Photo by Nathan Heuer/fairburyjournalnews
Jeff Crew Ready For State—Fairbury’s state qualifiers pose for a photo after the conclusion of Saturday’s District B-3 meet in Aurora. Hyson took fourth place, Firmanik finish in first, York took fourth, Hinrichs placed third, and York took third at the event. Fairbury had now qualified 13 wrestlers in the past two year as the Jeffs sent eight wrestlers to state a year ago. From left to right: Domenic Hyson, Seth Firmanik, Derek Garfield, Carson York, Brandon Hinrichs, Ace York.
Photo by Nathan Heuer/fairburyjournalnews Jeff Crew Ready For State—Fairbury’s state qualifiers pose for a photo after the conclusion of Saturday’s District B-3 meet in Aurora. Hyson took fourth place, Firmanik finish in first, York took fourth, Hinrichs placed third, and York took third at the event. Fairbury had now qualified 13 wrestlers in the past two year as the Jeffs sent eight wrestlers to state a year ago. From left to right: Domenic Hyson, Seth Firmanik, Derek Garfield, Carson York, Brandon Hinrichs, Ace York.
Outdoing expectations was a commonality between area wrestling team’s this past Friday and Saturday at district wrestling tournaments across the state.
A total of 20 area wrestlers entered district tournaments with a top four seed and a total of 23 wrestlers came away from district meets with their tickets punched to the state tournament.
Not one, not two, not three, but four area wrestlers claimed districts titles in the process. Fairbury’s 182-pounder Seth Firmanik earned his first district championship of his career with an 8-2 decision over four-ranked Kole Bordovsky of Wahoo in the District B-3 finals.
He’ll be joined by four other Jeff grappler’s in Omaha.
Thayer Central brought home three gold medals from the meet and a runner-up team trophy. Keegan Casey (126), Damian Stewart (132), and Jackson Feulner (160) were crowned individual champions at the District D-3 meet on Saturday.
The Titans will be taking an area-high seven wrestlers to the state tournament.
Tri County qualified six wrestlers for the state meet, including two in the same weight class in Brevin Damrow and Brandon Seibolt, who both punched their tickets to the state meet at 195 pounds. The ability to qualify two wrestlers from the same team at the same weight is a Class D only rule that was implemented by the NSAA this year.
Wilber-Clatonia will taking three wrestlers to the Class C state meet, while Meridian is taking two wrestlers to Omaha for the second consecutive season.
Jeffs Send Five To State
Coming off rather serious injuries, Carson York and Brandon Hinrichs rose to the occasion with their high school wrestling careers in the balance.
York (126), who had recently recovered from a car accident over Christmas break, and Hinrichs (160), who was diagnosed with a concussion a few days before the Fairbury Invite on Feb. 1, qualified for state in their respective weight classes via third and fourth-place finishes.
Hinrichs took third place at 160 pounds while York earned a fourth-place medal at 126 pounds.
“Going in we had three top-three seeded kids. So we hoped those guys would get in. Carson York being a returning state qualifier I had confidence in him coming through and he did,” Fairbury head coach Derek Garfield said.
Hinrichs wrestled nearly all of his matches at 152 pounds leading up to the tournament. So why the bump up in weight class?
Garfield research weeks ahead of the district to meet to see where he could potentially have the most qualifiers. With a loaded 152-pound weight class in District B-3, the Fairbury head coach made the decision to bump him up to 160 pounds.
“I always do a lot of research on what districts look like about three weeks in advance. We started looking at who’s in our district, where we would be best suited.  We decided that three weeks ago that 160 was the best spot for Brandon,” he said. “he actually only had a couple matches all year at 160. We bumped him up a couple of times in some duals. But getting him as senior to qualify and the move to 160 paid off.
Freshman 195-pounder Domenic Hyson added to the ‘overcoming adversity’ theme as he entered the tournament as the sixth seed in his weight class. Hyson began the tournament with a loss by fall to Crete’s third-seeded Cody Lomax before storming his way back to take fourth place. Hyson pinned Auburn’s Cassius Colton in the third round of consolation and followed with a first period fall against fifth-seed Mark Owens of Aurora. Hyson fell against Lomax once again in the 195-pound third-place match.
To say Garfield was pleased with Hyson’s performance would be an understatement.
“He has steadily improved, he won the Fairbury Invite. The last three weeks he’s wrestled about as well as anybody on our roster. Just kept getting better and better, kept his confidence level up. Was able to handle those early losses and learn from them. He did what we preach all the time and he started wrestling his best when all the chips are on the table at the end of the year,” he said. “In the practice room he has to wrestle with Seth (Firmanik) and Ace (York) every single day. And so it’s forced him to raise his level in the practice room every single day.”
