COLUMBIA — For many seniors, this year's state wrestling championships at Mizzou Arena represent a last chance — the opportunity to put everything that has happened during the season in the past and for one weekend go all out.
Hickman 145-pound senior Keith Kimbrough said he knows this feeling well, and after he earned an 8-4 decision over Northwest senior Brenden Southards to claim a fifth-place finish Saturday in the Class 4 division at the tournament, he described his career in one word.
“Complete,” said Kimbrough, who earned his first state medal of his career with the victory.
“Early this year, I was hesitant and holding out, but I went all out for this tournament, and I feel great about it.”
This season has been rocky for Kimbrough, who finished with a 30-20 record that included several losing streaks. After losing all his matches in the Jefferson City Invitational in mid-January, Kimbrough said he didn’t feel confident about his ability. Hickman coach J.D. Coffman took notice.
“Keith wasn’t in a good spot at that point,” Coffman said. “It kind of snowballed after the tournament, but then he won a tournament, did well in districts and wrestled well at state.”
Kimbrough said he turned it around when he won his division on Jan. 22 at the Hickman tournament. Kimbrough said he used a new-found aggressiveness to be successful at the state tournament0 and that aggressiveness stemmed from the confidence he gained from the Hickman tournament.
“I went all out,” Kimbrough said. “That was my last match, and I saw no reason to not go all out.”
An aggressive approach helped Kimbrough against Southards, who had pinned Kimbrough earlier in the season.
“I could tell that he was surprised how I came out because of how he reacted to my first shot,” Kimbrough said.
Kimbrough said that when he saw hesitation in Southards' eyes he knew he would win the match. He joked that he wanted to start the second period in the standing position to continue his barrage of takedowns against Southards.
Coffman said that Kimbrough had followed a tough road to get to where he is now and that he looked better than he ever had before at the state meet.