Several area wrestlers brought home some hardware from a tough Clearwater Invitational on Friday.
Despite several quality teams having to back out of the invite due to Saturday’s state dual meet, there was still plenty of stellar action on the mats.
“The caliber of wrestling was great today,” stated OC coach Dan Roeber. “You lose those three teams (Plainview, Burwell and Winside) and you take those away, we could have had some 16-man brackets instead of eight-man brackets, a few more wrestlers and a few more good matches. But it was absolutely great wrestling today.”
OC led the area in the team standings with a fourth-place finish, behind Howells-Dodge, North Central and team champion Millard West.
Elkhorn Valley was fifth with 118 team points, followed by West Holt and Crofton/Bloomfield in sixth and seventh, respectively, O’Neill St. Mary’s in ninth and Elgin Public/Pope John in 13th.
“The team finish wasn’t big for us,” commented EV coach Joey Tegeler. “Josh (McFarland) and Brock (Schaecher) didn’t wrestle today and they’re two of our biggest point scorers. That didn’t matter, our kids wrestled really good today and it was a tough tournament. We’re ready to go.”
EV’s Hunter Bennett opened the finals with a 3-2 victory over Millard West’s Nate Hartman at 106 pounds. Scoreless after the first period, Bennett recorded an escape and takedown in the second and held on for the win.
“It was really good (to get the escape),” Bennett recalled. “I was starting to get worried knowing I had to try to ride him out to get the win. Hitting that escape helped get my head back in the game.”
The next local champion came at 138 pounds when West Holt’s Cole Liable recorded a 1-0 victory over North Central’s Levi Lewis.
The hometown kid, Clay Thiele, picked up a huge win over H-D’s Carter Jensen in the 195-pound title tilt. Thiele cruised to a 13-2 major decision.
“It’s a big deal,” Thiele noted on winning the home invite. “It’s our last one as a Cyclone and it felt good to come out here and win it in front of all the fans. I was quick on my feet, the one looking to score and stayed in control.”
The championship matches ended with a bang, as Falcon senior Christian Yaw scored an upset victory over West Holt’s Jade Buss to cap off a memorable day for the EV heavyweight.
“He’s got confidence now and that’s what we want to see,” Tegeler said. “We’ve always known that Christian has had it, but he couldn’t get over that hump or mental lapse he always has. He got it today and hopefully he keeps going next week and the week after it.”
In the semifinals, Yaw picked up a 5-2 decision victory over OC’s Tommie Peed. The win was Yaw’s first-ever victory over Peed.
“Tommie is a great guy,” Yaw spoke. “I’ve wrestled him six times over my career and he’s beat me every time. To finally win that one feels great.”
Yaw then entered the championship match going against the No. 2 ranked wrestler in Class D - according to newrestle.com. The Falcon senior got his offense going early, scoring three takedowns, along with a three-point near fall, to take a 9-4 advantage into the third period. Yaw scored a crucial takedown late and threw in a half nelson to pin Buss with six seconds remaining in the match to send the EV faithful to their feet.
“I’m happy,” Yaw continued. “To pull this off is a big step for me. It’s my first time getting first. Buss is a good wrestler and I came out on top. I couldn’t ask for a better team. I had great supporters here today.”
Elkhorn Valley’s Adam Miller (120), Prestin Vondra (145) and Mitchell Petersen - who recorded his 100th career win - earned runner-up honors, Reed Bennett (126) placed third and Gavyn Clause (195) was fourth.
The Cyclones’ Spencer Kester (113) and Codey Snider (182) finished second, Houston Marino (152), Eli Macke (160), Donaven Nolze (220) and Peed took third, James Kester (132) placed fourth and Austin Pokorny (170) was fifth.
“Our big boys did what they do every week,” Roeber commented. “Spencer Kester getting second and James Kester getting a medal is always good for them, especially going into districts to get some confidence. Hopefully we’ll finish on a high note for the rest of the year. We did what we could, we were just outmanned in a couple of matches and we have to get more aggressive at times.”
Only two wrestlers completed for EPPJ Friday. Norman Grothe (120) scored a first-period pin and Cory Romej (145) fell in two hard-fought matches.
Tyson Sauser led C/B with a second-place finish at 132 pounds, while Jared Janssen (220) Hudson Barger (106) and Calvin Dather (182) were fourth.
“Physically, Tyson has not been struggling, but he’s been struggling internally this year,” noted C/B coach Caden Alexander. “The last two or three weeks, he’s been really coming on strong. He’s finding some confidence and aggression. Some are turning into wins, and some are turning into hard-fought matches against good kids. That’s what we were hoping to see out of him this year. I’m glad he’s finally getting there and it’s the right time of the year to be seeing that.”
Ben Slaymaker (160) and Buss took runner-up honors for the Huskies, while St. Mary’s Cole Rosenkrans (220) also placed second.
Each team now gets ready for next weekends district tournaments.
St. Mary's heads to Midland District D-3 meet.
Crofton/Bloomfield heads to Albion for the District C-2 tournament Friday and Saturday.
“We are further ahead than I thought we would be this year,” Alexander said. “We are seeing the things we were hoping to see going into districts next week. We still have things to improve on. We have to make sure we’re in the right mindset to compete at our best level going into districts.”
West Holt joins all three Antelope County teams at Neligh for a very tough District D-1 meet next Friday and Saturday.
“We talked all week in practice that we never tend to wrestle well at the Cyclone Invite,” Roeber concluded. “I don’t know if it’s the pressure or the nerves of being in front of the home crowd. We told them to use that pressure and momentum to pretend that this was districts and get ready to wrestle under pressure. We focused on that in practice and today. Some of them did well under pressure, and some of them buckled. At least we had that chance to buckle today and they can step up next week.”