by Seth Herrold
R-T Sports Editor
When Karson Hill scored the final takedown of his career on Saturday at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, he had done something no wrestler before him had ever done. When Hill took down Mid-Buchanan’s Nathaniel Conant with two seconds left in the final period of the Class 1, 138-pound state championship match, it was takedown number 559.
It was 559 takedowns, not in a career, but in a single season, and no wrestler in the history of high school wrestling has ever done that. Not in Missouri. Not in any state. Hill’s 559 takedowns established a new national single season record, according to USA Wrestling (www.wrestlingusa.com). The former record holder was Daniel Rucker of Canton (GA) Cherokee High School, who tallied 499 takedowns in the 2004-2005 season. The former state record was 387, set by TJ Hill, of Farmington, no relation, who hit his high-water mark during the 1997-1998 season.
“Karson’s 559 single-season takedowns is just phenomenal,” Trenton Head Wrestling Coach and Karson’s father Bill Hill said. “No high school wrestler in the nation has ever been close to scoring that many. When you consider that Karson has more single-season takedowns than all college national champs and even Olympians had when they wrestled in high school, you realize just how amazing this is.”
Making the number even more staggering is the number of matches Hill wrestled to get that total. Although his record for the season stands at 50-0, four of those victories were by forfeit. Hill reached his total in 46 matches on the mat, averaging nearly 12.2 takedowns per match. He won 25 matches by technical fall, 12 by pinfall, six by major decision, two by regular decision and one by an injury default while Hill was leading 16-5.
“Karson loves to go for takedowns and never grows tired of it,” Coach Hill said. “He is known for his hand-fighting and his work from the Russian tie, but he has many favorite takedowns. From simple go-behinds to sweep singles, low shots and high crotches, Karson works all of them well and is likely to hit them either right or left handed. When the whistle blows, he is on a mission to take you down as many times as possible before time runs out or he wins by tech fall.”
What Hill might not have expected going into the season was that he wouldn’t be the only wrestler in the state gunning for the single-season takedown record. J`den Cox of Hickman High School in Columbia also surpassed the former state and national single-season takedown records this year. Cox topped 500 takedowns in his first match of the state tournament and finished his season with between 522 and 526 takedowns, 33-to-37 behind Hill’s record-setting mark.
“We didn’t know about the Columbia kid at the start of the year, but found out about him in the middle of the year,” Karson Hill said. “We knew he was getting a bunch of takedowns (and) of course, so was I. We were able to get a pretty definite number on him going into districts. His uncle posted something on the Internet congratulating him for hitting some mark that he had wanted to get. So, we had a pretty good idea where we were at in comparison with him and knew what we had to do.”
Cox wrestled at the opposite end of the spectrum from Hill, wrestling at 220 pounds in Class 4, the highest class in wrestling in the state. Cox finished his junior season going 57-0 and winning the Class 4 state title at 220. He picked up forfeit wins of his own, but still wrestled four more matches on the mat than Hill did this season.
Hill’s record-breaking season gave him another record as well, the career takedown record both on the school and state levels. Hill, who spent just a season and a half focusing on takedowns, racked up 1,183 career takedowns, easily surpassing the old state record of 959 also held by TJ Hill.
Hill first began his practice of running up takedowns in matches halfway through his junior season. He would end that season with a state championship, his second, and now has three for his career.
“Starting about mid-season last year, Karson decided to really try to maximize his takedown numbers,” Coach Hill said. “He schemed to come up with ways to get more, almost to the point of being obsessed with it. Nearly all of Karson’s points are from takedowns and, if he got a fall, it came by taking them down directly to their back with the last takedown before the match would have stopped for a tech fall anyway. He usually cut them loose before the period ended so that he could extend their score by a point to allow him to gain an extra takedown before reaching the 15-point difference for a tech fall.
“Making sure the match made it to a third period allowed Karson to cut them another extra time and score yet another takedown before getting the 15-point margin. He sometimes chose the top position to start a period so he could ride a little while, then cut them loose, giving them an extra point so he could get an extra takedown.”
When the takedowns started, Hill’s goals were modest, hoping to just crack the 300 mark in his junior season, which he did by finishing with 307. That was a school record until it was broken by Hill this year.
“I had always liked takedowns and we looked the state record up last year and saw that it was 387,” Karson Hill said. “I was close to 200 and I thought it would be kind of nice to get 300 that season.”
While opponents were not so much obstacles, there were things standing in Hill’s path to the record. Having to start a period down or penalty points by his opponent meant one less takedown. Then there was the dreaded forfeit. All of these were things Hill couldn’t control, but simply had to accept and do the best he could.
“Karson tried not to take opponents to their back until he had reached the tech fall threshold and needed a pin,” Coach Hill said. “He hated it if his opponent was penalized, it meant one less takedown, or if they chose top, causing Karson to have to “burn” a point for an escape. Receiving a forfeit was pure torture. Just thinking of the 14 or so takedowns he might have scored in place of the forfeit would make him gripe for hours. I always told him to have fun with his matches and for Karson that meant taking people down. It was his way of making his matches challenging.”
During the season, Hill also eclipsed several other records. His 181 matches without losing by fall tied Brookfield’s Austin Lindsay for the top spot in state history. Hill also was unpinned in 120-plus Kids Wrestling matches prior to his high school career. He also now ranks first in season mat points and career tech falls. He also ranks second in takedowns in a match and season mat points and is third in mat points in a match and season tech falls.