Never mind if Kolyn Eli had ever been involved in a match quite like he was in Saturday.
“I've never seen a match like that,” the Nixa sophomore said.
Eli engineered an epic comeback for the ages in glorious fashion against Neosho’s Braxton Barnes in the 145-pound final at the COC Tournament.
Eli first had to keep himself from losing by a technical fall after falling behind 13-1. He battled and did well to keep the match going, but still trailed 13-7 as the third period neared its end. Hardly content, he sent a shockwave through the tourney and drew a thunderous roar from the crowd by pinning Barnes at the 5:54 mark.
Eli felt in the final seconds he was still trying to win and Barnes was trying not to lose.
“My coaches are always telling me you’e got to move on bottom or else you’re going to get thrown on your back,” Eli said. “That’s exactly what happened. He didn’t move at all. He was just trying to stall it out. As soon as he tried to get up, I got my leg in an banana-splitted him. It was over with after that.
“My coaches are always telling me never to give up. This shows if you don’t give up, you can do anything.”
Eli, a sophomore, improved his record to 34-12. Barnes, a senior ranked No. 1 at 145 in Class 3 by MissouriWrestling.com, dropped to 43-4.
“That was a pretty massive comeback,” Nixa coach Dustin Martin said. “Neosho was looking for a three-count to end the match. Kolyn was in a cradle on his back. He had the opportunity to lay down and be done. But he battled back, put the Neosho wrestler on the ropes and was able to put the big move on at the end to get the fall.
“He’s done everything right this year. He’s been working hard. So, it’s good to see this happen for him.”
Eli and Barnes had a history prior to Saturday, albeit a very short one. At the COC Tournament a year ago, Barnes pinned Eli in :53 in the semifinal round.
Eli was eyeing a rematch and was confident a title would be on the line.
“I knew it was going to be me and him in the finals,” Eli said. “I was excited and kind of nervous to wrestle him.”
The COC title is the first tournament championship of any kind for Eli.
“This gives me a lot of momentum going into Districts,” he said. “Hopefully, I can be a District champ, too.”
Nixa’s Deagan Fugitt (113) and Cole Crahan (120) also were crowned champions.
Fugitt edged Willard’s Michael Findley 5-3 in their final to up his record to 39-7.
Fugitt has enjoyed a banner season and was the favorite at 113. But he remembers all to well the feeling of being an underdog. Fugitt took great satisfaction in looking back at last year’s COC Tournament, where he was fifth, and seeing the gains he’s made.
“I was just looking forward to the end of the season last year at this tournament,” Fugitt said. “I didn’t medal and my goal was to make the medal stand, so I was pretty disappointed in myself. The competition (at 113) has gotten better this year, but I’ve also gotten better.”
Fugitt outscored his opponents Saturday by a combined 45-8 in four wins by decision, to go along with one pin. More telling, he’s 7-2 on the season in matches decided by two points or less.
“I’m really good at protecting a lead,” said Fugitt, who has won his last five matches decided by two points or less. “I wrestle smart with a lead. You don’t want to be super defensive, but don’t be super offensive, either.”
“Deagan can go out and score points if he needs to. But he’s also very capable of being smart, protecting his position and and protecting his lead,” Martin added. “He’s turned into a close-match wrestler, which is awesome. At Districts and State, you’re definitely going to find yourself in close matches. To have the experience under his belt he has is a positive going into the post-season.”
Crahan bounced back in a big way after being pinned by Lebanon’s Bo Rosen in a second-period match during a dual last Wednesday. He downed Ozark’s Clayton Moison 4-2 in Saturday's 120 final.
“This is a breakout tournament for him,” Martin said. “He was probably at a low point for him Wednesday. He was leading and gave up a fall. He hadn’t had a bad season to that point, but was getting frustrated. He made a decision that he was going to turn things around. He changed a few things technically. But it was about his mindset, coming here ready to battle. He had a different mindset and was a different wrestler this weekend.”
“I started working harder and started feeling better about my wrestling,” Crahan aded. I felt coming in to this tournament I was going to win.”
Crahan, a freshman, is 29-16.
The Eagles were also represented on the medals stand by runner-up Marek Davis (182), third-place Peyton Moore (106) and DeSean Downs (195) and fourth-place Ethan Shepherd (138).
Davis upped his record to 36-8. He was pinned in 1:26 in the final by Neosho’s Drayke Perry.
Moison, who improved his record to 29-11, was Ozark’s top finisher. The Tigers;' Wyatt Snyder (113), Elijah Maskrod (126) and Kale Conway (152) were fourth.
