In an emotional day of wrestling, Tekamah-Herman advanced three athletes as far as the consolation semifinals at the Class C District 3 tournament at Oakland-Craig.
Known as the “heartbreak round,” because the winners qualify for the state tournament and the losers are done for the year, the Tigers came home with three broken hearts.
But something bigger was broken, too—possibly one of the longest streaks in Nebraska high school sports. The 2020 state meet will mark the first time since 1969 that a Tekamah-Herman athlete isn’t in the field. Bob Schmidt was the school’s first qualifier, making it as a heavyweight in 1970, starting a 50-year run of Tiger qualifiers. Schmidt, Steve Bacon and Jeff Uhing followed in 1971, the first year on the job for hall of fame coach Guy Mytty, and a tradition was born. The Tigers also had a streak of 38 straight years of producing a state medalist.
Tiger coach Dirk Desmond said that knowing the tradition and growing up as the son of a wrestling coach in the 80s and 90s, last weekend’s meet was particularly challenging—perhaps more so for his assistant, Tom Hansen, a two-time state qualifier as a Tiger prep.
“But, this is where our program is and the team is moving forward,” Desmond said.
The greatest expectation to keep the streak alive may have lay with a freshman.
Logan Burt, the East Husker Conference champion at 120 lbs., advanced to the championship semifinals before dropping his last two matches.
A bye and a pin sent Burt into a semifinal match against Raymond Central’s Mitch Albrecht. The eventual weight class champion who is now 46-4 on the year, Albrecht posted a 23-10 major decision win in a whirlwind of a match.
That dropped Burt into a consolation semifinal bout against Eli Vondra of Milford. Vondra, who was a state tournament qualifier last year, had been hurt all season and only returned to tournament action Feb. 5 at the Southern Nebraska Conference tournament. He looked like a tourney veteran, scoring back points midway through the third period, then holding off a determined effort by Burt to close out a 6-3 win.
Finishing his debut season at 31-7, Burt was the only Tiger regular to finish with a better than .500 record. But the Tigers showed plenty of improvement over the last month of the season.
Desmond said that progress was due to the hard work and practice habits of the wrestlers. He added that the bond and the attitude of his wrestlers also played a big part in their improvement.
Tony Braniff at 126 lbs. and Dawson Schram at 160 each won a third round consolation match to earn a place in a state-qualifying match but could advance no farther.
Braniff wrapped a pair of byes around a pin at the hands of William Grape of Boone Central/Newman Grove to land a spot in a third round consolation bout Saturday morning against Raymond Central’s Brock Skeahan. Leading 4-0 heading into the third period, Braniff scored another takedown to cement a 6-0 win. But that was as far as he would go. Wilber-Clatonia’s Nathan Patak ended Braniff’s tournament stay with a pin at 2:02. Braniff ended his season at 14-17. Patak advanced to place third and takes a 29-6 record into state competition on Thursday.
Schram dropped a 12-10 decision to Aquinas’ Marcus Eickmeier in their opening round bout. He bounced back with a pair of pin victories in the consolation rounds to set up a state qualifying match with Ashton Schafer of Boone Central/Newman Grove. A takedown late in the second period sent Schram into the third frame with a 4-2 lead. Schafer took the bottom position to start the third and roared to life. A reversal at 1:25 led to two sets of back points led to 8-4 win, ending Schram’s season at 20-21.
145-pounder Lukus Braniff was the only other Tiger to win a match at districts. The sophomore pinned Raymond Central’s Jeremiah Karpov in the first round and Wilber-Clatonia’s Isaac Smith in a second round consolation bout. A 6-4 decision to Wyatt Verzani of Wakefield/Allen dropped Braniff from further consideration. Braniff’s reversal with 23 seconds left in the third period squared the match at 4-4. He was called for a technical violation with 10 seconds left, temporarily halting action and giving Verzani a 5-4 lead. Braniff chose to forego his advantage on the restart, meaning he would need a takedown to send the bout into overtime. Verzani kept his feet and ended Braniff’s season at 19-22.
“The past few weeks are a good foundation for us to build upon for next year,” Desmond said. “District disappointments and successes should help motivate wrestlers to put in the time that is needed during the summer to qualify for state.
“Hopefully, we can take steps to make that a reality.”
Behind only three weight class champions, but four other finalists, Aquinas Catholic easily won the team title with 232 points and a Class C leading 12 state qualifiers. Milford was a distant second at 148.5.
