The Neligh-Oakdale wrestling team took home some hardware, along with bragging rights, after winning the Niobrara Valley Conference championship Thursday at Elgin’s Pope John gym.
After winning their first three dual matches, the Warriors and Elkhorn Valley met in the final match of the evening to determine the conference champ.
Pins by Falcon seniors Mitchell Petersen (160) and Josh McFarland (170) opened the dual.
At 182 pounds, N-O’s Kaleb Pofahl held on for an 8-6 decision over Brock Schaecher. A takedown and two-point near fall in the opening period gave Pofahl the early momentum, who then fended off Schaecher’s furious comeback for the win.
“It felt great,” Pofahl said. “I had a bad match (before) and I came out and did my thing. It was nice to finish the night with a win and everyone else seemed to follow along.”
The Warriors knotted the match at 12 after a Dawson Kaup (195) forfeit and a Colton Klabenes (220) decision.
EV’s Christian Yaw (285) and Hunter Bennett (106), along with N-O’s Griffin Claussen (113) and Cameron Wilkinson (120), each recorded forfeit wins.
Falcon sophomore Adam Miller put big green back ahead with a 3-2 decision over Brock Kester at 126 pounds.
Andrew Herley gave the Warriors their first lead with a forfeit at 132, and Caleb Payne scored a second-period pin at 138, to give N-O a 39-27 advantage with two matches remaining.
Prestin Vondra gave EV a chance to rally with a first-period fall at 145 pounds, but Cade Wilkinson sealed a title for N-O with a 15-0 technical fall at 152.
“It feels good,” Pofahl spoke. “We’ve been looking forward to this all week and coach (Gary Davis) looks forward to this (meet) all year. We came in, tried to perform at our best and brought it tonight.”
The Falcons claimed runner-up honors at the NVC tournament after going 3-1 as a team.
“We’re not built for a dual, but these guys wrestled their butts off tonight,” stated EV coach Joey Tegeler. “I’m proud of them. We had a couple of swing matches there (against Neligh-Oakdale) that they got on us."
After winnings its opening round match, EV handed Clearwater/Orchard its first dual loss of the season with a 40-34 victory in the first round of the championship pool portion.
“That was a feel good thing,” Tegeler added. “A lot of that win came from guys like Caden (Reikofski) and Hunter Klinetobe not getting pinned. They fought through and forced a decision. That’s a big deal and that’s what swung that dual for us. That was really good.”
The Warriors opened the day with a 72-6 triumph over Elgin Public/Pope John, then defeated North Central, 48-30.
N-O then rallied past OC, 42-30, to setup the battle of unbeatens against EV. Trailing 30-12 with five matches remaining, the Warriors won all five matches by pin or forfeit.
In the final round, the Cyclones fell to North Central, 46-36, to place fourth.
“Team wise we came in with a goal, and we had lofty goals, and we didn’t accomplish it today,” commented OC coach Dan Roeber. “From an individual standpoint, we had a lot of wrestlers win matches, but we just didn’t get the pins. Pins win duals and we gave up too many of those today. We had some big wins, but we couldn’t get the pins. I’ll take wins every day, but we’ll scratch this goal off the goal sheet and go after another one now.”
In the consolation pool, West Holt bounced back and went a perfect 3-0 in pool play after its opener loss to North Central.
“I thought they did pretty good job,” said West Holt coach Randy Schroeder. “There was no lack of effort, they worked their tails off. I’m proud of them.”
Niobrara/Verdigre ended the tournament with a 2-2 record.
“I thought we wrestled well at times,” noted N/V coach Jason Simons. “I’m a little disappointed with some things that happened with our leadership role, and we’ll have to address that this week in practice. I hope they get time between now and Saturday to watch their matches. We got all of them on film.”
EPPJ defeated O’Neill St. Mary’s for its lone dual win of the evening.
“We made a lot of improvements from where we have been,” remarked EPPJ coach Trey Rossman. “Everything we’ve been practicing is starting to carry over. I just tell the guys to trust the process and the process will fall in love with you. It’s not fun going out and getting your butt kicked at a whole bunch of tournaments, but tonight I was happy because the stuff we’ve been working on is starting to translate over.”
