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WRESTLING PREVIEW: Neosho primed for another state title run

Under the direction of Jeremy Phillips, the Neosho Wildcats have developed into one of the best high school wrestling programs in Missouri.

The Wildcats earned team state championships in 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2019, and 2020, highlighting 15 straight years of bringing team hardware back home from Mizzou Arena in Columbia, the traditional site of the state tournament.

Neosho finished third in Class 3 last season, won a district title, placed fourth in the Central Ozark Conference tournament, won the Missouri Duals and the Neosho tournament titles, and went 6-3 overall in duals against Joplin (72-12 W), Nixa (40-32 W), Collinsville, Okla. (45-24 L), Republic (68-6 W), McDonald County (45-18 W), Carthage (38-31 L), Ozark (50-19 L), Marshfield (47-24 W), and Carl Junction (44-30 W).

The Wildcats return seniors Eli Zar, Collyn Kivett, Nico Olivares, Gabe Mabrey and Ulysses DeLeon, juniors Wyatt Black, Jon Chrisco and Jack Lankford, and sophomores Bostyn Patterson and Fisher Butler. They also welcome a deep, talented and decorated freshman class that might be able to make a sudden impact at the varsity level and help continue the tradition of excellence for Neosho wrestling.

“We have a solid senior group, a decent returning core and an amazing freshman class joining them,” Phillips said. “They have the potential to be exciting to watch come together, grow and compete for the goals we have in front of us.

“There are several factors to our success, but none of them will I predict,” Phillips said. “If we decide to work together, have persistent efforts, and learn daily I believe we will do well. Trusting in the process, in ourselves, and the team will be key this year for all of us. Our success could surprise some people if the large number of talented younger kids and the older wrestlers looking to take their success to the next level can become a family within our process, keep the faith, and remain hungry and humble along the journey.”

Zar, who has verbally committed to NCAA Division II program Maryville (a school in St. Louis where former Neosho High stalwarts Nate Rodriguez and Joey Williams enjoyed much success), won state, district, and conference titles and posted a 50-4 overall record last season at 170 pounds.

Zar became the 39th individual state champion in program history, and he could join nine other Neosho wrestlers before him who earned at least two state titles.

Additionally, Butler finished 33-19 and fifth overall at 113, Black 22-24 overall and a state qualifier at 120, Chrisco 30-23 and sixth overall at 126, Patterson 26-19 overall and a state qualifier at 145, Kivett 37-18 and fourth overall at 160, and DeLeon 26-23 and a state qualifier at 195.

Lankford and sophomore Trey Hardin won JV conference titles last season, sophomore Tyce Hardin also picked up varsity experience last season, and sophomore Hunter Butler returns after a year off from wrestling.

The freshman class includes MO USA state medalists Gabriel Busteed, Everson Tomlinson, Carter Howard, Chase Kivett, Skiler Shideler, Kaymon Rhone, and Dayton Kivett.

Other wrestlers in the varsity mix are River Feagans, Sam Fryar, and Brody Mitchell.

The Wildcats open their season on Saturday with the 35th annual edition of their home tournament and their December schedule includes a triangular Dec. 6 with COC rivals Joplin and Nixa before the Missouri Duals in Jefferson City (Dec. 9-10), the KC Stampede in Kansas City (Dec. 16-17), and the William ‘Red’ Schmidt Holiday Wrestling Tournament in Granite City, Illinois (Dec. 28-29).

Neosho prepares for the conference tournament near the end of January with a series of duals and the Branson Tournament (Jan. 14).

District and state take place in February. 

WRESTLING PREVIEW: McDonald County to rally around five returning state qualifiers

The McDonald County boys wrestling team has 10 starters and five state qualifiers returning for the 2022-23 season, numbers sure to bring a certain level of excitement to any program.

The Mustangs can build around 120-pound junior Jose Mendoza, 138-pound senior Blaine Ortiz, 150- or 157-pound senior Levi Smith, 215-pound junior Samuel Murphy, and 285-pound junior Jayce Hitt, their five returning state qualifiers.

Murphy, Hitt, and Ortiz have earned a combined four state medals during their high school careers so far, including a state runner-up for Ortiz at 113 pounds in 2021 and Murphy a third-place finish last season.