Oakland-Craig and Wisner-Pilger each advanced three wrestlers into state tournament action which opens at 9:30 a.m. Thursday at the CHI Health Center in Omaha. O-C junior Trenton Arlt was the district champion at 106. Tom Maline was runner-up at 170 while Jarron Metzler had the same finish at 182. For the Gators, Gavin Lampmann and Landon Beaver were runners-up at 145 lbs. and 220 respectively; Anthony Palmer was fourth at 182.
Two other East Husker Conference schools, Madison and BRLD also qualified wrestlers out of District 3. Wolverine freshman heavyweight Daven Whitley will carry BRLD’s colors into the state meet after finishing as the district runner-up. Madison is represented by 220-lb. champ Kolby Johnson.
EHC champion Logan View qualified 10 wrestlers for the state tournament after finishing as the runner-up in the District 2 tournament held at St. Paul. David City won the district and also is sending 10 men to state.
Howells-Dodge is expecting to make a run at Class D honors after winning the District 2 tournament held at Central Valley High School in Greeley. The Jaguars advanced six wrestlers into state competition, one of three teams to do so. Mullen leads the class with nine qualifiers; East Butler, Neligh-Oakdale and Palmer each have seven.
West Point-Beemer is headed to the Class B state tournament with four qualifiers.
The championship finals start at 2 p.m. Saturday afternoon and will be broadcast live over the NET network.
Class C District 3 Team Results-State Qualifiers
1. Aquinas Catholic, 232-12; 2. Milford, 148.5-5; 3. Conestoga, 144-7; 4. Wilber-Clatonia, 127-8; 5. Raymond Central, 98-4; 6. Boone Central/Newman Grove, 96-6; 7. Oakland-Craig, 70-3; 8. Crofton/Bloomfield, 62.5-3; 9. Wisner-Pilger, 61-3; 10. Sutton, 47-2; 11. Quad County Northeast, 44-1; 12. Madison, 30-1; 13. Tekamah-Herman, 22-0; 14. BRLD, 20-1; 15. Wakefield-Allen, 17-0; 16. Centura, 10-0.
113—Marissa Burt (3-19), pinned by Konner Schluckebier (Milford, 46-1), 1:31; consolation bye; lost major decision to Elijah Nacke (Raymond Central, 17-17), 13-0; did not place.
120—Logan Burt (31-7), first round bye; pinned Dakota Gullickson (Madison, 16-15), 1:44; lost major decision to Mitch Albrecht (Raymond Central, 46-4), 23-10; decisioned by Eli Vondra (Milford, 7-3), 6-3; did not place.
126—Tony Braniff (14-17), first round bye: pinned by William Grape (Boone Central/Newman Grove, 14-10), 2:24; consolation bye; decisioned Brock Skeahan (Raymond Central, 12-16), 6-0; pinned by Nathan Patak (Wilber-Clatonia, 29-6), 2:02; did not place.
132—Brady Braniff (11-16). pinned by Noah Scott (Aquinas Catholic, 25-17), 1:24; consolation bye; pinned by Jeremiah Chase (Wakefield-Allen, 12-8), 4:49: did not place.
138—Brady Bromm (7-21), pinned by Tyson Sauser (Crofton/Bloomfield, 42-11), 0:45; consolation bye; pinned by Tucker Maxson (Raymond Central, 14-10), 1:26; did not place.
145—Lukus Braniff (19-22), pinned Jeremiah Karpov (Raymond Central, 10-12), 3:41; pinned by Gavin Lampman (Wisner-Pilger, 42-5), 2:47; pinned Isaac Smith (Wilber-Clatonia, 11-26), 1:41; decisioned by Wyatt Verzani (Wakefield-Allen, 36-14), 6-4; did not place.
152—Kody Bitter (11-19), pinned by Justin Pick (Conestoga, 24-21), 2:22; consolation bye; pinned by Tavis Uhing (Oakland-Craig, 27-20), 3:36; did not place.
160—Dawson Schram (20-21), decisioned by Marcus Eickmeier (Aquinas Catholic, 22-19), 12-10; consolation bye; pinned Austin Stammer (Quad County Northeast, 12-8), 2:55; pinned Paxton Olson (Sutton, 16-15), 1:23; decisioned by Ashton Schafer (Boone Central/Newman Grove, 34-15), 8-4; did not place.