(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Finishing the year on the medal stand means you've wrestled a long season, but for a pair of Benton juniors that did just that, the season hardly skipped a beat.
"I took about two weeks off and then got right back into wrestling freestyle and grecco," senior Tyler McNutt said.
"I haven't really took my shoes off for more than a week, so I'm still in it," McNutt's Cardinal teammate Chance Barnes said.
After McNutt took fourth at state in the 160-pound class in February, and teammate Chance Barnes took third at 180 pounds, the Spring and early Summer has been full of workouts and tournaments.
"I feel like I'm getting stronger," McNutt said. "And that's allowing me to improve more on my shots and defense."
"That's only feeding into his confidence with the amount of quality practice partners he's getting from around the state of Missouri," Benton wrestling coach Brad Hubbard said. "And the amount of quality competition he's getting from around the country."
Two Cardinals with the same goal, but different roads to get here.
McNutt, the more seasoned wrestler through youth programs and the off-season circuit, placed fourth at state as a freshman, was bounced in districts as a sophomore, then took fourth again as a junior.
Now he prepares for junior national duels in Oklahoma City later this month.
HUBBARD: "Getting knocked out of the district tournament might have been the best thing that ever happened to him. It really motivated him for an offseason of wrestling and the kid put in a lot of time last summer. It showed up late in our wrestling year."
Barnes is keeping busy with competition as well hitting events like the Liberty Nationals, but his biggest success can be found in the varsity season.
After just missing a state qualifier his sophomore year, he came within one match of wrestling for gold last season.
"He came in last year and was hungry when he wrestled matches," Hubbard said. "The key with both of them when they're seniors is keeping them hungry."
As the Summer wears on, every practice, every match, every hold is a chance to get better for teammates with different styles, but the same goal come Winter.
"This year, I went to the senior's graduation, and one of the things they said was: '...and our newest state champion,' which was Kain [Ellis] for track. I want that to be me next year," McNutt said.
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