Move-ins Emmit Houston (from North Park HS in Walden, Colo.) and Nathaniel McLaughlin (Arkansas) have been thrown into a mix that also features other returning starters in senior Cross Spencer (150 / 157), sophomore J.T. Clemons (150 / 157), sophomore Brady Bogart (170), sophomore Alex Bogart (190), and sophomore Malosi Sosef (190).

On top of that, Beau Bennett (Pittsburg HS, Baker University), Joshua Tyler (Springdale Har-Ber HS, Williams Baptist), and Reid Davis (Butler HS) have joined the coaching staff.

“I feel like it’s going to be an exciting season for both our girls and boys teams,” McDonald County coach Josh Factor said. “We have a very talented group on our boys team and yet we have never won any hardware in the Big 8 Conference, district, or state tournaments. It’s always fun to strive to accomplish something for the first time as a team. As for our girls team, we’re still working on getting our first girl to the state tournament.”

Last season, Murphy finished third and Hitt fifth at state at 220 and 285, as the Mustangs finished 17th overall in Class 3 with 39 points.

The Mustangs finished seventh in Class 3 District 3 with 118 points and Ortiz, Murphy, and Hitt each won district titles.

McDonald County also finished third in the Big 8 and Ortiz, Smith, and Murphy each claimed individual conference titles.

Murphy put together a 47-2 overall record and Ortiz finished 41-7, Smith 42-10, Hitt 24-6, and Mendoza 18-21.

Spencer went 15-30 last season, Clemons 9-27, Brady Bogart 1-9, Alex Bogart 17-26, Sosef 4-6, and Houston achieved a 24-10 overall record during his freshman season in Colorado.

On the girls side, McDonald County returns Jaslyn Benhumea at 105, Stacy Apolinar-Lopez at 145, and Gisel Aragon at 170.

The Mustangs open the season on Thursday with a dual against Big 8 powerhouse Seneca, winners of four straight Big 8 tournament titles. The Mustangs went 12-15 in duals last year.

“Concerns will be how will our teams respond to competing in tough tournaments throughout the season,” Factor said. “We will have several tough tournaments, but the Kansas City Stampede on Dec. 16-17 and the Thrasher Tournament on Jan. 27-28 will both be good tests for our boys team and our girls will be challenged at every event they attend.

“For our teams to succeed this year, we have to remain healthy and be able to compete at our best in February. If we can do those two things, I believe success will be the result.”

The KC Stampede brings together some of the very best wrestling programs from Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma, as well as some ringers from states like Texas, Georgia, and Iowa. Murphy highlighted McDonald County’s performance last year with third place, successfully rebounding after his first loss of the season.

Francis Howell hosts the Kyle Thrasher Memorial Tournament and last season’s event brought in 37 teams from across the state of Missouri.

McDonald County will compete in the Big 8 Tournament for the girls Jan. 18 at Nevada and the boys Jan. 20 at Cassville.

District and state competition are in February for boys and girls.

GIRLS HOOPS: Thomas Jefferson suffers loss at Liberal

LIBERAL, Mo. — Riding a big second half, Liberal defeated Thomas Jefferson 51-31 in girls basketball action on Tuesday night. 

Up one at the break, the Bulldogs limited the Cavaliers to seven points in the second half.

The Cavaliers led 11-6 at the end of the first quarter and the Bulldogs were clinging to a 25-24 lead at halftime.

Liberal outscored TJ 14-2 in the third period to take the lead for good. 

The Bulldogs won the fourth quarter 12-5.

Three players scored in double figures for Liberal, as Abby Barton and Taylor Swarnes scored 13 points apiece and Bailey Couch had 10.

Gabbi Hiebert scored 10 points to lead Thomas Jefferson and Lannah Grigg added nine. Sarah Mueller and Nico Carlson chipped in four points apiece.

Liberal (2-0) is at Baxter Springs (Kan.) on Thursday.

Thomas Jefferson (2-1) travels to Everton on Dec. 6.


WRESTLING: Carthage tops Carl Junction via tie-breaker

CARTHAGE, Mo. — A season opening wrestling dual between Carthage and Carl Junction was deadlocked at 39 when all of the night’s matches had concluded.

The Tigers earned a 40-39 win via tie-breaker, as Carthage won on the sixth criteria due to having less forfeits.

