Dozen area wrestlers on the brink of a title
Semifinal wrestling action wrapped up Friday night in Omaha at the state tournament with 12 area wrestlers on the doorstep of a state championship.
Representatives from Columbus, Lakeview, David City Aquinas, David City, High Plains Community, Boone Central/Newman Grove and Schuyler Central high schools each advanced at least one wrestler into a championship match.
All but two of that group will be shooting for their first state title. High Plains’ Logan Russell at 106 pounds is a two-time reigning, back-to-back champion looking to end his career with three gold medals.
Joseph Reimers of Aquinas was unbeaten last year en route to a championship. His record is spotless again as he fights to get back to the top of the podium.
Joining that duo are senior Avery McMeekin (160) and junior Kasten Grape (220) of Columbus, seniors Zeth Gerkensmeyer (160) and Jacob Frenzen (182) of Lakeview, sophomore Zach Zitek of Aquinas (113), sophomore Dylan Vodicka (160) and seniors Justin White (145) and Noah Styskal (152) of David City, senior Jon Merten of BC/NG and senior Jesus ‘Chuy’ Maganda (220) of Schuyler.
Columbus High, Lakeview, David City and Aquinas are all also in the running for a state team trophy but will need wins in title matches, wins in the consolation round earlier in the morning and some help from the teams atop the standings sliding back with losses.
Millard South sits first in the Class A standings with 135.5 points - 17.5 clear of Columbus. CHS is also chasing Lincoln East in second at 121 and Omaha Burke at 120.5
Lakeview is sixth in Class B but faces a smaller deficit than their crosstown brethren. The Vikings have 66 total points compared to 75 for another group of Vikings at Grand Island Northwest. They’re tied with the Skyhawks of Omaha Skutt in first. Skutt has won each of the last seven Class B state championships.
Wahoo and York each have 72 team points while Hastings has 68.5.
In Class C, it’s likely more of a long shot for David City and Aquinas. Valentine tops the list with 127 points followed by Broken Bow with 99. The Scouts are in third with 97 while the Monarchs are in fourth with 81.
“I’m so excited, this is just crazy for me,” McMeekin said in the moments after a win by pinfall in just 40 seconds over Carter Abels of Kearney.
“I just went out there, had confidence. I’ve faced him three times this year, got him twice, he got me once. I really needed this one.”
McMeekin wasted no time, scoring a takedown 36 seconds in then putting Abels on the mat shortly after.
He’ll play the role of bad guy on Saturday night, trying to spoil the party for James Burks, of Omaha Burke, who’s looking to become the 31st four-time state champion in Nebraska history.
“Honestly, it’s everything I’ve been feeling before. I treated state like a normal match, like a match I’ve had all season,” Gerkensmeyer said. “I’ve already been here, and nothing really has been changing. I’ve been winning and not choking like last year or getting sixth in a really tough bracket.
“Really, all that matters now is tomorrow.”
Gerkensmeyer put together a 9-6 win over Jake Lemmon of Chadron for his ticket to the title match. The Lakeview senior led 4-1 after the first with two takedowns, 5-3 after two when he gave up his own takedown with nine seconds left in the second but finished it off by putting Lemmon to the mat twice more in the third.
His title match opponent is Riley Kopf of Lexington - a foe he pinned for a Central Conference championship and then again at state duals.
“I set my goals pretty high when I was a freshman. I always wanted a state title,” he said. “Win or lose, I was going to fight or die for it.”
Two matches after Gerkensmeyer steps on the big stage, his teammate will take to the same mat.
Frenzen is back in position for a championship after letting one slip away and settling for runner-up his junior year.
“It, honestly, feels like unfinished business. I was here last year, let’s not do the same thing. Let’s beat a kid from the same school, and try to put Lakeview on the map a little bit more.”
Frenzen lost to Alex Vandyke of Skutt last year by a 6-0 decision. Saturday he’ll get Eli Jansen of Skutt with a 35-3 record and his own runner-up finish from 2018.
Frenzen earned his spot by defeating Clark Riesen of Chadron 6-4. He scored a takedown in the first, a reversal in the second, gave up a takedown to start the third, reversed it, was himself reversed with 14 seconds remaining but hung on.
“I was thinking, ’This isn’t going to be my last match. Win this one and be in the finals again,” he said. “Be one of three two-time finalists for Lakeview.”
Grape spent Thursday fighting off his back twice before securing two pins and a place in the semifinals.
He clearly learned a lesson from those close calls, pinning Chris Kamazin of Lincoln East in just 56 seconds.
“Last year I faced a different Lincoln East guy in the semifinals. That made me mad when I lost that match. I come back this year versus a Lincoln East guy again, I was calmer,” he said.
“My earlier matches (on Thursday), I was too amped up, going to fast, not setting up my techniques.”
Grape is seeking his first state title against sophomore Tony Pray of Creighton Prep - a sixth-place medalist last season as a freshman.
“One of my goals is to be a two-time state champion,” he said. “It starts tomorrow.”
Columbus had five other semifinalists but all five came up short: Tanner Kobza (120), Carter Kucera (132), Blayze Standley (170), Carson Zwingman (182) and Anthony DeAnda (195). Clay Cerny (113) is also still alive in the consolation round.
CHS will need several third-place finishes out of that group to challenge for a team trophy.
Lakeview still has Gage Perry (126) and Joel Lemburg (138) alive in consolations as well after semifinal losses. That duo will also have to finish third in order for the Vikings to jump the five teams ahead of them.
Senior Boston Barcel (145) wrestled on Friday night as well but was beaten one round short of a medal and saw his Lakeview career come to an end.
Nate Tenopir is the sports editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at email@example.com.