Central junior Desmond Howard had the most difficult task of any wrestler in the finals of the SEMO Conference tournament Saturday: survive against Brad Wisdom.
"My game plan was to last as long as I could and not get pinned, make it a close match," Howard said. "But it didn't turn out as I expected."
Howard was pinned in 1 minute, 39 seconds and had to settle for a runner-up finish for the second straight year.
For Wisdom, it was conference title No. 4. The Farmington senior, who ran his record to 40-3, also has three state titles and two district championships on his impressive resume.
"Brad Wisdom is a great wrestler," Central coach James Brake said. "He's going D-I to Mizzou next year, so Dez went out there and put out a great effort today.
"That kid is awful good."
Howard, who came out of the tournament 25-10, actually had to face Wisdom twice Saturday, losing to him in the fifth round of the two-day, 11-team tournament.
And he may see the state's top-ranked wrestler again in Class 3 district action. Howard is seeded second in the first tournament step toward the state meet.
"Hopefully, I'll get a better shot at him the third time I see him," Howard said.
When Wisdom was winning the second of his state crowns, Howard was just being introduced to the sport as a freshman.
"Since my sophomore year, I went to all the camps and did all the workouts I could over the the summer to get better," said Howard, who also ran cross country this fall for conditioning purposes. "It paid off. My season is going good."
Central junior Trey Grovenor won the heavyweight title for the second straight year, pinning Poplar Bluff's Dylan Janes in 5:24.
"It's pretty cool," Grovenor said after running his record to 36-3. "I am real excited about it. I've been practicing hard and getting prepared for this."
Grovenor had wrestled Janes in past seasons but had not faced him yet this year. The match was tied 2-2 with a minute remaining.
"It was a real good match," Grovenor said. "I was thinking, 'Don't get thrown,' since he's a really good thrower. Just kind of wrestled my match and wear him down."
It worked, as Grovenor made a move for a takedown just before recording his pin.
Grovenor is ranked fourth in the state among Class 3 heavyweights by Missouriwrestling.com.
Central finished fourth as a team, placing behind Jackson, Farmington and Poplar Bluff.
"All the kids came out and battled hard," Brake said. "They stuck to their game plans and executed."
Jackson's Josh Scott, who had been pinned by Wisdom in 1:41 in the semifinal round, bounced back to win one of the most exciting matches of the final session for third place at 125 pounds.
Scott was engaged in a high-scoring match with Kevin LeClere of Ste. Genevieve and trailed by a point in the final seconds (although the scoreboard erroneously listed him two points behind). The wrestlers had gone outside the circle and returned to the neutral position with 4 seconds left. Scott, the son of assistant coach Jeff Scott, recorded the takedown just before the buzzer for an 11-10 win.
"That was a great win for him because we'd been pinned by him earlier this weekend," Jackson coach Steve Wachter said. "I felt really proud for Josh and for coach Scott."
Jackson was 5-4 in the championship matches and 1-2 in third-place matches, meaning the Indians coaching staff was busy nearly every second of the finals session.
"It kind of wears you out a little," Wachter said, "but it's worth every second of it."
The tournament in 2010 will be hosted by Dexter, which finished last in the 11-team field.