At 106 pounds, Carl Junction’s Carter Fogelson won by fall over Tanner Putt.

Carthage’s Alberto Sales pinned Cole Beezley at 113.

Carl Junction’s Lukas Walker (120) and Sam Melton (126) both won by fall, as the Bulldogs earned wins over Grady Huntley and Emerson Ixcol.

Carthage’s Bradyn Tate pinned Keaton Colburn at 132, but CJ’s Max Matthews won by fall over Brandon Perez at 138. 

Carthage’s Joe Pantoja won by forfeit at 144.

At 150, Carthage’s Kip Castor pinned CJ’s Nevan Challenger and Trey Nye won by fall over CJ’s Marcus Lopez-Durman at 157.

At 165, Carl Junction’s Dexter Merrell earned a 10-7 decision over Gabe Lambeth.

The Bulldogs also won matches at 175 and 190, as Tony Stewart pinned Alexander Hernandez Guzman and Cody Berry won by fall over Hector Escobar.

Carthage’s Alexander Salas-Marquez pinned Blake Starks at 215 and Carthage’s David Recinos earned a 7-1 decision over Donnie Keith.

Carthage will host Cassville and Berryville on Dec. 6. Carl Junction will host Joplin on Thursday. 

GIRLS HOOPS: College Heights rolls vs. rival McAuley

DIAMOND, Mo. — College Heights Christian’s girls basketball team rolled to a 52-10 victory over McAuley Catholic on Tuesday night in the opening round of the Gem City Classic at Diamond High School.

“Our defensive pressure was key in the first quarter,” CHC coach John Blankenship said. “I was very pleased with our rotations out of our traps and reading into the passing lanes. When we create turnovers, it allows us to get into our transition game.” 

Jayli Johnson finished with 12 points and five steals for the Cougars, while Maddy Colin also had 12 points to go along with six rebounds.

Also for CHC, Libby Fanning contributed 11 points, nine rebounds and three steals, while Ava Lett had eight points, three rebounds and three assists.

Third-seeded College Heights (1-1) will play second-seeded Miller at 7:30 on Thursday night at the event.

 Miller beat Sarcoxie 47-11.

Sixth-seeded McAuley meets seventh-seeded Sarcoxie at 7:30 on Thursday at Diamond’s middle school.

In other action, East Newton edged Greenfield 46-44. 

CJ CLASSIC: Host Bulldogs advance to title game, will meet Nevada 

CARL JUNCTION, Mo. — After seeing a 21-point lead nearly evaporate, the Carl Junction Bulldogs got the job done when crunch time arrived.

In a physical back and forth clash, Carl Junction held on late for a 62-58 victory over Springdale (Ark.) on Tuesday night in the semifinals of the 46th Freeman Sports Medicine CJ Classic.

“These are the kind of games we want early in the season,” Carl Junction coach Brad Shorter said. “Springdale plays so hard and they are going to win a lot of games this year. We saw two completely different brands of basketball the last two nights. Neosho has size and Springdale has quickness. We were able to handle both of them, so we feel good. We had some kids step up and tonight was a good game for us for sure.”

Carl Junction built a 21-point lead in the second half, but the host Bulldogs had to withstand Springdale’s late surge for what could be described as a hard-fought win. 

Springdale cut its deficit to four late in the game, but the hosts never relinquished their lead. 

“Our kids kept fighting,” Shorter said. “It could have easily went south, but they hung in there and kept fighting. We needed a game like this because it’s hard to simulate that kind of speed in practice. This game is going to be good for us later in the year.”

The tourney hosts will meet Nevada at 8:30 on Thursday night in the championship game. It’s a rematch of last year’s title game that the Bulldogs won.

In a showdown between Bulldogs, Carl Junction raced out to a 16-4 lead after a pair of hoops from senior guard Destiny Buerge. The hosts’ lead was 16-8 at the end of the first frame. 

Carl Junction took a 23-13 lead after back-to-back putbacks by Kylie Scott, but Springdale forced the hosts into a number of turnovers with their full-court pressure defense, and in the process, the visitors cut their deficit down to two.

But the hosts finished the first half on an 8-0 surge, as Buerge and Scott had one bucket apiece and Dezi Williams scored twice in the paint.

Those points gave Carl Junction a 31-21 halftime advantage. 

