almost got back points. But I got the takedown, that’s all that matters.”

Staked to a 3-1 lead, Strick felt great about his chances of keeping Rathjen from a tying takedown over the final minute-plus of the third period.

“My defense showed out once again,” he said. “I think my defense is one of the best aspects of my game and it really stood out in that match. I knew he was going to try to come after me pretty hard. I was ready for it. I was confident in my ability.”

It was the third meeting this season between the two. Rathjen (33-8) entered as the No. 1-ranked 152-pounder by MissouriWrestling.com, while Strick (46-3) was No. 3.

Strick took two of their three matches.

“We’ve become friends, all respect to him. He’s a great wrestler,” Strick said.

Strick reveled in an atmosphere that at times resembled a Liberty home match. With Liberty well represented in the finals, the Jays’ faithful showed up in large numbers and were boisterous in their support of Rathjen.

“That was just fuel to the fire,” Strick said. “I like being the underdog and I like being the top dog.”

Strick becomes Ozark’s second State champion in as many years, after Hunter Tennison won the 285 championship last year.

Strick fell a takedown short of a championship at 138 a year ago and vowed  at that time to come back to claim a gold medal.

“I would say this was a test of my determination and grit,” he said. “I said last year after I lost that I was going to be back. Here I am. Saying something and actually putting it into existence speaks volumes. I got it done. I’m not done, yet.”