By Dru Kastler (@KastlerDA)
#1 Valentine: The Badgers are a heavy favorite to capture the Class C State Team Title this year. They have 12 state qualifiers and nine ranked wrestlers competing in Omaha, including two #1 ranked. They did lose returning qualifier and state ranked wrestler to injury prior to districts, but they are still firmly in the driver’s seat in Omaha. With as many wrestlers as they have and the quality of competition they face on a daily basis in the practice room, they surely are not worried about their draws. They have a state title in their sites and will be out to take care of business.
#2 David City: The Scouts had a great district tournament. Qualifying all of their five ranked wrestlers and also had excellent performances from Betzen at 132 and Alvarado at 182 in addition to Eilers at 220 who finished 3rd at a very tough weight for a total of eight qualifiers. Alvarado was the big surprise coming into districts with just a few matches under his belt, he managed to claw his way through to state, knocking off two wrestlers with winning records en route to a 4th place finish. Some of the team’s state draws could be considered less than favorable, being that their wrestlers will have higher ranked opponents in the early rounds, but they are a very well coached team one year removed from a state team title so they should be well prepared for some big matches in the early going.
#3 Syracuse: The Rockets also qualified eight wrestlers to Omaha. One of the team’s strengths is that they wrestle an extremely difficult schedule. So while some of them may not have the best records in their respective weights, they have a very solid crew who are used to this level of competition. Overall they had a fairly successful district tournament. Senior at 195 Austin Jensen had very few matches coming in, but managed to qualify for Omaha. They will hope to have their supporting cast contribute as many points as possible to keep them as close to the top as they can be. As is the case with most teams, they have some draws to be excited about and some others that might not be ideal. Based on their ranked wrestlers compared to David City’s, it should be close between the two teams.
#4 O’Neill: The Eagles have been a staple near the top of Class C in recent years. This year should be no different as they have three returning finalists, including two state champions from last year back in the lineup. They have two other qualifiers who also both competed in Omaha last year, so they are not lacking in experience. Since they do not have the numbers in Omaha they will be hoping for great performances from all five qualifiers. Their ‘big three’ should equate to some big state points.
#5 Kearney Catholic: The Stars are bringing six qualifiers to Lincoln after finishing 3rd in the extremely tough C4 district tournament. All six of their state qualifiers have been ranked throughout the season and five of them are currently ranked. Overall their draws look reasonable favorable, and they are certainly capable of a higher finish than fifth place if they have successful individual performances in Omaha.
#6 Battle Creek: The Braves have a whopping ten state qualifiers out of the C1 district with four of them being ranked in the top six. With that added depth from the other qualifiers they’ll hope to grab a few more medals and team points than some of the other teams above them are capable of with fewer qualifiers. With as many qualifiers as they have some of their draws are favorable and some aren’t. They do have some big matches in the first round that may determine how high they can finish here. They are certainly capable of a state runner up finish if things go well.
#7 Cross County/Osceola: The Cougars have qualified a school record 6 wrestlers for the state tournament this year. They surely have their eyes set on a top ten state finish as a team this year. They certainly have the experiences as five out their six qualifiers are seniors. They have three wrestlers ranked in the top four which should provide plenty of state points. Like the teams above them they’ll need help from their other qualifiers to help move them up the ladder.
#8 Raymond Central: The Mustangs also bring six qualifiers to Omaha. It doesn’t do any good to talk about the draws in Omaha, but on paper no other team is set up quite as well as Raymond Central. They had a fantastic district tournament and hope to carry that momentum into Omaha. At 126, Albrecht had to navigate a district that saw a returning state medalist fail to qualify and now has the potential to score some much needed team points. Look for them to finish higher than 8th in Omaha.
#9 Wood River: The Eagles qualified six wrestlers, five at the lowest weights and one at 195. They will be hoping for contributions from their four unranked wrestlers as they could very well have two finalists which will translate into big team points. It’s important for them to get every bonus point possible in order to stay in the top ten.
T#10 Bridgeport: The Bulldogs boast three ranked wrestlers and five total state qualifiers. Since they are tied for the fewest amount of qualifiers in the top ten they will need to maximize their places and hope for as many points as possible from their two unranked wrestlers.
