BLAIR – For two days every year in February, wrestlers from across the state come together in their respective districts and put it all on the line for a shot at the ultimate prize – a spot in the state wrestling tournament.
Four wrestlers in each of the 14 weight classes in the 16 overall districts from four classes will make up the field of 896 wrestlers.
Those wrestlers will head to the CHI Health Center in Omaha starting next Thursday, Feb. 20, to determine the ultimate field of 112 who will battle it out for 56 state titles on Saturday, Feb. 22.
The York News-Times’ coverage area will send five teams to districts this weekend with all of those teams scattered from Blair to as far west as Oxford.
The York Dukes will be in action at the B-2 district in Blair while both Cross County/Osceola and Fillmore Central will be at the C-1 in Malcolm. The Centennial Broncos will travel to Greeley and Central Valley Public School for the D-2 district, and High Plains heads to Oxford and Southern Valley High School for the D-3.
Here is a breakdown of each of those districts:
B-2 at Blair
A total of 31 rated wrestlers will be in action starting Friday at Blair High School.
NEwrestle.com is predicting seven Dukes to qualify for state, and head coach Darrel Branz knows his team has its work cut out for it.
“The B-2 district is very tough at several weight classes. A big piece to wrestling well at the district meet is not concerning yourself with if the person you are wrestling is rated, or how many matches he’s won,” Branz said. “You have to believe in yourself and just let it fly. Thomas (Ivey), Kobe (Lyons) and Brayan (Rodriguez) could be district finalists if they wrestle to their ability.”
Ivey is 45-2 and ranked No. 6 at 120 while Kobe Lyons is 45-3 and rated No. 3 at 170. Rodriguez is 27-7 and rated No. 6 at 220. All three of them have another rated wrestler in their bracket.
Two of the toughest weight brackets are at 126 and 182, where both Kaleb Eliker (35-9, No. 7) along with Kaden Lyons (34-10, No. 8), will have their plates full over the two-day tournament.
“At the end of the day it comes down to Kaleb and Kaden believing in what they can do and that they can beat anybody,” Branz said. “They’ve had a good week of practice and are in the right mindset to do great things. This season has had its ups and downs with illness and injuries for several wrestlers. Chase Cotton had a very rough season with being sick then getting injured, so he’s been in and out of the line for several weeks now.
“Overall though, everyone is wrestling very well at this point and we’ve had several big moments with three wrestlers recording their 100th career win. I’m excited to see what they can do in the next two weeks.”
Four other wrestlers who have a great shot at qualifying include Oren Krumrie (35-11) at 132 and heavyweight Beau Woods, a Midland football commit who’s shown improvement throughout the season. Also, Cotton at 160 and Jacob Diaz (33-3) at 195 are all wrestlers who could join the Dukes’ contingent.
York is also blessed with some assistant coaches who will continue to be an important part of the team’s success this week and at state.
“The assistant coaches have been an integral part of this team’s success. Mike Monfore, Larry Jacobsen, Bill Hobbs and Matt Stephens all do a great job working with individual wrestlers,” Branz said. “They help them correct mistakes and learn new techniques. Matt Brackhan and Steven Crane have made connections with wrestlers and helped them believe in themselves and that they can compete with anybody.
“Brian McDaniels has been a nice addition to the room this year – he brings a new perspective that has helped everyone on the team this year.”
Hastings and Blair are projected as the top two teams at the B-2 district.
C-2 at Malcolm
With a field of 24 state-rated wrestlers, the Cross County/Osceola Twisters and the Fillmore Central Panthers have their work cut out for them.
NEwrestle.com is predicting six Panthers and four Twisters to make the Class C field from the C-2 district.
The four Twisters projected to keep their season alive include Cameron Graham, a sophomore at 138 who is 51-0 and ranked No. 3, Kyle Sterup, a junior who is 49-1 and rated No. 4 at 182, Bryce Reed, a junior at 145 who is 39-11 and ranked No. 8, and Colton Nuttelman, a senior at 152 who has a record of 38-16.
Those predicted to come out with state berths for Fillmore Central include Connor Asche at 285, freshman Alex Schademann (44-6) at 113, Dillon Fushia (18-7) at 120, Aidan Trowbridge (22-9) at 126, Aiden Hinrichs (35-16) at 138 and Gavin Hinrichs (39-10) at 160.
The top teams in the district include No. 8 Archbishop-Bergan, Tri County and Fillmore Central.
D-2 at Central Valley (Greeley)
The field is loaded with 34 state-ranked wrestlers scattered throughout the D-2 field at Central Valley High School.
Three teams competing in the district currently rated include No. 5 Howells-Dodge and two others: Southwest and Palmer, both of which are tied at No. 9.
The Centennial Broncos have three state-ranked wrestlers and are projected by NWwrestle.com to send five to the state tournament.
At 126, No. 2-rated Gaven Schernikau is 41-6 and looking up at No. 1 Shaye Wood of Central Valley in his bracket. At 132, Ryan Payne (40-7) is No. 2 and will likely have a chance to face Palmer’s Ruger Reimers, who is No. 1 in that weight class. At 285, there are four-state ranked wrestlers in the district bracket, including Centennial’s Carson Fehlhafer, who is No. 8.
Centennial’s Kennan Kosek at 120 and Dominick Reyes at 138 are both tabbed to finish in the top four.
D-3 at Southern Valley (Oxford)
High Plains is the only team from the York News-Times’ area in the D-3 at Southern Valley High School.
The top three teams in the tournament include No. 7 Maxwell, No. 8 Weeping Water and Axtell.
There are 28 state-ranked wrestlers in the field and five brackets with at least three ranked wrestlers in each.
High Plains has two wrestlers penciled in to advance to the state tournament.
At 170, the No. 1-rated wrestler in the state is the Storm’s Dylan Soule with a record of 33-7. He’s looking at West Holt’s No. 4-rated Ben Slaymaker and No. 6 Hunter Arehart of Ansley-Litchfield in his bracket. Soule defeated Slaymaker 6-1 at the Neligh-Oakdale Invite on Feb. 1.
Also projected in the field of 56 wrestlers to advance is senior Jarrett Parsons at 160.
Listed as contenders are Javier Moreno at 126 and Kolby Beck at 285.