Several wrestlers surpassed milestones on Thursday. Schaecher and Vondra for EV, along with OC senior Clay Thiele, each recorded their 100th career win.
“It’s a big achievement and I’m glad to get it,” Thiele spoke. “I’m the second person in the OC program (to win 100 matches). The hard work pays off and it gives you something to strive for. Hopefully it gives some of the younger kids something to strive for too.”
“It’s been one of my goals since I was a freshman,” Schaecher said. “Having it accomplished really takes the monkey off my back.”
Cameron Wilkinson and Herley each went a perfect 4-0 for N-O. Klabenes, Kaup, Pofahl, Jayden Arehart, Cade Wilkinson, Payne and Kester each won three matches, Cody Booth (106) won two matches and Jose Luna (152) and Claussen each won a match.
For EV, Petersen, McFarland, Vondra, Miller and Hunter Bennett each went 4-0. Schaecher and Yaw each collected three wins, Gavyn Clause (182) and Reikofski each won two matches and Reed Bennett (126) and Michael Glynn each won a match.
“Every match I try to take away something I need to work on,” Petersen stated. “I thought I wrestled alright, but I know there’s things I can do to improve. I just have to get to practice and work my hardest. The guys did good tonight. They didn’t quit and we showed that we never give up.”
Clay Thiele and Tommie Peed (285) each went unbeaten for the Cyclones. Donaven Nolze (220), Codey Snider (182) Houston Marino (152) and Spencer Kester (113) each picked up three wins, Austin Pokorny (170) Rafe Grebin (120), Eli Thiele (126) Tyson Rix (138) and Eli Macke (160) went 2-2 and Anthony Ferris (106), James Kester (132) and David Arroyo each accounted for one win.
“We want to wrestle the best in February and that’s where we’re putting ourselves right now,” Roeber commented. “We’ve been harping on them and working all year. The loss is a good thing, as long as you learn from it. We’re going to refocus and get that goose egg out of the dual column. Now we just get back to focus on wrestling.”
All four Wolfpack wrestlers won at least three matches, led by Norman Grothe (120) with four wins. Luke Henn (132), Cory Romej (145) and River Romej (106) each tallied a 3-1 record.
“The message was clear last week, it’s always darkest before dawn,” Rossman noted. “Last week we almost hit rock bottom, but I was proud with how we came back tonight.”
Beau Hrbek (195), Evan Ruzicka (160), Gavin Chohon (170) and Toby Ives (126) each won three matches for the Cougars. Emil Brandt (220), Trey Sucha (152) and Hudson Brobny (145) each accumulated two wins.
“What a day for Evan Ruzicka,” Simons spoke. “He went 4-1 with that exhibition match and his only loss was to Josh McFarland. I’m proud of him. He’s never won a match other than a hand raise (forfeit).”
Jade Buss led the Huskies with four wins. Jeremiah Kaup (170), Ben Slaymaker (160), Martin Wentworth (152) and Cole Liable (138) each won three matches, Casey Coburn (220) won twice and Jaegher Ogden (132) won once.
Cole Rosenkrans (220) went a perfect 4-0 for O’Neill St. Mary’s, while Andrew Koehlmoos (285) and Will Schmitz (132) each captured two wins.
EPPJ competes at the Madison Invite today at 1 p.m.
“We got two more meets this week and it’s tough going three tournaments in a row,” Rossman remarked. “I know they’ll bounce back and tonight was a pretty good warmup for us. We just have to keep getting better.”
All eight teams will wrestle at the Neligh-Oakdale Invite Saturday at 10 a.m.
“Neligh-Oakdale is going to be a barn burner,” Simons said. “There’s 25 teams, no pools or anything like that. It’s just double elimination. If you go 0-2, you’re done.”
“We’re pumped,” Tegeler concluded. “They’re confident and we know we’re better in tournaments. We’ll be ready to go."