T#10 North Bend Central: The Tigers round out the top ten ranked teams in the state this year. Again we see a team bringing in six state qualifiers. They have three ranked wrestlers and they have several wrestlers right on the edge of medaling that will need to perform well to keep them in the top ten.
Aquinas: The Monarchs have competed well all year, but haven’t had the number of ranked wrestlers to crack the top ten. At districts they came out with four champions which could translate into more state medals than anticipated. They certainly appear to be peaking at the right time. Aquinas has a total of seven qualifiers that includes two highly ranked wrestlers, which usually is the recipe for a top ten finish in Omaha.
Broken Bow: The Indians are in a similar position to Aquinas. They actually qualified eight wrestlers for state which is tied for 3rd most among class C teams, but they only have two ranked wrestlers among them. There are a few weights in particular that a few of their unranked wrestlers have a very legitimate chance of making the state semifinals. They have some big first round matches that could certainly kick start them toward what could even be a top 5 finish if things go well.
Ord: The Chants won five out of six matches in the heartbreak round at districts to qualify a total of seven wrestlers to state. They have three ranked wrestlers in the group of qualifiers and do have some decent draws as well. They are involved in both of the first round matches in class C that pair up ranked wrestlers. Winning both of those will go a long way towards a top ten finish.
Chase County: The Longhorns finished fifth in a district that saw the top four teams qualify for the state duals. With five qualifiers and two wrestlers ranked inside of the top six. They do have a chance of cracking the top ten.
Gibbon: The Buffaloes are bringing seven wrestlers to Omaha, with none of them bring ranked in the top ten. With an injury to 6th ranked Jacob Tracy at 152 preventing him from wrestling at districts, they’ll need great performances from their wrestlers competing in Omaha to crack the top ten. They have plenty of quality wrestlers that have the chance of finding the medal stand.
Centennial: The Broncos brought six state qualifiers. They have a top ranked wrestler with the potential to score a lot of team points. The key is for the other wrestlers to make it through to the medal rounds to amass enough points for a top ten finish.
Tekamah-Herman: The Tigers qualified six wrestlers this year. They had a fantastic district tournament. They will need to build on their one ranked wrestler in order to crack the top ten. Keep an eye out for the gold-blonde hair that has been a staple for this team for as long as I’ve been involved with the sport.
Fort Calhoun: The Pioneers are bringing five wrestlers to Omaha this year. They did suffer at least one setback at districts, but any team with five or more qualifiers usually has at least an outside chance of a top ten finish. With one ranked wrestler they will need to put together a great team performance.
Bishop Neumann: The Cavaliers had to overcome two district semifinalists failing skin checks on Saturday, but still managed to qualify five wrestlers. It’s likely they would have brought seven had things went differently and certainly would have been a legitimate top ten threat. They are doing great things in Wahoo with this program so keep an eye out for them for years to come.
Remaining Unbeaten Wrestlers
There will be at least four fewer undefeated wrestlers once the dust settles in Omaha this weekend, as four weight have multiple undefeated wrestlers. At 182 and 220 they are both on the same side of the bracket. At 285 neither wrestler is ranked in the top two. Hruby actually lost a match when wrestling as a JV earlier in the year, so it doesn’t count toward his varsity record. 126 is the only weight where the wrestlers are ranked #1 and #2 and have the possibility of meeting in the finals.
113 – #1 Gage Krolikowski (Valentine) 27-0
126 – #1 Jordan Kelber (Valentine) 36-0
126 – #2 Wyatt Allan (Wood River) 33-0
160 – #1 Zach Borer (North Bend Central) 45-0
182 – #1 Jerrod Fedorchik (Bridgeport) 33-0
182 – #3 Cody Thomas (Wakefield) 29-0
220 – #1 Jason Hahlbeck (O’Neill) 38-0
220 – #2 Garrett Davidson (Cross County/Osceola) 46-0
285 – #3 Hunter Miller (Cross County/Osceola) 42-0
285 – #6 Lane Hruby (Arcadia/Loup City) 18-0
Individual Weight Breakdowns
Battle Creek’s #1 ranked Caydon McCracken has sat atop the rankings all season. His road to the finals may go through Valentine freshman #2 Chase Olson who has a recent win over #3 Koby Brandenburg from Central City. Brandenburg is the favorite to make it through the bottom side, but will have #4 Ryan Zoucha from Malcolm, #5 Colton Rowse from Ord, and #6 Casey Benavides from Bridgeport on that side. Brandenburg and Rowse meet up in the first round. Keep an eye on Tyler Curtis from Fort Calhoun who gave Brandenburg a tough match, and is the unranked dark horse of this weight.
