Class D Preview
The landscape of Class D looks a little different this year. Defending State Runner-Up Archbishop Bergan and fourth place team Amherst both move up to C. 10 new teams enter Class D this year, some coming to Class D for the first time and others coming back after short stints in Class C for a season or two.
New Teams to Class D:
Red Cloud/Blue Hill
Hi-Line (Elwood Eustis Farnam Co-Op)
Quad County Northeast (Randolph Laurel-Concord-Coleridge Co-Op)
Lutheran High Northeast
Defending State Team Champion and Dual Champion preseason #1 Plainview will look to capture back to back titles in Class D. Mullen comes in as the projected runner-up, followed by Thayer Central, Maxwell, Nebraska Christian, Howells-Dodge, Burwell, Neligh-Oakdale, Central Valley and Winside. When doing preseason projections, teams 3-10 were separated by less than 15 points. Look for Burwell and Howells-Dodge to climb the rankings as the season progresses and push Mullen and Plainview at the top.
The Pirates return 6 state qualifiers from a year ago, all 6 are also returning medalists. They begin the season with 8 wrestlers ranked in the top 8, and will be led by defending State Champions Eli Lanham and Nate Christensen. Returning medalists Scout Ashburn, Will Gunning, Alizae Mejia, and Collin Gale will also provide power to the team. Plainview will look for a freshmen trio of Ashton Dane, Tanner Frahm and Ayden Stewart as well as Junior Transfer Body Wortman to provide depth to their loaded lineup.
Coming off a 3rd place finish a year ago the broncos return 6 state qualifiers and 2 state medalists. The Broncos will be led by Teven Marshall and Clayton Hassett who both finished 3rd in 2019. Other returning qualifiers for the broncos are Tristin Grooms, Kendal Neal, Riley Kessler, and Ty Kvanvig. The broncos start the season with 6 wrestlers inside the top 8 and will look to get depth from 3 other wrestlers who are returning starters.
#3 Thayer Central
Thayer Central finished 10th a year ago but returns 10 starters from last year’s team that includes 3 qualifiers and state medalist Brenner McLaughlin. Returning qualifiers Dominic Stewart, Jackson Feulner and Ashton Sinn all look for state medals to provide the fire power need for an experienced Titan lineup.
The Wildcats return the most experience out of any Class D team with 12 returning starters, including 3 state qualifiers from last season, as well as state medalist Derek Gibson. They will also look to get production out of 2018 state qualifier Drey Smith and North Platte St. Pats transfer Sam Melton. Maxwell begins the season without the services of Dalton Whisenhunt and Drey Smith while they recover from football injuries and Sam Melton who isn’t eligible to compete on varsity until January.
#5 Nebraska Christian
Here is an example of a team that may not have the depth to make a team title run, but they have some guys that could provide big time points to make them a top 10 team. The Eagles return a pair of wrestles in Elijah Green and Carl Mundt who both lost first round matches at the state tournament last year and both came back to get 3rd. If Green and Mundt both end up at the weights we projected them out based on the knowledge we did receive expect them to both be right in the mix for a gold medal in Omaha.
If there is a dark horse team in D this year look no further than Howells-Dodge. The Jaguars return 7 starters from a year ago, including 2 qualifiers and returning runner up Carter Throener. The Jaguars will turn to returning starters Trevor Jedlick who qualified in 2018, and Trevor Schumacher, who they expect to fit into their line up at a weight that is more suitable for his services after competing up a weight for most of the year last year. Look for Levi Belina to provide depth to their lineup. Keep your eye on a couple freshman with familiar last names in Tyson Coufal and Jestin Bayer to come in and make an impact right away for the Jaguars.
Another team that in the preseason that maybe a little under valued at this point is Burwell. The Longhorns return 11 starters for last year’s team that finished 7th in Omaha. Burwell has 4 returning qualifiers and runner-up Corey Dawe returning to this year’s team. Qualifiers Colten Dawe, Jace Ostrom, Alex Gideon and 2x state medalist Tate Phillips should provide the Longhorns points in Omaha. They will also get some points from Jacob Busch, Hunter Mayfield, Dominic Tolfa, Cooper Stout, Tyler Dawe, Caleb Busch, Cash Gurney, as well as a trio of talented freshman in Hayes Jensen, Colten Thronburg and Titus Gideon. Burwell will get a late start this season after finishing as the runner-up team in D-1 football for the second year in a row.
