When it comes to their high school wrestling careers, Josiah Vaughn and Sam Melton are at the opposite ends of the spectrum.
A senior, Vaughn is set to conclude his prep career alongside the state’s best.
Just a freshman, Melton is just getting started.
Vaughn and Melton will represent Joplin High School at the MSHSAA Class 4 Boys Wrestling Championships on Saturday at Cable Dahmer Arena in Independence.
The JHS duo earned state berths by finishing in the top three of their respective brackets at the sectional event on Feb. 28 in Ozark.
Competing at 132 pounds, Vaughn went 3-1 and captured third place at the sectional. As a result, Vaughn is ending his prep career at the state tourney.
“It feels great,” Vaughn said. “It’s like a dream come true really. I don’t even know how to explain it…it just feels great.”
At the sectional, Vaughn won by fall over Raymore-Peculiar’s Eli Van Trump before falling to Ozark’s Elijah Maskrod.
Vaughn earned a tech fall over Lee’s Summit’s Bryce McKeone to earn a spot in the crucial third-place match. With a state berth up for grabs, Vaughn earned a 4-1 decision over Jefferson City’s Hunter Walling.
“I just went out there and wrestled hard,” Vaughn said. “It was like relief and excitement both…a weight off my shoulders.”
Simply put, Vaughn got the job done when his season was on the line.
“It’s awesome that he’s going,” Joplin coach Jeremy Finley said. “I can’t explain the joy we all felt for him when he made it. 132 is a tough bracket in Class 4. It was only top three this year instead of top four. He made it to the third and fourth place match and he just pulled it out. He wrestled tough. I’m very proud of him.”
Vaughn, who is 19-12 this season, said earning a state berth as a senior makes him feel as if all of his hard work has paid off. Of course, he hopes to make some noise on Saturday, too.
“My goal is to place,” Vaughn said. “I just have to go out there and wrestle hard and wrestle the way I know I can.”
“We want to see him just go out there and wrestle as hard and as tough as he can,” Finley said. “If he does that, things will take care of themselves.”
Vaughn, who has been involved in wrestling for nine years, said he’s well aware that this weekend will be his final time wrestling for the Eagles.
“It’s a bittersweet feeling,” he said.
While Vaughn is set to end his prep career, Melton is just getting his going.
A prep rookie, Melton placed second at 106 pounds at the Class 4 sectional to earn a trip to state.
“It’s a big deal for a freshman,” Finley said of advancing to state. “We don’t get a lot of freshmen that qualify for the state tournament. Every once in a while we get a couple of good kids who come along who do qualify. But now that he’s qualified, our goal for him is to go out and try to win a state title.”
Melton went 2-1 at the sectional. He pinned Capital City’s Austin Feely in the quarterfinals and then earned a 3-1 decision over Lee’s Summit’s Gabe Hawkins in the semifinals.
In the bracket’s title bout, Waynesville’s William Austin edged Melton 3-1. Melton now owns a record of 26-5.
“I expected to make it to state this year because of the hard work I’ve put in and it feels good to make it,” Melton said. “I’m just excited and ready to go.”
While Melton realizes he’ll be gaining valuable experience for the future at this year’s state meet, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have lofty goals for Saturday.
“I’d like to get on the podium,” he said. “That would be great. I just want to wrestle consistently every time out. I just have to wrestle to the best of my ability. If I achieve my goal this year, great. But if I don’t, it’s not going to affect me going into next year. I’ll keep working hard.”
“He needs to stay mentally prepared,” Finley said. “For a lot of kids, especially freshmen, that go to the state tournament for the first time, it’s their first time they’ve wrestled under the lights. Some kids excel when the pressure’s tough and some kids fold.”
Saturday’s Class 4 event begins at 9:30 a.m., with the semifinals scheduled for 2:45 p.m. The title matches are slated to begin at 6:30.
Live results are available through the MSHSAA website.
CARTHAGE SENDING SIX
Carthage will have six athletes competing in Class 4, including sectional champions Davion King (145) and Luke Gall (182).
Bradyn Tate (113), Dagan Sappington (132), Eli Sneed (138) and Braxdon Tate (152) also advanced for the Tigers.
CLASS 3 MEET IS FRIDAY
The Class 3 event is Friday, with Neosho, Carl Junction, McDonald County and Webb City among the teams competing.
Defending champ Neosho has eight wrestlers competing, including three-time champion Cayden Auch (46-0).
Other Wildcats competing at state are sectional champions Raymond Hembree (106), Hayden Crane (132) and Jeremiah Larson (195). Neoho’s Landon Kivett (120), Trent Neece (152), Eric Holt (170) and Eli Zar (145) round out the state qualifiers.
McDonald County will have four athletes competing, while Carl Junction and Webb City have two wrestlers apiece.
The Mustangs are led by sectional champ Blaine Ortiz (113). Also competing for McDonald County will be Levi Smith (132), Sam Murphy (220) and Jayce Hitt (285).
Carl Junction’s qualifiers are Jesse Cassatt (182) and Lukas Walker (106), while Jacob Ott (195) and Roger Carranco (182) will compete for Webb City.
MORE INFORMATION: 2021 Wrestling Championship Information Central (mshsaa.org)