Undefeated freshman Gage Krolikowski from Valentine is fresh off his closest match of the year at districts. He still comes into state as the favorite as he does own multiple wins over #2 Seth Styskal from David City who is on the opposite side of the bracket. A potential marquee quarterfinal match at this weight is likely between #4 Lee Carlson from Sutton and #5 Spencer Gaffney from Broken Bow with the winner possibly squaring off with Styskal in the semifinals. Krolikowski has #3 Brandon Schram from Tekamah-Herman and #6 Sam Saldivar from Johnson County Central on his side of the bracket. Look for Jacob Paczosa from St. Paul as a dark horse at this weight as he does have several quality wins to his name.
On the first competition day of the year, #1 Clayton Glendy from Broken Bow edged #2 Evan Waddington from Wood River in OT, and they have been on a path to a state finals meeting ever since. They will both have their work cut out for them in order to get there however. Waddington has Valentine’s #4 Brody Benson, #5 Owen Lade of Battle Creek and #6 Lane Bridgmon from Syracuse on his side of the bracket while Glendy has a likely quarterfinal match against #3 Noah Styskal from David City. There are two unranked dark horses at this weight in freshman Daniel Escandon from Gibbon and former medalist Anton Carlson from Sutton. They will likely meet in the quarterfinals with a state medal on the line and the right square off against Glendy in the semifinals.
This is the first of three weights that will feature two unbeaten wrestlers. #1 Jordan Kelber from Valentine and #2 Wyatt Allen from Wood River are both unblemished on the year and are both on opposite sides of the brackets. They will each have plenty of work to do in order to make the finals. Kelber has a possible match against #3 Justin White from David City in the quarterfinals. They have met once before with Kelber winning 8-5 (compared to 6-5 win for Allen). The other ranked wrestlers are on the top side. Allen has a potential quarterfinal match against #5 Darryn Walters from Mitchell and could square off in the semis against the winner of #4 Damien Kersten from Battle Creek and #6 Zach Rogers from Kearney Catholic. Kersten does have a win over Rogers this year. Keep an eye on the bottom quarter at this weight where an unranked wrestler will make the semifinals. Dark horses at this weight are Easton Albrecht from Raymond Central and Patrick Powers from Broken Bow, who may meet in the quarters with a semifinal berth on the line.
One of the most anticipated matches in Omaha may occur Friday night in the semifinals. #1 Max Hughes from Syracuse has carried that ranking all season. #2 Jeff Heinz from Fort Calhoun who started the season at 145 but is now at 132 might be the toughest test Hughes faces on his quest for four state titles. Hughes could square off against #4 Alex Dubas from Cross County in quarterfinal matchup. Dubas medaled at 132 last year and also made his way down from 145 this season, making 132 one of the toughest weights in the state. On the top side #3 Monte Mumm from Raymond Central has a tough road that has #6 Cody Yawn from Pierce as a potential quarter match. Yawn will match up with Ty Heimes from Battle Creek in the first round and the two have split matches this year. #5 Carter Fleshman from Kearney Catholic will look to square off with Mumm in the semifinals. He has familiar opponent Chace Bond from Wood River in the first round and the winner of Max Hohn from Neumann and Jonah Heng from Norfolk Catholic. This weight has so many wrestlers capable of medaling so everyone should be mentioned as a medal threat, but keep an eye on Max Hohn from Bishop Neumann as a dark horse here as he had a great district tournament, knocking off Heimes in the process.
#1 Melvin Hernandez and #2 Eric Pacheco have met once this year and are no strangers to the state finals, and may be meeting there on Saturday in Omaha. Pacheco could have #3 Trenton Elliott from Tekamah-Herman in the quarterfinals, who he has defeated once this season. A possible semifinal opponent for Pacheco is #5 Ethan Mumm from Raymond Central. The quarterfinal Mumm is in is very difficult and has three other capable wrestlers that could potentially make a run to the semis as well in Stone from Sutton who medaled in class D last year, Wallander from Loomis-Bertrand, and district champ Anthony Eickmeier from Aquinas. Hernandez on the bottom side could have the winner of a first round match featuring returning state medalists Belsky from Gordon-Rushville and Bussey from Battle Creek. #4 Noah Eklund is on the bottom quarter, and could square off in the quarters against unranked dark horse Jarred Hulinsky from St. Paul, who defeated Elliott in the district finals.