The Warriors begin the season with 5 wrestlers ranked inside the top 8. Neligh-Oakdale returns 3 state qualifiers and state medalist Brock Kester to their line-up. They will also look for a spark from 4 other returning starters that includes 2018 state qualifier Caleb Payne and a talented freshman in Aiden Kuester. Neligh-Oakdale is another team that could move up the rankings as the season moves along.
#9 Central Valley
Central Valley returns a pair of state medalists in State Champion Shaye Wood and runner-up Enrique Martinez. Like Nebraska Christian, they may not have the depth to make the state duals or finish in the top three, but when a team could potentially get points from 2 guys that have gold medal capabilities, that goes along ways in a spread-out team race. Central Valley will miss Kyle Oakley this season, as he is not on the team this year.
Winside returns 4 qualifiers in Jacoby Mann, Cayden Ellis, Gabe Escalante, and Art Escalante. All 4 wrestlers won at least 1 match in Omaha a year ago. We didn’t receive much information on them, but if they can build on last years finishes and go from winning one match to winning state medals, expect them to find their way into the top ten teams.
Other Teams to Watch:
Centennial will make their debut in Class D this year after competing in Class C for many years. The Broncos will have Ryan Payne who is a returning medalist and Gaven Schernikau who is a returning qualifier. They will also look to get depth from Colby Martin, Keenan Kosek, and Carson Fehlhafer.
Weeping Water Returns 2 qualifiers and a medalist in Marcus Cave from a year ago. All three wrestlers should be competitive in their weight classes and have the possibility to provide team points in Omaha.
Weight by Weight Preview
Eli Lanham of Plainview is the defending state champion at 106 pounds and is projected to return to this weight again this season. He competed earlier this fall at Preseason Nationals at 106 pounds, but don’t be surprised if he wrestles 113 a few times this year. Moving Lanham up in duals could be the route the Pirates take to fill their lineup. Hunter Bennett of Elkhorn Valley opens up at #2 after finishing 4th last year in Omaha. Freshman Ashton Dane of Plainview starts out at #3, but is a very talented freshman that the Pirates will have in there line up this year. Again we could see Dane wrestle in some duals and maybe some tournaments at 113 pounds as Plainview tries to fill their lineup and figure out where everyone fits in to make their team as deep as possible. Ashton Sinn of Thayer Central and Tristin Grooms of Mullen come in at #4 and #5. Sinn and Grooms wrestled in the first round at the state tournament last season with Sinn coming out on top. A pair of Freshman in Reece Kocian of East Butler and Hayden Neeman of Superior start the season ranked #6 and #7 as both of their coaches expect them to be a couple of guys that come in and make impacts for their teams right away. Returning qualifier Dutch Yates qualified for the state tournament last year for Garden County and starts the season at #8. Yates was undersized last year but still had a very respectable freshman campaign.
Teven Marshall of Mullen opens up as the preseason favorite after finishing 3rd a year ago at this weight. Marshall beat #2 Scout Ashburn of Plainview in the 3rd/4th place match in Omaha last season. Ashburn could see some matches at 120 as Plainview to help the team in dual meets. Jesse Sauceda of Shelton starts out at #3. Not 100 percent sure this is where he ends ups but took a guess here as he started out up at 113 last season before making his way to 106 where he finished 3rd. #4 Cayden Ellis of Winside had a successful season at 113 last season and qualified for the state tournament, where he came with in a match of medaling. #5 Jacob Fox of Axtell is a returning qualifier at 113 where he too had a very good freshman season. #6 Jacoby Mann of Winside won a match last season at 106 in his freshman season and will look to build on that success up at 113. #7 Ethan Kipp of Twin Loup spent the first part of the season last year up at 113 before making his way down to 106 where he qualified for the state. #8 Hayes Jensen of Burwell is a tough athletic kid that likes to win according to his coaches. Jensen is a wrestler to keep an eye on at this weight as the season starts up.
