By Richard Polen
Globe Sports Writer
The annual Black and Blue wrestling dual between Carthage and Neosho returns to Carthage today with a new trophy to be awarded to the winner.
Neosho, ranked No. 2 in Class 3 behind Kearney by MissouriWrestling.com, has won the last four Black and Blue duals and, according to the rules, kept the previous trophy after its victory last year at Neosho.
Carthage, ranked No. 8 as a dual team in Class 3, is 7-0 in duals this season, including victories against Central Ozark Conference rivals Ozark, Nixa and Willard.
“I’ve been looking at this dual all year because Neosho is the one everybody is chasing down here,” said Carthage head coach Kenny Brown. “I’ve had people come up to me and ask me what time they need to be here to get a seat. It’s an electric environment.”
Junior varsity matches are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. in the auxiliary gymnasium, followed by varsity matches.
“That’s why Neosho and Carthage have been successful,” Brown said. “It’s because we have so many kids on our junior varsity who are battle tested and can step into the lineup.”
The main attractions of the Carthage-Neosho dual are matchups between returning state qualifiers and wrestlers who are ranked among the top 10 in their weight classes.
For example, Carthage’s Seth Logan (25-1), a returning state qualifier who is ranked No. 4 in Class 3 at 132 pounds, will be up against No. 1-ranked Nate Rodriguez, a three-time state finalist and two-time state champion who also has lost just one match this season.
At 126 pounds, Carthage’s River Maggard, ranked No. 3, will face No. 8-ranked Dakota McGarrah of Neosho. At 120 pounds, in a matchup of returning state qualifiers, No. 6 Gage Gartner of Carthage will face No. 2 River Buttram of Neosho.
“What’s at stake are district and conference (tournament) seeds,” Brown said. “It sets the stage for what we want to do down the road. Win or lose, if we wrestle well, it sets us up for a better seed.”
Neosho won the Branson Tournament last weekend, led by individual champions Jacob Brock at 182 and Rodriguez, who was named the tournament’s outstanding wrestler.
Three Wildcats were runners-up at Branson — John Williams at 106, Jason Box at 138 and Christian Lopez at 220.