In a rare occurrence, this weight is essentially seeded with #1 Caden Moore of O’Neill and #4 Keegan Pope from Syracuse on the same side, as well as #2 Grant Albrecht from Raymond Central and #3 Hudson Pearman from Valentine on the same side. If they take care of business, those could be your semifinal matches. Moore could square off against #5 Ty Connely from Kearney Catholic in the quarterfinals. #6 Spencer Warner from Louisville may meet up with Albrecht in the quarters and will look to avenge a 7-1 setback earlier in the season. This weight is as clear as any as to who can medal, but with as unpredictable as state can be, Dillon Hupp of Norfolk Catholic should be considered a dark horse as he has the ability to keep matches close.
#1 Marc Zeckser from Doniphan-Trumbull finished as a runner-up last year in class B. He’ll be looking to finish his career with a state title in one of the deepest weights in class C. He is on the same side as #3 Jack Keating from Kearney Catholic, who he may meet in the quarterfinals. The last time the two met, Zeckser won 7-5. The bottom side features #2 Caleb Long from Valentine, #4 Levi Kult from Yutan and #5 Cooper Bates from Wilber-Clatonia. Long and Kult may meet up in the quarterfinals with an eye on a finals matchup. Kult will be challenged in the first round by Cauy Shaw from O’Neill. Bates is very tough to score on and should not be discounted at this weight. Unranked dark horse Gavyn Buschkoetter just knocked off Bates in the district finals after suffering 3 close setbacks to him earlier in the year. He could square off in the quarters against the winner of Joel Myers from Broken Bow and Schadrick Westerman from North Bend.
Top ranked Zach Borer puts his undefeated record on the line against a very solid field. Andrew Miller from Broken Bow may be his quarterfinal opponent. Also on the same side of the bracket is #3 Kyle Petree. Petree has been beaten by Borer twice this season and may meet in the quarterfinals against unranked dark horse Kaden Dawe from Ord, who had to beat a ranked wrestler to make the district finals. Petree defeated Dawe 5-4 earlier in the year. Syracuse’s 2nd ranked Mitchell McWilliams has a tough first round bout against Jaden Janssen from Crofton-Bloomfield. Also on that side of the Bracket is #4 Stephen Duffy from Shelton-Kenesaw and #5 Bryson Fisher from Chase County, who may meet in the quarterfinals.
#1 Jake Prochaska from Centennial worked his way up through the rankings throughout the season, and has some great wins to his credit this year. #3 Donald Stephen from Valentine knocked off #2 Abe Hernandez from Mitchell in the district finals and is poised to make a run to the finals opposite of Prochaska and Hernandez, who are on the same side of the bracket. Prochaska could square off in the quarterfinals against the winner of a ranked first round battle between #4 Gavin Trompke from Ord and #5 Daniel Duffy from Shelton-Kenesaw. If Prochaska gets through that match he may have the winner between Hernandez and Cooper VonSeggern from Wisner-Pilger in the semifinals. VonSeggern has put together a very solid season. The only other ranked wrestler on the top side is #6 Dalton Mueller of North Bend who could square off against Stephen in the quarters. In the other top side quarter keep an eye on unranked dark horse Michael Coufal from Aquinas. He knocked off Duffy in the district finals and is wrestling well at the right time of the year. He will be tested right off the bat against Coalson from Bridgeport and if he passes that test could meet the winner of Javier Murillo from Gibbon and Ben Metzler from Tekamah-Herman in the quarters.