The preseason favorite at 120 is Cyrus Wells of Anselmo Merna. Wells came up one match short of medaling at this weight last season, which was probably the toughest weight in Class D. Brock Kester of Neligh Oakdale starts the season out at #2. Kester Spent most of the season at 120 last season before dropping to 113 late where he finished in 5th place. #3 Koby Smith of Elm Creek lost a close first round match at state to Wells before coming up just one match short of getting a state medal at this weight. #4 Tate Phillips of Burwell is another wrestler who returns to this weight at year ago, but he too came up short for a state medal after being a medalist the previous two years for Burwell. #6 Chet Fisher of Southern Valley is a returning qualifier from Class C 106 last season where he went 1-2. #7 Kirby Smith of Fullerton and #8 Michael Polivka of East Butler are both returning qualifiers from last season with sub .500 records. Look for both wrestlers to have much better seasons at 120 is not nearly as tough as a weight class in Class D as it was a year ago. Since preseason rankings were released we have received information that Jon Peterka of Sutherland will not be at 120 so look for the preseason rankings to be adjusted here.
The weight is the deepest weight in Class D to start the season. #1 Shaye Wood of Central Valley Starts out as the preseason favorite. Wood won a loaded 120 last season and looks to build on that success up a weight this season. #2 Ruger Reimers of Palmer finished 3rd at this weight a year ago and him and Wood should have quite a few of head to head battles this season. Wood and Reimers did meet a few times during the 2017-2018 season. Reimers won the first 2 matches, but Wood a came with a victory in their final bout of that season. #3 Jeremy Larson of Brady spent the first part of last up at 126 before making the late season drop to 120. Larson finally settled into the weight late in the season and came away with a 3rd place medal. Look for him to have similar success at 126 this season. #4 Gaven Schernikau of Centennial was a qualifier in C last year at 126 and a district champion. Schernikau did win 36 matches last season and look for him to have a lot of similar success this season. #5 Brenner McLaughlin of Thayer Central jumps up two weights after finishing 6th a year ago at 113. #6 Adam Miller is a 2x state qualifier finished last season 36-10 after going 1-2 at 120 pounds. #7 John tenBensel of Cambridge qualified at 126 in Class C last year lost in the consolations at the state tournament to Schernikau 1l-6. #8 Josh Spatz of East Butler went 0-2 at 120 in his freshman season, but did win 29 matches.
#1 Ryan Payne of Centennial lost his first match at the state tournament and came all the way back to finish it 6th place at 120 in Class C. #2 Samuel Foster of Sutherland makes the big jump to 132 after coming up 1 match short of a medal at 106 last year. #3 Garrett Latimer of Southwest was a 6th place medalist at 126 last year. Latimer beat #5 Nolan Blevins of Weeping Water 6-4 to get in for a medal last year. #4 Carter Buchheit of Hemingford went 1-2 last season at class C 132. #6 Art Escalante of Winside lost a wild 8-7 match in the opening round of the state tournament last season and then knocked out of the tournament by #5 Blevins. #7 Joel Priest of Hitchcock County won his opening match of the state tournament last season before losing in the quarterfinals and then being knocked out of tournament by #3 Latimer. #8 Cody Lambert of Southern Valley was having a really good year last season before having it cut short the week of the district tournament.
#1 Nate Christensen of Plainview won the State title at 126 last year and comes in as the favorite to repeat up two weight classes. #2 Enrique Martinez was the runner-up at this weight a year ago and should be able to push for a gold medal. #3 Dustin Klingsporn of Axtell came up one match short of medaling at 132 last season and could possibly make his way back down to 132 after the start of the season. #4 Art Escalante of Winside has 36 wins in his freshman campaign and went 1-2 at the state tournament. Escalante dropped a wild quarterfinal match to Sonderup of Fullerton before losing on the backside to Green of Nebraska Christian. #5 Xavier Perez of Elm Creek, much like Escalante won 36 matches last year and went 1-2 at the state tournament. #6 Chase Pawloski of Pleasanton was a qualifier last season. Pawloski’s two losses at the state tournament were to eventual medalists. #7 Seth Hare of Hitchcock County went 1-2 at the state tournament a year ago dropping a couple close 3-2 matches. #8 Trevor Jedlicka of Howells-Dodge was a qualifier in 2018, and was one match away from qualifying for state last year. Jedlicka should be able to rebound from last season and be a key part of the line up for a very deep Howells-Dodge Team.