Carl Junction scored the first nine points of the second half, as Scott made a free throw, Klohe Burk and Buerge buried treys and Burk knocked down a midrange jumper for a 40-21 cushion.

The visitors stopped the run, but CJ soon held a 21-point lead at 45-24 with just over three minutes remaining in the third quarter. 

Springdale didn’t quit, however, as the visiting Bulldogs reeled off 12 straight points to pull within eight.

Buerge drained a key 3-pointer to stop Springdale’s spurt, giving CJ a 49-38 lead entering the fourth period.

Carl Junction held a 57-45 lead with three minutes to play when Springdale used a 10-2 run to get within four with 45 seconds remaining. 

The hosts wouldn’t be denied. Buerge sank two charities, the visitors turned the ball over and Williams made one of two attempts at the foul line to seal the win. Springdale hit a late trey for the final margin. 

“It was a game of runs,” Shorter said. “And it’s November basketball, so it can be pretty ugly at times. But we’ll get there.”

Ranked third in Class 5 by the MBCA, Carl Junction improved to 2-0. 

A Pittsburg State signee, the 5-foot-8 Buerge poured in 25 points to lead Carl Junction. She hit four treys, grabbed five boards and had four steals.

A 6-3 junior forward, Scott recorded a double-double with 15 points and 21 rebounds. 

Burk added 11 points and Williams had nine points and four steals.

Hali Shorter handed out four assists and grabbed three rebounds. 

Three players reached double figures for Springdale, as Adriana Hernandez scored 17, Charleen Hudson had 15 and Aubriana Wilson added 14.

Coach Shorter noted Springdale’s speedy guard-oriented team was not easy to defend. The visitors, who are now 4-1 on the season, hit 10 3-pointers and forced CJ into more than 20 turnovers. 

“We tried to rest Destiny, but we didn’t handle the ball very well,” Coach Shorter said. “But seeing those things means we know what we need to work on. Our girls realize that.”

In the other semifinal, Nevada topped Parkview 61-55. 

In Tuesday’s consolation action, Neosho pounded Mount Vernon 66-38 and McDonald County beat Seneca 51-38.



Neosho scored the game’s first 11 points and never looked back. 

The Wildcats led 20-5 at the end of the first quarter before extending their lead to 20 late in the first half at 38-18.

Up 40-24 at halftime, Neosho started the third quarter on a 14-0 run to take a 30-point lead and put the game way out of reach. 

Senior post player Karlee Ellick scored 27 points on 13 field goals and a free throw to lead Neosho. The 6-2 Ellick scored 18 points in the first half.

Sophomore Beclynn Garrett added eight points and senior Maelynn Garrett had seven for the Wildcats (2-3).

Sophomore Addie Hall led the Mountaineers (1-2) with 19 points, while classmate Cheyenne Bieber added 10. Grant Berendt’s Mount Vernon squad features just one senior and no juniors. 



The Mustangs led 13-8 at the end of the opening period.

McDonald County was up 27-15 at halftime and the Mustangs held a 39-30 lead entering the fourth quarter.

Junior Anna Clarkson led the Mustangs (2-1) with 16 points and freshman Carlie Martin scored 14 points.

Sophomore Hazley Grotjohn led Seneca with 14 points, while senior Parker Long and junior Samarah Mittag added nine points apiece for the Indians (1-2).



The game was tied at 12 at the end of the first quarter before Nevada took a 31-24 lead into intermission.

The Tigers (2-1) led 47-39 at the end of the third quarter and they never surrendered their lead in the final frame.

Senior Abbey Heathman scored 26 points for Nevada, while junior Clara Swearingen added 22 and senior Maddy Majors chipped in 11.

Tara Masten scored 22 points for Parkview (2-1).


Thursday’s schedule

4 p.m. —Mount Vernon vs. Seneca (7th place)

5:30—Neosho vs. McDonald County (5th place)

7—Parkview vs. Springdale (3rd place)

8:30—Carl Junction vs. Nevada (Title game)

WRESTLING: Joplin overpowers Webb City in season-opening dual

The Joplin Eagles opened the new wrestling season with a 54-24 dual victory on Tuesday over Central Ozark Conference rival Webb City at Kaminsky Gymnasium.

