Braxton Strick feels the lessons on humility he’s learned this season will continue to serve him well.
The Ozark 126-pounder’s freshman season thus far has seen him capture a COC Tournament championship on his way to a 39-6 record. He knows better than to take a State berth for granted going into this weekend’s Class 4 District 3 action at Jefferson City.
“You never want to overlook anyone,” Strick said. “I have been good about that so far this year. In past years, though, that was a struggle for me. In my youth career I was overconfident, cocky sometimes. I’ve corrected that. I knew high school would change a lot of things. I knew I wouldn’t be able to undervalue anyone. I have to wrestle everyone just like I would anyone else.”
Preparing for Districts with that mindset, Strick didn’t make it a point to gather info on 126 field he will encounter at Jeff City.
“I don’t look at the competition. I go in and do my thing,” Strick said. “Let’s say I do have someone good in my weight class. Sometimes, that can get to my head and I worry about him and stress over it. Then, I don’t perform as well as I normally would.
“I feel well prepared,” he added. “I’m happy with how I’ve done this season. I feel I’ve stepped it up a notch. I’ve done everything I can to get ready for this moment. My partners have pushed me to be the best I can be right now.”
Ozark 160-pound senior Kale Conway has also upped his efforts, enjoying the best season of his career. Conway is 29-16 and aiming for his first State berth.
He’s determined to be aggressive this weekend.
“Coach (Tod Sundlie) thinks I have good chance at going to State and even taking first, if I push the pace, take shots and don’t hesitate,” Conway said. “Last year, I struggled with my confidence and taking shots. I didn’t feel like I was good enough. This year, we’ve worked on our mindset. I’ve felt more confident, telling myself I can take shots and will take shots.”
Conway has received a further boost by minimizing his weight cuts. He competed at 170 earlier in the season, but has remained at 160 the past month.
“I’ve been staying down in weight pretty good, but wasn’t at the beginning of the season,” Conway said. “I was having to cut about eight pounds every week. But it’s been pretty easy lately managing my weight. It’s toward the end of the season and the constant working out all of the time has kept my metabolism going. Also, my stomach has kind of shrunk because I don’t eat as much.
“I definitely feel more energetic now,” he added. “I remember feeling like I wanted to pass out sometimes after cuts. Now, I feel normal.”
Conway was a win shy of State last year, falling in the ‘Heartbreak Round’ at Districts. He dearly doesn’t want to be in the same situation this time around.
“Last year was devastating,” Conway said. “I’d rather win two matches (Friday) and the first one (Saturday) and not have to go through a ‘Heartbreak’ match. It’s my last year, I’m going to put it all on the line. I don’t get another high school senior year.”
Conway wishes his classmate, 120-pounder Wyatt Snyder, could be on the mat this weekend. Snyder’s senior season ended early due to a meniscus injury.
“That’s rough and I feel for him,” Conway said. “If that happened to me, I’d be devastated.”
Another Ozark senior, 285-pounder Hunter Tennison, will return to action after missing the COC Tournament with a knee injury.
Clayton Moison has momentum on his side, after winning the 138 title at the COC Tournament. He is 32-15. Riley Sundlie is 24-12 at 152 and fresh from a runner-up finish at the COC Tournament.