#1 Elijah Green of Nebraska Christian lost his first round match at the state tournament last year to the eventual champion and came all the way back to get 3rd place. #2 Conner Sonderup of Fullerton made the state semi finals last year before dropping to a 6th place finish. #3 Levi Lewis of North Central went 2-2 at last year’s state tournament and came up one double overtime match short of getting a state medal. Lewis won 42 matches as a freshman and should pick right back were left off last season. #3 Cooper Coons of Twin Loup has battled injuries for most of his high school career. Coons only competed in 15 matches last season and came up one match short of earning a state medal as a Junior. If Coons can have a healthy season, he could be right in the mix at the top of this weight class. #5 Bode Wortman was 1 match short of qualifying last season at 152 for Creighton. Wortman has since transferred to Plainview and did a ton of off-season wrestling. That off-season work should help Wortman be right in the thick of things at 145. #6 Brett Tryon of Southwest was a qualifier at 138 last season he went 1-2 at the state tournament and should be able to build on that success this season. #7 Tyson Coufal of Howells Dodge is a very tough freshman. Coufal is a candidate to come in and make an early impact on this weight and will be another key part in how well Howells-Dodge does at the state tournament. Jaden Henderson of Medicine Valley was a Qualifier a year ago. Henderson won 31 matches and is close to breaking many of Medicine Valleys season and career records.
#1 Colby Coons of Twin Loup had a huge win in last year’s state semifinals over Austin Garcia of Morrill but then dropped his state finals bout to William White of Sutherland. With both of those wrestlers graduated, Coons is the preseason favorite to win this weight. #2 Will Gunning of Plainview had made the upset of the state tournament in Class D last season when he beat previously unbeaten Brett Riggs of Maxwell. That win was crucial for Plainview because if he doesn’t win that match Plainview may not have won the Class D team title. Gunning will be right there with Coons to win this weight. #3 Dalton Whisenhunt of Maxwell was a qualifier last season but will miss the start of this year due to a football injury. #4 Dominic Stewart of Thayer Central won 34 matches last season and came one match short of a State Medal. #5 Jason Burch of Weeping Water qualified at this same weight last season where he won 35 matches. #6 Colton Holthus of Garden County went a little under the radar last year and won 38 matches while qualifying for the state tournament where he went 1-2. #7 Cody Hanvey makes big jump to 152 this season as he was a qualifier last season at 132. Hanvey went 1-2 at the state tournament and won 28 matches a year ago. #8 Aiden Kuester of Neligh-Oakdale is a freshman to keep an eye on at this weight. Kuester had a very decorated youth career and that should transition right on over to the start of his high school career.
Derek Gibson of Maxwell is the only returning medalist at this weight. Gibson was 4th a year ago and is the preseason favorite. #2 Jackson Fuelner of Thayer Central won 34 matches last season and got beat by Gibson in the heartbreak round at the state tournament. #3 Ayden Molzahn of Alma won 38 matches as a freshman and went 1-2 in Omaha. Cooper Slingsby won 27 matches as a freshman at 170 and was a state qualifier. Slingsby dropping back down to 160 where he started the year last year should lead to even more success this season. #5 Jestin Bayer of Howells Dodge is another talented freshman in Class D. Bayer is another one to keep your eye on as he too is a candidate to climb the rankings as a freshman. #7 Kendal Neal of Mullen qualified at 182 last season and drops back down to a more natural weight at 160. Neal’s Success at 182 should lead to even more success at a more natural weight for him. #7 Gavin White of Sutherland didn’t compete at districts last season but was having a very good year prior to that. Look for White to build on last year’s success and put together another good season. #8 Jarrett Parsons of High Plains was a qualifier at 145 last season and should have similar success in the 2019-20 season.
This weight has changed a little bit since releasing our preseason rankings. We have learned that 2x medalist Dylan Soule of High Plains is going to be at 170 after originally being told 182. With Soule entering the fold at 170 he is going to be the preseason favorite which you will see in a updated preseason ranking this week. That bumps Alizae Mejia of Plainview to the #2 spot to start the season. Mejia won 36 matched last season and finished in 5th place at state tournament. Issiah Borgmann of Stanton won 41 matches in Class C at 160 last season and dropped two close matches in Omaha. Blake Racicky of Ansley Litchfield won 28 matches last season and finished in 5th place at 152. Chet Wichman of Palmer makes the big jump from 145 last season where he was a state qualifier. Ben Slaymaker of West Holt dropped a wild 17-11 first round match to Mejia at state last season and then dropped a match to 160 preseason favorite Gibson of Maxwell. Wyatt Hegemann of Howells-Dodge was a qualifier last season and came up just short of a state medal. Alex Gideon of Burwell was a state qualifier last season as a freshman. Gideon went 0-2 at the state tournament, but dropped competitive matches to Soule and Hegemann. Reece Zutavern of Sandhills Thedford will be a wrestler to keep an eye on at this weight. Zutavern won 33 matches as a freshman and went 1-2 at state while competing at 152.
