A condensed setting in the Commons Area for Nixa’s season-opening duals Friday made for anything but a common opening night for the Eagles. An overflow and boisterous crowd, along with a 22-point Nixa comeback led to an absolutely electric atmosphere.
With people seemingly everywhere he looked, the Eagles’ Charles Speake couldn’t even find his mother to celebrate his win at 285 pounds.
“Ask her what a takedown is and she has no idea. She just cheers when everybody else does,” Speake said. “But she's a big wrestling fan when it comes to me.”
Speake made himself a favorite for all Nixa fans by pulling out at an 8-4 triumph that capped a furious rally in the Eagles’ 37-34 victory versus Farmington.
Coach Dustin Martin’s team won the final five matches to come back from a 34-12 deficit. The teams were tied at 34-all to set up a showdown between Speake and Farmington’s Peyton Simily.
“I had a feeling it would come down to me or (220-pounder John Gholson),” Speake said. “Everybody finished warmups and then it was just me. There was so much pressure. I was sitting back watching John's match and thinking, 'Everyone is going to have their eyes on me and my entire team is going to have all their hopes on me to win this.' There was so much riding on it.
“I didn't let anybody down and most importantly, I didn't let myself down,” he added.
“A dual never comes down to one kid, but sometimes it looks like it does,” Martin said. “Credit to Charles, he worked hard in the off-season and has developed into a strong leader on our team. He went out and got the job done.”
Speake broke a 2-all tie with an escape at the start of the third period and even after feeling he had reached a wall physically, finished the match strong.
“I used my adrenaline to get those first couple points. But I felt (exhausted) at the end of the second period,” Speake said. “I was moving around trying to get feeling back in my body.I kept seeing the two big 34s (for team scores) on the TV screens. I knew I had to do something.
“(The escape) was such a relief. With that putting me in the lead, I knew I just had to not mess up.”
Speake took pride that his conditioning stood out.
“My cardio was better than his. That's something I really strive to have,” he said. “The easiest way to win a match is being able to last longer.”
Nixa rallled from being down 34-12, thanks to pins from Cole Crahan (170), Brennan Carey (195) and Gholson and a 17-5 win by majority decision by Avry Rutherford (182).
Earlier, Zan Fugitt (126) and Aidan Ward (138) both won by fall.
A premier match saw Farmington’s Blake Cook edge Nixa’s Peyton Moore 9-6 at 132. Cook was a Class 3 132 state runner-up last season and Moore was third in Class 4 at 120.
Nixa later went on to whip Rogersville 60-16.
The duals were the first Nixa has held in the Commons, normally the school’s cafeteria. Wrestlers, coaches and fans approved of the setting whole-heartedly.
“We’ve had mats in here before, but never for a dual,” Martin said. “I've been in wrestling for 30 years and seen some neat environments. You can get creative. I sent an email to our parents today and told them that if this was a flop, we would never do it again. But I think it went really well.
“All the lunch tables are hidden, I don't know where they're at. The energy was really high and it was very loud. You couldn't have scripted it any better. What a fun way to break in the commons.”
“I loved it, this was the best,” Speake said. “It was awesome. It was louder than it usually is in here.”
For Carey, it was his debut on the mat as an Eagle. He transferred to Nixa last summer from Carl Junction. He needed only :29 to record a pin.
“We already had pretty good upper weights and he has added to our depth there,” Martin said. “He's going to be a big part of our future.”
Carey’s past saw him have Carl Junction state champion Jesse Cassatt as a practice partner. Now, he’s working alongside Gholson, a third-place finisher at State last season.
“All last year Jesse was my drill partner. It was a very competitive year with him. Jesse very much made me better,” Carey said. “There are more guys to be competitive with here. John is really good. He's heavier so it makes some of my matches a little lighter. Coach also pushes me hard in the practice room.”