Firmanik set the tone for the Jeffs, winning the team’s only individual title. He defeated his second ranked opponent of the year in Wahoo’s Kole Bordovsky via an 8-2 decision. Bordovsky was ranked fourth, one spot behind Firmanik coming into the meet.
According to Garfield his standout junior took down Bordovsky three times in the first period and then rode him out in the second and third periods to get the win.
“Seth was really good from the neutral position. I think we got three takedowns total. Honestly what to me stood out the most was how well we were able to ride him from the top position. Seth got into his crossbody ride and controlled the entire second and third period from the top position. When you’re that tough on top and you’re not letting a guy breath on bottom you’re going to have a ton of success,” Garfield said.
Ace York (170) will be headed to the state tournament for the second time for Fairbury with a third-place finish in one of the most loaded weight classes in any division across the state. York was defeated by top-ranked Damen Pape of Hastings in the semifinals 13-5 before recording two pins in the consolation bracket at 170 pounds to get third place. Pape, who is undefeated this season (43-0), beat Waverly’s formerly undefeated, Evan Canoyer, a University of Nebraska at Kearney wrestling commit, by the score of 7-1 in the finals.
“Damen Pape is the real deal and Ace went toe to toe with him. Gave him a great match. Came back through and dominated his wrestle back match and then his third-place match,” Garfield said.
Fairbury finished in sixth place as a team out of 12 squads that competed. They tallied 105 points. Sixth-ranked Hastings won the meet with 214.5 points.
Thayer Central Shows Prowess, Finishes 2nd As Team
Coming off a fourth-place finish at the state wrestling duals a week prior, Thayer Central continued its superior season by sending a total of seven wrestlers to the state tournament at the District D-3 tourney at Midland University on Saturday.
Keegan Casey (126), Damian Stewart (132), and Jackson Feulner (160), earned gold medals in their respective weight classes.
Brenner McLaughlin (113), Dominic Stewart (138), and Jarod Hergott (152) also made the finals, but fell in their championships matches. The trio will all be making their first state appearances this upcoming Thursday.
Freshman Ashton Sinn finished the tournament with three victories by fall, earning him a third-place finish.
After qualifying three wrestlers for the state meet a year ago, Titans head coach Josh Bowers spoke on the tremendous development his team has had this season and what this upcoming state tournament could do for his team in years to come.
“Biggest difference for this team is there determination and willingness to work hard and know that it will pay off.  As a team they push each other and make each other better.  Off season is huge also, each kid is different, and some put more time in, but you can tell the time put in is paying off for them,” he said. “The boys wrestled hard and knew what they needed to do to be in right seeds for this weekend.”
In the 132-pound finals, Stewart got the best of second-ranked Tayten Eggleston of South Loup in a wild 14-12 match. The senior was the second seed in the tourney to Eggleston.
“That win was very impressive, Damian was down 5-0 in the first period and came back with persistence got a take down and proceeded to keep the pressure on with a half. Damian never stop he keeps going till the end. His potential for this weekend is great. He has a good draw and in normal Damian fashion he will give a 100 percent and not stop,” Bowers said.
Adding a win against a superior ranked opponent was fourth-ranked Casey, who defeated third-ranked Rugger Reimers of Palmer in a 1-0 match. Casey got an escape with less than 10 seconds left in the third period to win the match.
It is Casey’s first win over a top-three ranked opponent in any class this season.
“I think it was huge for his confidence we haven’t seen many of the top wrestlers in Class D this year, this put it in perspective and affirms we have a great protentional this weekend. Keegan wrestled a very smart match we rode tough in the 2nd period and didn’t get a turn but we didn’t give up any point either,” Bowers said.
The Titans finished in second place as a team behind Archbishop Bergan with 156 points. Fremont Bergan, who has been ranked No. 1 a majority of the season according to NEwrestle, ended the meet with 173 points. Howells-Dodge was third with 101.5 points.
Trojans Qualify Six For State In Consecutive Years
Last year the Tri County wrestling team sent six wrestlers to Omaha for the state wrestling meet.
This year, the Trojans replicated that effort and took advantage of a new NSAA rule in accomplishing the feat.
Tri County will be sending two wrestlers to state in the same weight class. Brevin Damrow and Brandon Siebolt both qualified for state at 195 pounds. Damrow, who was the varsity 195-pounder all season took fourth place while Siebolt had the highest finish among all Tri County grapplers, placing second.