#1 Corey Dawe of Burwell returns to 182 where he was the runner-up a year ago dropping a close 3-2 match in the finals. Daylan Russell of Alma will jump to #2 as he finished in 5th place at this weight a year ago, although he may end up at 195. James Hargett of Southern Valley qualified at this same weight in Class C last season. Hargett won 20 matches and went 1-2 at the state tournament. Bryan Zutavern of Sandhills Thedford came up one match short of a state medal last season. If he can put together a complete season, he can become a major factor at this weight. Justin Kuta dropped two matches at state last season to eventual medalists. Dawson Kaup of Neligh Oakdale and Riley Kessler of Mullen are both returning qualifiers. Kaup qualified at 195 for Neligh Oakdale and drops to a more natural weight at 182.
Carl Mundt of Nebraska Christian and Talan McGill of North Platte St. Pats are both returning medalists and occupy the top two spots in the rankings. Ty Kvanvig of Mullen dealt with injuries for most of last season but did qualify for the state tournament. If Kvanvig can stay healthy he is good enough to win this weight. Kaleb Pofhal of Neligh-Oakdale had a really good season last year at 170. Pofhal won 40 matches and went 1-2 at the state tournament and gave the eventual runner up his toughest match of the tournament in the opening round. Sutton Pohlman of Stanton qualified at 182 last season in Class C and should be very successful at 195 in Class D. Jacob Busch of Burwell missed all of last season due to an injury. Busch could also be a 220 for Burwell. Bryce Running Hawk of Hay Springs won his first match at the state tournament last year before having to medically forfeit out of the tournament.
Collin Gale of Plainview finished last season in 3rd place at 195. Gale is the preseason favorite at this weight but could also drop to 195. Gale would be the favorite at either weight so it probably comes down to wherever he is more comfortable. Carter Throener of Howells Dodge was the runner up at this weight last season and if Gale does drop to 195 Throener would become the favoite. Clayton Hassett of Mullen finished in 3rd last season at this weight after being upset in the state quarterfinals. Hassett is a challenger to both Gale and Threoner as he is good enough to win this weight. After the top three this weight gets a little muddy. Remington Hodges of Hitchcock County, Luke Howitt of Maxwell and Delton Haines of Dundy County-Stratton are all returning qualifiers at this weight. Hodges did beat Haines at last year’s state tournament. Howitt went 1-2 and was knocked out by eventual 3rd place finisher Hassett of Mullen. Hodges, Howitt and Haines could all see each other right out of the gates opening weekend. CJ Pickrel of Fullerton is a returning qualifier up from 195 last season. Colton Klabenes of Neligh oakdale qualified at this weight a year ago and dropped matches to Throener and Haines at the state tournament.
Kien Martin of Overton was the surprise state champion of the tournament in Class D last year. Martin became Overton’s first ever state champion and will look to repeat this season. Marcus Cave of Weeping Water won 56 matches last season and will look to revenge his state finals overtime loss to Martin. After Martin and Cave, 285 in Class D is pretty wide open. Levi Kerner of Arapahoe and Bryson Shoemaker of Southwest both dropped opening round matches to the eventual state finalist, then where knocked out of the tournament by the wrestlers that finished in 5th and 6th. Every wrestler that finished ahead of Kerner and Shoemaker has graduated with the exception of Martin and Cave. Zach Kerwood of Meridian beat Kyle Pickhinkle of Howells Dodge in the consolation rounds at this weight last season. Drey Smith of Maxwell missed last season with an injury and will miss the beginning of the season with an injury from football. Hunter Mayfield of Burwell was one match short of qualifying at 195 last year. Mayfield could become a major factor at this weight and would really help Burwell in the team race if he does.