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.