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Not even inclement weather could halt the Knox and Antelope county communities from being treated to stellar wrestling.
The Creighton Invitational was rescheduled to Tuesday after the meet was originally postponed a few weeks ago. Despite the change, some of the top teams and wrestlers from the area ascended to Creighton and put on a show Tuesday evening.
“We were really happy we could find a date that we could get all the teams to come,” stated Creighton coach Zac Kliment. “There were a lot of quality teams here. With what we had at Osmond on Saturday and this today, we really are building. We have a lot to learn from today. The competition was great and it gave us a lot to look at.”
Antelope and Knox counties were well represented Tuesday with each county sending three teams to the tournament.
Neligh-Oakdale was the top finishers out of the area teams with a third-place finish in the team standings. Elkhorn Valley was fourth, followed by Creighton and Clearwater/Orchard, and Niobrara/Verdigre placed 13th.
“We were kind of sluggish when we came in,” said N-O senior Cameron Wilkinson. “We got better as the day went on. By the way we’ve been practicing, we have to keep the tempo up and keep on rolling from here.”
Grand Island Northwest won the team title with 279 points. Battle Creek took second with 232.5 points.
The championship finals kicked off with Northwest’s Grady Arends pinning Elkhorn Valley sophomore Hunter Bennett in the second period at 106 pounds.
Wilkinson continued his hot start to the season with a first-period pin over OC’s Spencer Kester at 113 pounds. Today’s three wins moved Wilkinson to 13-0 on the year
“I started off on the right foot and I’ve kept on going and kept on winning,” Wilkinson spoke. “I’m going to keep it going from here.”
At 120, EV’s Adam Miller fell to Battle Creek’s Caydon McCracken, 13-2. With the win, McCracken became only the third person in tournament history to win four Creighton Invite individual titles.
Warrior senior Andrew Herley fell in the 138-pound title tilt to Battle Creek’s Damien Kersten, 7-1.
Prestin Vondra got the Falcons their first individual title with an 11-5 decision over Randolph’s Alex Schmit. After surrendering the first takedown of the match, Vondra scored 10 unanswered points to take control of the 145-pound match.
“You have to take advantage of mistakes and you can’t get down on bad things in the match,” Vondra noted. “You have to build from what can happen, push and keep going in the match. You can’t do anymore.”
The 160-pound title went to Falcon senior Josh McFarland after scoring a second-period pin over Norfolk Reserve’s Austin Miller. McFarland got his offense going early and often with a takedown to start the match, and the senior Falcon cruised to the win.
“I feel like a lot of times whoever gets their offense going and can score that first takedown, determines the rest of the match,” McFarland commented. “Just building your momentum and getting that mindset of getting the first takedown and I got my offense going so I could keep scoring.”
In one of the most anticipated matches of the night, Creighton senior Bryce Zimmerer upended Randolph’s Noah Scott, to capture the 170-pound crown. Zimmerer scored an early takedown and picked up a two-point near fall to claim a 4-0 lead in the first. Escapes by each wrestler and some stellar takedown defense by Zimmerer, led the to the senior Bulldog’s 5-1 decision.
“Bryce led the way today and had a really good match,” Kliment said. “He wrestled a full match, which really tested his conditioning against a good Noah Scott.”
A.J. Hawthorne won the 182-pound championship with a first-period fall over EV’s Brock Schaecher.
OC senior Clay Thiele took home runner-up honors at 195 for the third-straight tournament, after falling to Northwest’s Grady Griess.
After a rough semifinal round, the Warriors got back on track in the consolation semis and finals. Following a 2-7 semifinal round combined record, N-O won 14 of its last 20 matches.
“Semifinals wasn’t too hot for us,” recalled N-O senior Jayden Arehart. “We had to pick it up in the consolation rounds. We picked it up, got some medals and got some big team points.”
Cody Booth (106), Kaleb Pofahl (170), Arehart (182) Dawson Kaup (195) and Colton Klabenes (220) were third for the Warriors. Griffin Claussen (106), Brock Kester (120), Jose Luna (152) and Conor Dempsey (160) were fourth and Dallas Snyder (138), along with Cade Wilkinson (145), was sixth.
For EV, Christian Yaw (285) placed third, Mitchell Petersen (170) took fourth, Caden Reikofski (220) finished fifth and Hunter Klinetobe (132) was sixth.
The Cyclones’ Codey Snider (182) took fourth, Rafe Grebin (120), Eli Thiele (126) and James Kester (132) finished fifth, while Houston Marino (160) and Logan Mueller (285) were sixth.
“We finally got some of our light guys to get some wins,” remarked OC coach Dan Roeber. “That’s what we’ve been working on in the (practice) room. They’re freshmen and sophomores and they need to turn the corner. Maybe this is the confidence boost we need for them to get going.”
Also placing for the Bulldogs were Cody Hanvey (138) in third, Terance Burrell (195) in fourth, Bode Wortman (152), J.D. Kuhlman (160), Brenden Waldow (182) and Brody Vrooman (285) in fifth and Shane Farnik (126) and Sam Vortherms (152) in sixth.
“Our seniors are the leaders of the team,” Kliment said. “Just like they did in football, they show the guys how everything works in the (practice) room. Today some of our best results were from some of those upperclassmen. I’m happy with where we are moving. We’re still building and those seniors do a really good job out here and keeping everyone in it.”
Crofton/Bloomfield’s William Poppe (132) took third, Tyler Janssen (220) finished fourth and Tyson Sauser (138) placed fifth.
For Niobrara/Verdigre, Hudson Drobny (160) and Trey Sucha (152) led the way for the Cougars with a pin each.
Neligh-Oakdale, Elkhorn Valley and Niobrara/Verdigre begin their Christmas breaks, while Creighton travels to Orchard to take on OC Thursday at 6:30 p.m., and Crofton/Bloomfield heads to Wakefield Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
“It was a good meet overall,” Roeder concluded. “We finished out of the top five, but we’re turning the corners, look out for us after Christmas break.”