- 1st Place - Christian Finley of Willard
- 2nd Place - Kyler Carter of Webb City
- 3rd Place - Peyton Moore of Nixa
- 4th Place - Landon Kivett of Neosho
- 5th Place - Braxdon Tate of Carthage
- 6th Place - Dylan Billingsley of Ozark
- 7th Place - Wyatt George of Republic
- 8th Place - Rocky Walker of Joplin
- 1st Place - Deagan Fugitt of Nixa
- 2nd Place - Michael Finley of Willard
- 3rd Place - Hayden Crane of Neosho
- 4th Place - Wyatt Snyder of Ozark
- 5th Place - Carlos Reyes of Carthage
- 6th Place - Kevin Cox of Carl Junction
- 7th Place - Dominick Famiano of Republic
- 8th Place - Cameron Clark of Webb City
- 1st Place - Cole Crahan of Nixa
- 2nd Place - Clayton Moison of Ozark
- 3rd Place - Christian Cartright of Branson
- 4th Place - Gabriel Selby of Neosho
- 5th Place - Tanner Russow of Carthage
- 6th Place - Jacob Crandall of Webb City
- 7th Place - Oscar Martinez of Willard
- 8th Place - Brenden Evans of Joplin
- 1st Place - Kolton Sanders of Neosho
- 2nd Place - Michael Taylor of Republic
- 3rd Place - Holden Hughes of Carl Junction
- 4th Place - Jonah Peters of Willard
- 5th Place - Brantley Carter of Webb City
- 6th Place - Eli Sneed of Carthage
- 7th Place - Dylan Carter of Nixa
- 8th Place - Riley Newsom of Ozark
- 1st Place - Jonathan O`Connell of Republic
- 2nd Place - Caden Lorenz of Branson
- 3rd Place - Bret Camerer of Neosho
- 4th Place - Ethan Shepherd of Nixa
- 5th Place - Anderson Ixcol of Carthage
- 6th Place - Jackson Taylor of Webb City
- 7th Place - Philipp leithaeuser of Carl Junction
- 8th Place - CJ Stanford of Willard
- 1st Place - Kolyn Eli of Nixa
- 2nd Place - Braxton Barnes of Neosho
- 3rd Place - Ryder Heimbach of Willard
- 4th Place - Brayden Williams of Joplin
- 5th Place - Cole Stewert of Carl Junction
- 6th Place - Austin Hadaller of Branson
- 7th Place - Kaleb Doyle of Ozark
- 8th Place - Isaiah Madson of Republic
- 1st Place - Alec Rothman of Neosho
- 2nd Place - Tallon Heimbach of Willard
- 3rd Place - Kelten Campbell of Carthage
- 4th Place - Kale Conway of Ozark
- 5th Place - Dalton Honey of Carl Junction
- 6th Place - Brody German of Webb City
- 7th Place - Keaton Bradley of Joplin
- 8th Place - Dylan Rust of Nixa
- 1st Place - Roger Carranco of Webb City
- 2nd Place - Trulyn Kendrick of Carthage
- 3rd Place - Isiac Shields of Carl Junction
- 4th Place - Keaton Sanders of Neosho
- 5th Place - Gavin Wallace of Willard
- 6th Place - Logan Lewis of Nixa
- 7th Place - Brayden Thomas of Joplin
- 8th Place - Christian Berumen of Branson
- 1st Place - Jed Brandon of Willard
- 2nd Place - Collin Andrews of Branson
- 3rd Place - Jacob Ott of Webb City
- 4th Place - Kobe Maxwell of Carl Junction
- 5th Place - Max Schilling of Ozark
- 6th Place - David Honeycutt of Republic
- 7th Place - Aiden Short of Joplin
- 8th Place - Brandon Crow of Carthage
- 1st Place - Drayke Perry of Neosho
- 2nd Place - Marek Davis of Nixa
- 3rd Place - Gibson Sweet of Webb City
- 4th Place - Noah Southern of Carl Junction
- 5th Place - Jonas Keohane of Willard
- 6th Place - Max Petruccelli of Branson
- 7th Place - Caleb Triplett of Carthage
- 8th Place - Braegan Patman of Ozark
- 1st Place - Caleb Elliot of Neosho
- 2nd Place - Jesse Cassatt of Carl Junction
- 3rd Place - DeSean Downs of Nixa
- 4th Place - Colton Winder of Carthage
- 5th Place - Gavin Killingsworth of Willard
- 6th Place - Buddy Belcher of Webb City
- 1st Place - Kale Schrader of Carthage
- 2nd Place - Jaydn Withrow of Joplin
- 3rd Place - Zane Persinger of Neosho
- 4th Place - Matt Miller of Webb City
- 5th Place - Cameron Caldwell of Willard
- 6th Place - John Gholson of Nixa
- 7th Place - Keegan Bennett of Carl Junction
- 8th Place - Isaac Gyles of Republic
- 1st Place - Brener Ocana of Carthage
- 2nd Place - Tyler Huffman of Carl Junction
- 3rd Place - Austin Webb of Willard
- 4th Place - Alex Curry of Joplin
- 5th Place - Taylor Cheek of Nixa
- 6th Place - Luke Hulse of Ozark
- 7th Place - Joe Armstrong of Neosho
- 8th Place - Ethan Piles of Republic