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The Neligh-Oakdale wrestling team proved it belonged with the best in the state after placing third at the Class D state duals Saturday at Kearney’s Buffalo County Fairgrounds.
“It was 14 guys wrestling their tails off,” stated N-O mentor Gary Davis. “There were matches we didn’t win, but we didn’t give up bonus points. We wrestled every dual as hard as we could.”
The Warriors opened the day with a 42-34 victory over Amherst.
Each of N-O’s victories were by pin or forfeit.
“That’s the most important thing,” Davis noted on getting bonus points in a dual. “Not giving them up is key too. You might take an 11, or 12, point beating, but if you don’t give up those bonus points and you can hang in there and get a decision; that makes more difference in more duals than anything.”
After Conor Dempsey was pinned at 160 pounds, Kaleb Pofahl (170) and Jayden Arehart (182) put the Warriors ahead with back-to-back pins.
Losses by Dawson Kaup (195) and Colton Klabenes (220) gave the lead back to Amherst, 13-12.
Following Tucker Knust’s forfeit win at heavyweight, Cody Booth (106) and Brock Kester (113) scored two-straight falls to regain the lead.
Cameron Wilkinson fell in a hard-fought match to Isaiah Shields at 120, 6-1.
After a pin cut N-O’s lead to 30-22, senior Andrew Herley stepped on the mat to face 32-1 Quentyn Frank, Trailing 2-1 after the first period, Herley scored a reversal and three-point near fall to take a 6-2 lead. Herley turned Frank again, but this time stuck Bronco freshman for a huge win.
“He’s a strong kid, pretty fast and has good technique,” Herley recalled. “We started scrambling and I guess I caught his arm, pulled him down and ended up getting the pin.”
Celeb Payne sealed the win for the Warriors with a first-period pin at 138.
In the semifinals, the Warriors fell in a hard-fought match to No. 1 Plainview, 38-30.
“We came up a little short against Plainview, but (Dean) Boyer did a great job coaching there,” Davis said. “They technically wrestle very well. They’re tough and their young guys are as tough as I have seen.”
N-O started the match with a 15-0 lead after Pofahl and Kaup recorded forfeit victories and Arehart picked up a 6-0 decision.
The Pirates won the next three matches to claim a 19-15 lead, but Kester got the Warriors back in the win column with a third-period fall.
Following a loss at 126, Herley scored a 6-2 decision triumph to reclaim the lead for N-O.
Cade Wilkinson won by forfeit at 145 to put Neligh-Oakdale ahead, 30-28, but Plainview rallied and won the last two matches to advance to the championship contest, where the Pirates defeated Burwell to capture the Class D crown.
Once again bonus points played a factor in the third-place match for the maroon and white. The Warriors scored five pins and two technical falls on their way to a 43-33 victory over Thayer Central
Arehart, Kaup, Klabenes and Knust opened the match with four pins to give N-O a 24-0 advantage.
“We had our opportunity there and their middleweights are tough,” Davis commented. “They got all their points there. There wasn’t very many points left on the board one way or the other. We were able to get enough points to get that win.”
The Titians came storming back and heading into the final match trailed by four.
Pofahl scored the third-place sealing pin in the first period to give the Warriors their best finish at the state duals since they took third in 2014.
“I’m really proud of the guys for how hard they fought” Herley spoke. “We were the fifth seed and went up against the first seed, Plainview. and lost by eight points at the end. We kept fighting and I’m proud of them for not giving up and keep fighting.”
Herley, Pofahl, Kester and Arehart each went a perfect 3-0 Saturday. Knust, Kaup, and Payne each won two matches, while Cade Wilkinson and Klabenes each captured a pin.
“It’s pretty important,” Herley added on having a strong performance ahead of next week’s district meet. “We got a lot of guys that are willing to put the work in to go to state. We are happy about that.”
Neligh-Oakdale hosts the District D-1 meet Friday and Saturday.
“Today helped,” Davis concluded. “You get in the fire and you know you can do it. We have to have a good week of practice and get better this week. That’s been the key every week, get a little bit better and work a little bit harder. Our practice room has been the key to all of this. Every day they come in there and go to work.”