Pierce makes its case after runner-up finish in Battle Creek
BATTLE CREEK — Don’t look now, but there might be trouble on the horizon in the Mid State Conference wrestling hierarchy.
The Pierce Bluejays have been coming on strong this season, thanks to a returning state champion and a couple of transfers that have helped raise the expectations in the Pierce wrestling room, as was indicated by a strong runner-up finish in Saturday’s Battle Creek Invitational.
The NSWCA Class C No. 4 Braves had four individual champions and won their home meet for the 11th straight season, but they got a good push from their conference foes to the north, as Pierce came away with a pair of champions and earned runner-up honors in an always-tough 18-team tournament at Battle Creek High School.
“We’ve had a pretty good year so far, but we’re still working on finishing matches,” fifth-year coach Tyler Legate said of the surging Bluejays, who are ranked 10th in the latest NSWCA Class C team rankings. “We still have some kids who need to get over that hump, so our goal today was to get some of those odd-numbered finishes and win that last match.”
Having the school’s first-ever state champion back in the room in senior Ryder Fuchs has been a great drawing card, as has the addition of two transfers with Carter Jensen of Winside at 126 pounds and Ashton Schweitzer of Broken Bow at 145 pounds.
“Having Ryder back has created a lot of interest, and we’ve had some kids move in who have helped, but we’ve also been concentrating on our youth program, and we still have quite a few freshmen in the room,” Legate said. “We’ve been able to create some competition in the practice room that will try to put out a better product on Saturday.”
Pierce won six of nine matches in the battles for first and third place and got the ball rolling in a matchup of rated wrestlers at 106 pounds, where the Bluejays’ Brock Bolling, ranked fourth in Class C, had a solid effort in a 6-2 decision over Elkhorn Valley’s Hunter Bennett, ranked fifth in Class D.
Fuchs, ranked at the top of the 195-pound weight class in Class C, moved up to 220 pounds and beat Class D No. 5 Carter Throener of Howells-Dodge with a late first-period pin. The Bluejays had four consolation winners, including Jensen, Michael Kruntorad (138), Brett Tinker (160) and Dylan Kuehler (195).
Battle Creek coach Cody Wintz said he’s impressed with the work Legate has done with the Pierce program, which could make things interesting when the two teams meet in a dual Thursday and at the end of the month with the conference meet in Wayne.
“Tyler’s done a great job there. They have a quality kid in every weight class and can score at every weight, and with conference coming up it’s going to be a challenge,” he said.
The Braves did little to create any doubts as to their standing in the conference race, coming away with a foursome of champions among its eight medalists.
“We’ve won this 11 years in a row now and the kids always have that as a goal, and we had some good performances today,” Wintz said. “Carter (King) got his first championship today and Caydon (McCracken) and Owen (Lade) wrestled well, but we also lost some tough matches in the finals so we still have some things we need to work on.”
The big match of the finals came at 152 pounds, as Class D No. 2 Brandon Bloomquist of Randolph turned the tables on the Braves’ Ty Heimes, the top-ranked 152-pounder in Class C, to come away with a late second-period pin.
Heimes was leading 6-2 late in the period after getting a two-point nearfall late in the opening period, but Bloomquist found an opening and caught Heimes in a cradle, turning him to his back and getting the pin as time expired in the second period to come away with the win.
“We knew (Bloomquist) had a dangerous nearside cradle and pins a lot of people with that,” Wintz said. “(Heimes) got in a position where we were down the mat hanging on to a leg and fell into that nearside cradle. If he could have hung on for one more second we’d have gotten into the third period, but the Bloomquist kid wrestled really well and Ty took it like a champ and he’ll respond.”
The Braves picked up wins from No. 2 ranked Caydon McCracken at 120, Carter King at 126, second-ranked Owen Lade and Austin Marx at 195 pounds. Three of the Braves’ six rated wrestlers lost in the finals, as second-ranked Damien Kersten fell to fourth-ranked Oakland-Craig’s Jefferson McNeil, who moved down from 145 pounds; and fifth-ranked A.J. Hawthorne lost to Howells-Dodge’s Dylan Horejsi, ranked third in Class D at 182 pounds.
Other rated wrestlers who came away with titles were Elkhorn Valley’s Josh McFarland, ranked third in Class D at 160 pounds; Class D No. 4 Noah Scott of Randolph, who upset top-ranked Bryce Zimmerer of Creighton in the 170-pound championship; and Oakland-Craig heavyweight Justyn Hale.
Battle Creek Invitational
Battle Creek 214, Pierce 184.5, Elkhorn Valley 146, Oakland-Craig 141, Howells-Dodge 107, Creighton 101, Stanton 91, Randolph 68, Crofton/Bloomfield 64, Hartington CC 60.5, Ponca 58, Wakefield/Allen 50, Battle Creek JV 44, Scribner-Snyder 26, Osmond 18, Laurel-Concord-Coleridge 17, Niobrara/Verdigre 15, Lutheran High Northeast 2.
106: Brock Bolling, Pierce, dec. Hunter Bennett, EV, 6-2. 113: Alexander Smith, O-C, pinned Boston Reeves, BC, 2:41. 120: Caydon McCracken, BC, maj. dec. Adam Miller, EV, 12-4. 126: Carter King, BC, dec. William Poppe, C/B, 7-5. 132: Owen Lade, BC, pinned Jeremiah Kruntorad, Pierce, 3:23. 138: Jefferson McNeil, O-C, dec. Damien Kersten, BC, 3-1. 145: Prestin Vondra, EV, pinned Turner Korth, HCC, 1:45.
152: Brandon Bloomquist, Randolph, pinned Ty Heimes, BC, 4:00. 160: Joshua McFarland, EV, dec. Issiah Borgmann, Stanton, 4-1. 170: Noah Scott, Randolph, dec. Bryce Zimmerer, Creighton, 5-3. 182: Dylan Horejsi, H-D, dec. AJ Hawthorne, BC, 8-5. 195: Austin Marx, BC, maj. dec. Carter Jensen, H-D, 15-5. 220: Ryder Fuchs, Pierce, pinned Carter Throener, H-D, 1:38. 285: Justyn Hale, O-C, pinned Christian Yaw, EV, 3:56.
106: Trenton Arlt, O-C, pinned Zach Hartl, Stanton, 3:36. 113: Jackson Smutz, S-S, dec. Isaiah Adams, Pierce, 5-1. 120: Zak Hansen, Stanton, pinned Trevor Jedlicka, H-D, :51. 126: Carter Jensen, Pierce, pinned Kerby Hochstein, HCC, 1:52. 132: Cody Hanvey, Creighton, maj. dec. Charlie Lopez, W/A, 8-0. 138: Michael Kruntorad, Pierce, pinned Wyatt Verzani, W/A, 3:23. 145: Alex Schmit, Randolph, pinned Ashton Schweitzer, Pierce, 3:24.
152: Isaac Verzani, W/A, pinned Bode Wortman, Creighton, :41. 160: Brett Tinker, Pierce, def. Ethan Koch, HCC, medical forfeit. 170: Trevor Schumacher, H-D, pinned Seth Kment, Stanton, 2:47. 182: Brock Schaecher, EV, pinned Eric Hoesing, HCC, :38. 195: Dylan Kuehler, Pierce, pinned Alex Solorzano, Osmond, 2:49. 220: Jared Janssen, C/B, dec. Ethan Williams, LCC, 12-7. 285: Ben McDuffee, Ponca, pinned Brody Vrooman, Creighton, :50.