Full lineup allows Braves to dominate
BATTLE CREEK — For the first time this season, the Battle Creek wrestling team went into a tournament with a fully healthy lineup.
That left the other teams in Saturday’s Battle Creek Invitational feeling a little queasy, as the Braves dominated the 18-team field with all 14 wrestlers finishing in the top six, and half of those coming away with first-place finishes.
“It’s the first week we’ve had our full varsity team, and we’ve had some guys that we have wanted to get back in the lineup,” coach Cody Wintz said. “It’s nice to have that full team, and then to go and win your own tournament in front of the home crowd was great.”
Weston Johnson and Steven Frisch had been missing the first part of the season for Battle Creek but returned to the lineup this week and made an immediate impact. Frisch won the 170-pound championship, while Johnson came away with fifth-place honors at 160 pounds.
“We’ve missed those two for most of the year because of injuries, but they’re back and healthy and they won some big matches for us today,” Wintz said.
The Braves ran away with the team title, scoring 277.5 points and putting eight of their 14 varsity kids in the championship round and ending the day with seven champions.
Leading the championship run for the Braves was Owen Lade, who had the upset of the day by knocking off Class D No. 1-ranked Alejandro Martinez of Elkhorn Valley in a 7-4 decision at 120 pounds.
All four of Battle Creek’s NSWCA-rated wrestlers came away with first-place medals, with two winning matchups against ranked opponents. Class C No. 4-ranked Damien Kersten pinned Class D No. 2 Zac Hazen of Creighton in the third period to take the 126-pound title, while third-ranked Jan-lou de Jager got a second-period fall against fifth-ranked Moises Barboza of Wakefield to take the 220-pound title. Top-ranked Caydon McCracken (106) and fourth-ranked Preston Bussey (138) also won first-place honors, along with heavyweight Thai Thompson.
The battle for second place was a lot closer than Battle Creek’s run for the title, with 2½ points separating runner-up Crofton/Bloomfield from third-place Creighton — which finished one point behind — and Wakefield, which was 2 ½ points back in fourth place.
Crofton/Bloomfield coach Caden Alexander was pleasantly surprised with the final outcome, praising his kids’ efforts in mentally preparing for a tough tournament.
“We were without two of our wrestlers today, but we have high expectations, and I told them that I still expected them to compete for a team trophy,” he said. “Before we left home this morning, we were in the right mindset and were ready to go and did a good job today.”
The Warriors had a pair of champions with Quinten Moles upsetting Class D top-ranked Miles Kulhanek of Howells-Dodge 6-5 in the 152-pound final, and Kaleb Johnson came through with a second-period pin over Julio Sanchez of Wakefield to take the 195-pound title.
“(Johnson) has really stepped up this year,” Alexander said. “He didn’t have a winning record last year, and this year he’s 21-4. I told him before his match that we needed this to keep second place, and he said he’d go out and get it done and he did.”
The Warriors almost knocked off a second top-ranked wrestler in the finals, but Randolph’s Drew Loberg maintained his unbeaten streak with some late back points for a 6-1 win over Jaden Janssen in the 160-pound final.
“We were down late and had to try something desperate and he got those four at the end, but Jaden is really coming on for us,” Alexander said.
“Loberg’s two closest matches this year have been against Jaden, so maybe we’ll get him the third time.”
Three other ranked wrestlers came away with first-place efforts on the day.
Elkhorn Valley’s Dillon Stewart, ranked fourth at 113 pounds in Class D, won by injury default over top-ranked Connor Hazen of Creighton; Class C No. 2 Cody Yawn was a winner in his 132-pound finals match against Ty Heimes of Battle Creek; and Class C third-ranked Cody Thomas of Wakefield stayed unbeaten on the year with a second-period pin of Michael Hegge of Ponca at 182 pounds.
Bryce Zimmerer of Creighton rounded out the championship winners on Saturday, taking the 145-pound title with a 7-2 win over Noah Scott of Randolph.
Battle Creek Invitational
Battle Creek 277.5, Crofton/Bloomfield 129.5, Creighton 128.5, Wakefield 127, Randolph 98, Elkhorn Valley 96.5, Norfolk Reserves 91.5, Winside 91.5, Pierce 91, Howells-Dodge 63.5, Stanton 62, Battle Creek JV 44.5, Ponca 42, Niobrara/Verdigre 30, Scribner-Snyder 28.5, Hartington CC 22.5, Laurel-Concord-Coleridge 18, Osmond 14.5.
106: Caydon McCracken, BC, dec. Koby Ellis, Winside, 3-1. 113: Dillon Stewart, EV, def. Connor Hazen, Creighton, inj. def. 120: Owen Lade, BC, dec. Alejandro Martinez, EV, 7-4. 126: Damien Kersten, BC, pinned Zac Hazen, Creighton, 5:02. 132: Cody Yawn, Pierce, pinned Ty Heimes, BC, 5:45. 138: Preston Bussey, BC, maj. dec. Brandon Bloomquist, Randolph, 17-3. 145: Bryce Zimmerer, Creighton, dec. Noah Scott, Randolph, 7-2. 152: Quinten Moles, C/B, dec. Miles Kulhanek, H-D, 6-5. 160: Drew Loberg, Randolph, dec. Jaden Janssen, C/B, 6-1. 170: Steven Frisch, BC, dec. Levi Stacken, Creighton, 5-2. 182: Cody Thomas, Wakefield, pinned Michael Hegge, Ponca, 2:34. 195: Kaleb Johnson, C/B, pinned Julio Sanchez, Wakefield, 2:34. 220: Jan-louw de Jager, BC, pinned Moises Barboza, Wakefield, 2:47. 285: Thai Thompson, BC, pinned Jared Hornback, C/B, 1:28.
106: Zak Hansen, Stanton, def. Cody Hanvey, Creighton, default. 113: Collin Burton, BC JV, dec. Joey Heimdale, Winside, 7-3. 120: Justin Noel, S-S, dec. Jeremiah Kruntorad, Pierce, 2-1. 126: Darren Stewart, EV, maj. dec. Sean Mann, Winside, 14-2. 132: Reece McFarland, C/B, dec. Alex Schmit, Randolph, 7-4. 138: Paul Gubbels, Osmond, dec. Derek Wortman, Creighton, 7-4. 145: Joshua McFarland, EV, dec. Brett Tinker, Pierce, 7-0. 152: Zach Morris, Winside, maj. dec. Clay Konopasek, N/V, 10-1. 160: Brady Wortman, Creighton, def. Mason King, Stanton, default. 170: Dylan Horejsi, H-D, dec. Trevor Lenton, Norfolk Reserves, 5-2. 182: Ryder Fuchs, Pierce, pinned Marcus Love, H-D, 4:21. 195: Elias Alvarez, Norfolk Reserves, pinned Austin Marx, BC, 3:27. 220: Jon Escalante, Winside, pinned Jordan Shakespeare, N/V, :54. 285: Dalton Rath, Randolph, pinned Michael Logue, Ponca, 1:43.