By Robert Sanders
Every year, the wrestling season takes on a new persona. Graduation, the onset of puberty, and transfers affect the landscape of who lands at the different weight classes. Wrestlers change weight classes during the season to help strengthen their individual teams. Will the following log jam force some these proven warriors to vacate these weight classes?
Feast your eyes on the list of wrestlers who look to stake their claim for the 120, 126 and 132lb weight classes.
Korbin Meink, Sr at Skutt Catholic: 3x State Champion
Andrew Nielsen, Sr at Plattsmouth: 2016 State Champion, 2015 State Placer, 2014 State Placer
Trevor Fauver, Jr at Gretna: 2016 State Champion, 2015 State Placer
Tyler Cunningham, Jr at Gretna: 2016 State Champion, 2015 State Placer
Mario Ybarra, Jr at Scottsbluff: 2016 State Champion, 2015 State Placer
Connor Laux, Jr at Hastings: 2015 State Champion, 2016 State Placer
Riley Berg, Sr at West Point-Beemer: 2014/2015 State Finalist, 2016 State Placer
Joe Ritzen, Sr at Chadron: 2016 State Finalist, 2015 State Placer
Devon’Tae Gutierrez, Soph at Scottsbluff: 2016 State Finalist
State Place Winners:
Ronald Taylor, Sr at Plattsmouth: 2015 & 2016 State Placer
Bryce Larson, Sr at Gothenburg: 2016 State Placer
Devin DeLancey, Jr at Bennington: 2015 & 2016 State Placer
Jorgen Johnson, Jr at Alliance: 2015 & 2016 State Placer
Takedown machine Korbin Meink has an opportunity to give Skutt another 4x State Champion and should break some school records in the process. He has not committed to a college to continue his wrestling career yet.
Ritzen has already committed to Chadron State and is looking to finish his senior campaign with a state title. Last season he beat a 2x State Champion from Wyoming during the regular season and loves to cradle his opponents from any and all positions.
The Class B 113lb State Champion Andrew Nielsen only had 2 losses last year to wrestlers from Iowa. Nielsen pinned the 113lb Class A and B Champions during the regular season, and although he never faced the 113lb Class D champion, there’s a good chance he was the best 113lb wrestler in Nebraska last year.
Let’s assume these wrestlers plan to wrestle 125, 133 or 141 in college. Will they wrestle at a weight that allows them to focus on continually improving technically and physically? Getting a jump on the transition to college by continuing to strength train throughout the season would make for a more enjoyable senior season, instead of dreading the weekly weight cut. Throw in a decision to do what’s best to put their respective schools in the best positions to win the team title, and their coaches have quite the dilemma.
Tyler Cunningham’s resume speaks for itself. In 2016, he was the class C 106lb State Champion in February, UWW Cadet All-American in June, and a Fargo All-American in July. His family made the move from St. Paul to Gretna and he adds instant fire power to the Dragon lineup.
Building Their Resumes:
Trevor Fauver and Mario Ybarra followed up podium finishes as freshmen with state titles as sophomores. Both are stubborn with their positioning, stingy on defense, tough on top, and can score when they need to. High finishes for both of them will make a big difference in the team race, and will add to their resumes.
Looking For Redemption:
In class A, Connor Laux was a state champion as a freshman and 4th as a sophomore. His path to a Class B title won’t be easy this year, but he’s tenacious enough to handle the challenge after going through a loaded 120A weight class last season.
When watching Devon’Tae Gutierrez compete, “hungry” should be the first word that comes to mind. The only sophomore on this list moved up in weight multiple times during the regular season, and his parents couldn’t keep him off the mat this spring and summer.
Riley Berg has only lost 3 matches at the Century Link by a total of 6 points, and all were to the state champions (Meink twice and Ybarra once) at his weight.
He won’t be satisfied with his high school career being a 4x placer unless he wins a state title this year.
Bryce Larson placed 4th at 126lbs in the B4 district last year, then finished 5th in Omaha. Larson puts in year-round work on the mat and has a chip on his shoulder to prove he belongs at the top.
Devin DeLancey, Jorgen Johnson and Ronald Taylor have medaled at state the last 2 seasons. None have made the state finals, but DeLancey and Taylor could help their schools make strides in the team race with high finishes.
Skutt, Scottsbluff, Gretna, Plattsmouth, Bennington, Hastings all have wrestlers in this weight range. It would be fair to say that these teams are the favorites to compete for the class B team title. With Scottsbluff, Gretna and Plattsmouth all having 2 wrestlers listed, it appears that the champions and placers in this spread could have a huge impact on the team race.
Let the epic battles ensue!