Smith-Cotton wrestling might be on to something.
After securing a 51-21 duals victory over Nevada Wednesday, the Tigers have won the last two of three West Central Conference titles since breaking Warrensburg’s decade-long streak in the 2013-14 season.
First-year head coach Charlie McFail said he’s simply building a program. Noah Aziere, who wrestles at 182 pounds, said winning is already becoming familiar feeling.
However, both agree that the 2016 conference title went through Warrensburg – a contentious atmosphere for Smith-Cotton Tigers.
“The stands were yelling at us,” Aziere said. “It got really tense. It always does.”
Barry Rivera, who earned a pin in less than 30 seconds at Nevada, also said defeating Warrensburg was a key moment in S-C’s run.
“It’s amazing beating them,” Rivera said. “There’s always tension.”
McFail said he embraces the tension that comes with a rivalry, adding that one as rich as Warrensburg/Smith-Cotton’s shows the sport’s impact.
“People were yelling and screaming for each other,” McFail said. “That’s fun. That’s good for the kids to be able to compete. For as much hard work as they do, when you’re out there competing, and people cheer for you and against you, it kind of gives you a feeling for what you’re doing.”
Smith-Cotton did more than just rub their rivals the wrong way in 2016. Assistant coach Mike Pomajzl said the team trained hard through Christmas break to prepare for the Jan. 4 dual in Warrensburg.
“The big match for us is Warrensburg,” Pomajzl said. “That’s the one I always want to win … It’s rough coming off of Christmas break. We work all Christmas break for it.”
Pomajzl smiled when he said that before the team’s success, conditioning the Tigers proved to be an unpopular task.
“They don’t really like me sometimes,” Pomajzl said. “They hate (running) the stairs. They just dread those stairs. They know in the long run, that’s what’s going to make them better. They may hate me in the end, but it’ll all play out in the end.
Smith Cotton returns to Warrensburg for an individual tournament Saturday, and competes in the West Central Conference Tournament Feb. 6 in Clinton.
Alex Agueros can be reached at 660-826-1000, ext. 1483 or on Twitter @abagueros2