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Monett’s Kellen Bounous

A state title and an undefeated season behind him, Monett’s Kellen Bounous has just one regret: He gave up a takedown.

That’s right, the most simple scoring maneuver in wrestling, and Bounous gave up only one.

“I was kind of disappointed with that,” the sophomore said. “I got lazy on that one takedown.”

By that time, though, Bounous had an insurmountable lead on Andrew Friend of Grain Valley, big enough to wrap up one last lopsided victory in a season full of them.

“I’ve never witnessed it,” Monett coach Daryl Bradley said. “He just dominated everybody.”

Now, Bounous, a 130-pounder who went 41-0, has been named The Joplin Globe’s 2007 Wrestler of the Year.

But that kind of domination by a sophomore raises an interesting question: What next?

Sure, there’s the matter of becoming a three-time state champion and going through a season without giving up any takedowns, but those goals almost seem like foregone conclusions.

“I can foresee him winning multiple state titles and competing at the national level,” Bradley said. “But I think a bigger point for Kellen is for a team to win a championship.”

That is, in fact, Bounous’ major remaining goal.

“Being an individual state champion is pretty sweet,” he said, “but once we win a team championship, that’s even better, because then you can joke with your buddies and say, ‘Look what we accomplished.’ ”

Bounous started wrestling when he was 5, following in the mat-lined paths of father Kyle, once third in state, and uncle Brook, a former state champ. Kellen Bounous took to the sport immediately, using a never-look-back style that leaves many opponents on their toes.

“I’m not the kind of wrestler, like most guys who sit back and expect the guy to slip or something,” Bounous said. “You get the first takedown. Once you show that you’re not letting up, that breaks their backs.”

Bradley puts it even more bluntly.

“Some guys will try to put the arm behind the back, but he’ll try to break the arm off,” Bradley said. “You can’t coach that.”

Bradley first knew he’d have something special with Bounous during the 2002 Show-Me Games, where the 11-year-old ripped through all competition.

“I was really impressed, not just the way he wrestled but the way he handled himself and he was really focused,” Bradley said.

When Bounous finally made it to high school, he didn’t disappoint. As a freshman, he knocked off Odessa’s No. 2-ranked senior, Mitchell Bainbridge, in an early tournament and went all the way to the state final, where he lost 9-5.

That sparked Bounous — Bradley said at this year’s state tournament that Bounous had vowed to never again lose in Columbia’s Mizzou Arena — to a sensational sophomore season.

“He was talking to me how he wanted to just go out there and be more careful (in this year’s state tournament),” said Bounous’ teammate and workout partner, Kyle Meyer. “He was real aggressive last year and that’s where he messed up. Him going to the finals, he knew what to expect and knew what everybody would be looking for.”

The result was another wallop.

Like Missouri’s two-time NCAA champion Ben Askren, Bounous was challenged so little this season that it actually frustrated him.

“That’s what stinks,” Bounous said. “I didn’t really have any tough matches this year. That was kind of upsetting.”

It might be a while before he’s in danger of losing.

Unlike most wrestlers of his caliber, Bounous doesn’t seek competition by wrestling year-round in national tournaments, instead preferring to focus on football in the fall and baseball in the spring.

“That’s what’s so amazing about it,” Bradley said. “Kellen, he really enjoys it. He takes his time off and doesn’t seem to lose a step.”

Monett’s Class 2 schedule also limits Bounous’ competition. The Cubs were scheduled to play in the Branson Tournament against mostly bigger schools in January, but the ice storm nixed the event.

Next year, the Cubs are scheduled to play in some bigger tournaments, giving Bounous and Meyer a chance to test their undefeated marks. Also, Bounous said he’ll start to wrestle more regional and national competition after next season in hopes of being noticed by college recruiters.

But for now, Bounous is content with being the best — and setting more lofty goals.

“Just get another championship,” he said, “go for (becoming) a three-time champion and get my technique better and get stronger.”

That’s a scary thought for opponents — just ask Meyer.

“He likes to go out and win and win pretty big,” Meyer said. “That’s his nature to try to beat up the guy and try to make him a little bit scared. A lot of people don’t like to wrestle him.”

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