“He has wrestled tough all season and looks really good in practice and really has come on as of late,” Tri County head coach Jerod Spahr said of Siebolt. “When we had wrestled offs he could not beat Damrow or (Brandon) Beeson but style matchups is a funny thing when it comes to wrestling.  We knew going into districts that we did not have the firepower to finish top two so we were wrestling to qualify as many as possible.”
Only one wrestler per weight class can be a point scorer for his team at the state tournament.
The other six qualifiers for the Trojans made semifinal appearances and lost before winning in the ‘blood and guts’ round, also known as the consolation semis, to punch their tickets to state.
Benton Gustafson (285) placed third at heavyweight with a 2-1 record. Tri County Caden (132) and Cole Reedy (126) finished in fourth in their respective weight classes.
Returning state qualifier Brandon Beeson will make his second state appearance as a sophomore after placing fourth at 182 pounds.
Tri County placed sixth as a team at the 21-team event.
Noel, Kerwood Headed To Omaha
“Find A Way”
It’s the motto Meridian’s head coach Chris Placek set forth during the Mustangs final week of practice leading up to the District D-2 tournament this past Friday and Saturday at Amherst High School.
The Mustangs heavyweight, Zacharia Kerwood, exemplified the motto when he upset fifth-ranked Cameron Nelson of Plainview by the score of 4-1 in the semifinals of his weight class.
Kerwood, a junior, did so after defeating second-seeded Gus Decker of Arcadia Loup City in overtime 14-12 during the quarterfinals.
Although he lost to top-ranked Jakob Jerabek by way of pin in the finals, Placek was thrilled with his qualification for the state tournament.
“Districts are always crazy because there is always the kid that you don’t expect to make it and they are the surprise of the tournament and that is what Zach was at heavyweight,” Placek said. “We knew it was going to be an uphill battle for him. We discussed with him that he was going to have to upset someone to qualify. And upset he did, Zach had the best tournament that a seventh-seed could of, beating the third and fourth rated kids in the state.”
Returning state qualifier Micah Noel secured his second appearance at the state meet with a third-place finish at 182 pounds. The second-seed of the 182-pound bracket was upset by three seed Daylan Russell of Alma in the semifinals. Noel then bounced back with a pair of pins in the consolation bracket to take third place. 
Placek noted that he expected Noel to reach the finals but was proud of the way he put the semifinal loss behind him.
“Micah we expected to qualify just because of what Micah was able to accomplish this year and that he is wrestling really well. With Micah getting the number two seed, I felt that he would be in the finals but if you know anything about Micah, he likes to do things the hard way. He came out tight and didn’t wrestle well in is semifinal and lost to a tough kid from Alma.
“But I told Micah to forget about that match and focus on the consolation semifinal. He knew that he didn’t wrestle his best, and that lighted a fire and he came out and tech falled the kid from Plainview. He showed his dominance and determination that no one was going to stop him from getting back to state,” Placek said.
With only six wrestlers in their lineup, Meridian still managed to take 11th place out of 21 teams with 49.5 points. 
Three Wolverines Punch Tickets To State
All three of Wilber-Clatonia’s state qualifiers will be making their first appearance in Omaha at the state wrestling tournament on Thursday.
Conner Schmitt (113), Tad Moldenhauer (152), and Sawyer Kunc (170) secured their spots at the state meet with a pair of third and a fourth-place finish on Saturday at the District C-2 meet in Albion at Boone Central High School.
Schmitt, a senior, and Moldenhauer, a junior, took third place but took different routes in doing so. The latter lost in the quarterfinals and followed with four consecutive wins to take third at 152 pounds. In his four wins, he had one fall, one major decision, and two decisions. He revenged his quarterfinal loss in the his weight’s third-place match, defeating Ty Miller of Logan View 8-4. Moldenhauer began the meet with a 13-2 loss to Miller.
Schmitt took a more common route to his third-place outing, losing in the semifinals and then winning in the consolation semis and the 113-pound third-place match. 
Freshman Sawyer Kunc recovered from his shoulder injury just in time for districts and after sitting approximately a month to recover, he still manager to qualify for state at 170 pounds after wrestling the entire season at 160 pounds. Kunc fell to third-ranked Blake Moore of Tekamah-Herman in the semifinals at 170 pounds and the freshman ensued 12-10 SV-1 (overtime) win over Carlos Chavez of David City. Kunc medically forfeited his third-place match against Eric French of Logan View.
With a 10-man lineup, Wilber-Clatonia placed ninth as a team at the 16-team event.