Joplin’s Drew VanGilder battles Webb City’s Dominic Boles during the Eagles win over the Cardinals in the season opener on Tuesday. Photo by Derek Livingston.

Webb City jumped out to a 12-0 lead early behind a win by pin at 106 and a forfeit at 113 pounds, but Joplin took control of the dual in the six weight classes from 120 through 150 with five pins and one decision producing 33 unanswered points for the Eagles.

Webb City also won matches at 157 and 285, but it was not enough since Joplin went 9-3 overall in the 12 contested matches Tuesday.

“First match of the year, you really start learning a lot about your team,” Joplin coach Jeremy Finley said. “What we learned tonight is that we know how to fight. We fought tough. We came out a little flat, but I think as the matches went on, we settled down a little bit and I thought it ended up going our way.

“It’s also a testament for all our kids’ work in the wrestling room. Wrestling’s a tough sport and you saw that tonight. Obviously, we had to dig deep. We had a little adversity, and I was very proud of our kids.

Webb City’s Jessy Stalford and Joplin’s Toryn Jones battle on the mat during the Eagles’ win on Tuesday. Photo by Derek Livingston.

“We’ve got to get in better shape. We were breathing hard in a few matches, but that’s to be expected. Wrestling season is a very long season and we’re not looking to be in tip-top shape right now. We could be wrestling at the end of February in the state tournament. We will get there, I promise you.”

Joplin’s Jabin Brown (120) pinned Drake Carter in 3 minutes, 32 seconds, Toryn Jones (126) pinned Jessy Stalford in 4:58, Andrew Burke (132) pinned Aiden Moore in 4:31, Freddy Cerrato (138) pinned Blake Leonard in 1:00, Alex Short (144) won a 6-4 decision against Colt Taylor, Orion Norris (150) pinned Carson Farmer in 3:53, Juan Morales (165) won 10-4 against Aidan Rose, Drew VanGilder (175) pinned Dominic Boles in 2:39, Josiah Hazelwood (190) pinned Bronson Collard in 1:37, and Draven VanGilder (220) won by forfeit.

Webb City’s Tyler Pearish (106) pinned Aiden Ward in 2:30, Kyler Butler (113) won by forfeit, Justin Allen (157) pinned Cole Gandy in 1:36, and Garrett Mathis (285) pinned Dawson McMullen in 1:25.

Joplin’s Ilannah-Burtrum squares off with Webb City’s Natalie Maynard. Photo by Derek Livingston.

Joplin won 24-0 in the girls dual Tuesday against Webb City: CoryAunna Muller (115) and Mya Ndedi-Ntepe (170) each won by forfeit and Erika Washom (140) and Ilannah Burtrum (190) each pinned their opponents.

Joplin (1-0) returns to the mat Thursday on the road against conference rival Carl Junction (0-1), who lost 40-39 to Carthage on Tuesday.

Webb City (0-1), meanwhile, does not return to varsity action until Dec. 8 with a triangular against Diamond and host Monett.


BOYS HOOPS: Neosho builds early cushion in win over Nevada

NEOSHO, Mo. — Neosho opened the season on a high note, using a big first half to build a sizable cushion on the way to a 61-38 win over Nevada on Tuesday.

The Wildcats took a nine-point lead into the second quarter before outscoring the Tigers 16-4 in the second period to gain a 21-point margin by the break. Neosho held the advantage in the second half on the way to the season-opening victory. 

“The boys were really unselfish and had a great first showing,” Neosho coach Zane Culp said to SoMo Sports. “Ten guys scored and we had only four turnovers on the night.”

Carter Baslee led the way for Neosho with a double-double, scoring 13 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Kael Smith added 10 points, while Carter Fenske finished with nine. Michael Day added six points and Collier Hendricks scored five.

Cade Beshore led Nevada with 13 points, while Drew Beachler and Brice Budd each finished with eight points in the loss.

Neosho takes part in the Battle at The Ridge basketball tournament at Pea Ridge, Arkansas, from Dec. 8-10.


BOYS HOOPS: Carthage pulls away from Monett late after catching fire from range

CARTHAGE, Mo. — After struggling to convert from the floor for much of the first half, Carthage found its rhythm offensively in the second half and caught fire from 3-point land down the stretch to pull away for a 58-44 win over Monett in the Tigers’ season opener on Tuesday.