This should be a very closely contested weight class that features two undefeated wrestlers in #1 Jerrod Fedorchik from Bridgeport and #3 Cody Thomas from Wakefield, who could meet up in the semifinals. If Thomas wins in the first round, he will have the winner of Ethan Poppe from Crofton-Bloomfield and Ryder Fuchs from Pierce who have split matches this year. The bottom half of the bracket has #2 Joseph Reimers from Aquinas, #4 Riley Smith from Arlington, #5 Brad Baasch from Doniphan-Trumbull and #6 Brock Ray from North Bend. Reimers and Smith will meet in the quarterfinals and Baasch will do battle with Ray. Baasch knocked off Smith at districts and will hope to continue that momentum if he meets up with Reimers. Unranked dark horses Poppe and Fuchs will meet in the first round and both have a great shot at finding their way to the medal stand.
Returning state champion #2 Bailey Thompson and #1 Ryan Worm may meet in the state semifinals this year. The two have split matches this season, with Worm winning the most recent bout. They each have another ranked wrestler in their quarterfinal as Worm may square off against #5 Tysen McDowell from Minden and Thompson against #6 Marce Vasquez from Bridgeport. Keep an eye on Vaquez against Tanner Peterson from Sutton in the first round. Peterson moved up from 182 for districts and has had a great season thusfar. The only ranked wrestler on the bottom side of the bracket is freshman #3 Ethan Gabriel from Ord. If he gets through round 1, he will have either a rematch against Austin Marx from Battle Creek or Wyatt Kee from Gibbon. He has wins against both of those two wrestlers. The bottom side of this bracket is a great opportunity for unranked dark horse Tristan Kociemba from Broken Bow to come through and get a medal after finishing fourth at districts. His first test will be against Haydn Deinert from Malcolm, who will have a state medal on his mind as well, as no one in the bottom quarter is currently ranked. Deinert spent some time down at 182 before moving up to 195 for districts which he eventually won. That could prove to be the right decision in Omaha.
We may see another battle of undefeated wrestlers in the state semifinals at this weight. #1 Jason Hahlbeck from O’Neill and #2 Garrett Davidson from Cross County/Osceola are both on the same side of the bracket. Hahlbeck may match up against Treyvon Brooks from Broken Bow in the quarters. The two met previously this season in a match won by Hahlbeck. However, Brooks is as dangerous as they come and he did catch Hahlbeck on his back in that meeting. Also on the top side of the bracket is #6 Bryan McGahan from Hershey, who could potentially meet Davidson in the quarterfinals. Those two met earlier in the year in a match won by Davidson 7-4. The bottom side of the bracket features #4 Jan-louw de Jager from Battle Creek and #5 Aaron Hinojosa from Chase County. These two could meet in the semifinals with a state finals berth on the line. Unranked dark horse Moises Barboza from Wakefield has only four losses on the season to top caliber wrestlers.
This is an interesting weight in that the two undefeated wrestlers aren’t necessarily favored to make the finals on either side of the bracket. #1 ranked Caleb Lefferdink of Syracuse has had a dominating 47-1 season this year. His lone loss is to the #1 in class B, and he has also beaten that wrestler. #3 Hunter Miller from Cross County/Osceola has state finals aspirations of his own, and a potential semifinal matchup against Lefferdink will be one of the marquee matches on Friday if it materializes. Miller may meet up with #5 Jared Fulton from Valentine in the quarterfinals in what should be a close bout. The top side of the bracket has #2 Riley Homolka from Wilber-Clatonia, #4 Sam Cantu of Norfolk Catholic and #6 Lane Hruby from Arcadia-Loup City. Hruby bested Fulton at the district tournament and has steadily improved since returning to the lineup mid-season. He could match up with Cantu in the quarterfinals. Cantu’s two losses are to Miller and Lefferdink and will be looking to hand Hruby his first loss. Homolka’s road isn’t much easier. If he gets through round one, he will have the winner of unranked dark horses Riley Moses from Fillmore Central and Noah Shumaker from Louisville. He has beaten both before, but Moses hang in a close match against Homolka the last time they met.
Wrestlers, coaches, parents and fans: Please remember that starting Thursday all wrestlers have a zero and zero record. Any speculation is just that, and should not have any effect on the actual outcome of the matches once they are wrestled. I wish all wrestlers, coaches and teams the very best of luck in Omaha. Some of the best memories of my life involve the sport of wrestling, and we are all lucky to be a part of it. Go create some memories this week. Win or lose, all the hard work and sacrifice is worth it and will pay dividends later in life. I have sincerely enjoyed being a part of the journey with you all through NEwrestle.com this season and look forward to contributing more in the future.