Carthage trailed after the first and second quarters before taking a slim one-point lead into the fourth period. The Tigers (1-0) started the final eight minutes on a 7-0 run before erupting from the 3-point line down the stretch, knocking down six total shots from beyond the arc to build a double-digit lead en route to the comfortable win.

“I told these guys that it wasn’t going to be perfect,” Carthage coach Nathan Morris said after the season-opening win. “I really feel like in the first quarter that we got good looks at the rim. We wanted our guys who have been at practice to hold us steady, but they really struggled in the first quarter. … I told them just to stay in the fight. Credit to Monett for knowing that we would be a little rusty and forcing us to take a lot of jump shots that we missed.

“We showed what we can be in the second half. … To see the improvement throughout one game is big, and it’s probably not the worst thing in the world for us to have to grit out a win on the first night.”

Sophomore G Trent Yates was the catalyst for the four-quarter surge from long range, drilling four 3-balls down the stretch to finish with 16 points in the win as the Tigers’ second-leading scorer.

“I am really proud of Trent and the way he stepped up,” Morris said. “We have been begging him to step into the moment and he did a heck of a job with that tonight.”

Senior swingman Clay Kinder, who is just joining the team after the football season, added a pair of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and finished with eight points in the period and 13 points in the win. 

Junior G Justin Ray led the Tigers in scoring with 20 points, 12 of which came in the second half. Senior G Max Templeman finished with nine points in the win.

Monett was led in scoring by Jason Garner’s 18 points, while Blaine Salsman finished with 10.


After scoring just four points in the first period, Carthage went into the intermission trailing 18-15 after scoring nine of those 15 points in the final three minutes of the first half. Down 13-7, the Tigers trimmed the lead to 16-15 after getting 3-pointers from Yates, Kinder and Ray, off the assist from Yates. Monett pushed the lead back to three, 18-15, when Isaiah Meeks scored inside before time expired in the half.

“(We were fortunate) to come in down three at half after how poorly we knew we played offensively,” Morris said. “I think our guys were confident in knowing that wasn’t going to take place again. I thought pressuring in our zone press in the second half really got us going.” 

Carthage and Monett exchanged the lead three times in the third quarter, with the Tigers holding a slim 30-29 cushion to start the final eight minutes of play. The Tigers opened the third quarter on a 7-3 run, highlighted by several forced turnovers in the press on defense in addition to a 3-pointer and a score on the drive from Ray, to take their first lead of the game.

Monett answered back with a driving score from Marcus Young to regain the advantage before Ethan Kutz scored inside to push the lead to three for the Cubs, 25-22.

Carthage retook the lead after Templeman drove the lane for a bucket with two minutes left in the quarter to trim the lead to one left before Ray added a pair from the charity stripe to give the Tigers a 28-27 advantage before ultimately going into the final eight minutes with a 30-29 advantage.

Carthage took control of the contest from the onset of the fourth quarter. The Tigers went back to the trap on defense to force several early turnovers while scoring the first seven points of the period behind a steal and an old-fashioned three-point play from Ray, two free throws from Templeman and an inside bucket from Kinder for a 37-29 lead with six minutes left.

“That speaks to the kids,” Morris said. “They fought tooth and nail to finally get the lead after trailing for the major part of two and a half quarters and they didn’t relinquish. They got some big stops, rebounded the ball better and earned some deflections. If we are going to be highly competitive like we were last year, we are going to have to earn deflections knowing that we are not the biggest team in the world.

“Our strength of having four guards on the court most of the time is being able to expose people offensively and be active in the zone press. It can be a weakness at times, having four guards, but if we can keep playing with speed and athleticism and using it to our advantage, it will help us down the road.”

After Monett converted for two charities, it started raining 3s for the Tigers, who made six consecutive shots from 3-point land to put the game out of reach. Yates made his first of the quarter for a 40-31 lead before burying a second on the next trip down to push the margin to 10 points for the first time, 43-33, with 4:40 left in regulation. Templeman earned a steal and ultimately the assist on Yates’ third straight 3-ball to push the lead to 46-33. Carthage built the lead up to 55-38 after two 3-pointers from Kinder sandwiched around Yates’ fourth trey of the period to pull away for good.


The Tigers host the 76th annual Carthage Invitational from Dec. 8-10.