1.) Cadet World Greco
In one of the best all-time moments in Nebraska state wrestling history, three Nebraska wrestlers qualified for the Cadet World Greco championships in Zagreb, Croatia in early July, by winning their weight classes at the Cadet World Trials in Akron in June. Kearney’s Phillip Moomey, along with brothers Jakason and James Burks of Omaha Burke all represented the United States at the UWW championships right before Fargo. Although none would medal at that event, it was a phenomenal story that captured the attention of the state and nation and garnered much attention for the level of wrestling currently present in Nebraska.
2.) State Champions Crowned
Lincoln East, Omaha Skutt, Valentine and Burwell all captured individual state team championships in Omaha in February. Lincoln East outpaced season rival Kearney 187-163 to win the school’s first state championship since 2004 when coaches Rutledge and McCurdy were competing for the Spartans. East had an amazing run led by state champions Maxx Mayfield, Chance Fry and DaShawn Dixon and two other state finalists. Omaha Skutt won it’s 20th state title in the last 21 years to capture the Class B title. The Skyhawks won 146-119 over runner-up Grand Island Northwest and had three individual champions in Billy Higgins, Alex Van Dyke and Nick Stoltenberg. Valentine won it’s 3rd straight Class C title with a state record 5 individual state champions with Jordan Kelber, Chris Williams, Gage Krolikowski, Caleb Long and DJ Stephen. David City was runner-up just ahead of Battle Creek in Class C. In Class D Burwell also won their third straight team championship 124-88 over Elkhorn Valley.
3.) Fargo Success
At the annual Cadet and Junior Nationals in Fargo in July, Nebraska got All-American performances from Jakason Burks, James Burks, Damen Pape, Lee Herrington, Jack Huffman, Dillyn Miller, Archer Heelan, Connor Knopick and Caleb Coyle. Burks became the first freestyle champion from Nebraska since Thomas Gilman in 2011 and rolled to a Cadet National championship, earning the Outstanding Wrestler award in the process. His huge five-point throw in the finals left an everlasting image in this wrestling analyst’s mind. Herrington finished 8th in freestyle to become a rare junior placer in Nebraska history. Pape of Hastings finished 7th in Junior Greco at 170; Miller was 8th in Junior Greco; Burks was 3rd in Junior Greco; Knopick finished 3rd in Cadet Greco; Coyle was 4th in Cadet Greco; and incoming freshman Heelan was 7th in Cadet Greco.
4.) Burks at WNO
It was certainly the year of Jakason Burks as the current junior from Burke HS became the first Nebraska wrestler to compete in the prestigious Who’s Number One event created by FloWrestling, in October of this year. Although Burks would come up just short against Greg Diamakaholis of New York, dropping a 6-4 decision, it was just another amazing accomplishment for Burks who apparently has NOT narrowed down his college choices at this time even though a tweet intimated the other day he had (thanks dude I appreciate the updates!). After his Fargo performance, Burks spent most of the fall as the top rated wrestler in the country at 113 pounds.
5.) Senior World Championships
Former Huskers Jordan Burroughs and James Green, along with former Skutt standout Thomas Gilman, all represented team USA in the Freestyle World Championships in Budapest, Hungary in mid-October. Burroughs would lose 6-5 in the prelim rounds to the eventual champion from Russia but rebound to earn bronze, beating rival Frank Chamizo in the medal round. Gilman just missed a bronze medal losing 5-4 in his final match at 57kg. Green went 1-1 at 70kg. The USA was also represented on the Greco side by former Omaha North star RaVaughn Perkins. Perkins lost his only match 8-7. Prior to this, Burroughs, Gilman and Green had all qualified to the senior team at the Final X at the Devaney Center in Lincoln in early June. Burroughs had beaten former NCAA star Isaiah Martinez; Green beat Jason Chamberlain; and Gilman swept rising college phenom Daton Fix.
6.) Riggs and Robb win 4 Titles
Maxwell’s Cameron Riggs and Sidney’s Derek Robb became the 29th and 30th four-time state champions in Nebraska history, finishing off unbeaten seasons and record-setting careers in February. Riggs, who began his career at North Platte St. Pats, finished the season 57-0 and pinned Elkhorn Valley’s Darren Stewart to win Class D 138. More importantly, Riggs joined the select list of career unbeatens joining Bennington’s Brett Allgood, Howells’ Eric Coufal and Creighton Prep’s Chris Oliver as those that went unblemished over their careers. Robb, finished off a remarkable career, setting all-class state records for career wins (204), most pins in a career (161) and most wins in a season (63). His only loss in high school came as a sophomore in the Cozad Invite finals to Marc Zecker of Adams Central.
7.) Grady Griess Pin Record
Grand Island Northwest sophomore Grady Griess emerged as one of the state’s best all-around wrestlers, putting together one of the most dominant seasons in Nebraska High School history. Griess pinned 51 opponents to set an all-class state record. Most of the pins occurred in the first period and Griess would participate in the most anticipated match of the state tournament, losing in the state finals to Wahoo’s Sam Kolterman in Class B at 195.
8.) Waddington denies Hughes
Wood River junior Evan Waddington, a future Chadron State wrestler, earned revenge on Syracuse senior Max Hughes in the Class C 138 state final in Omaha in February. Waddington, who had been a 2x state finalist previously and who had lost by pin to Hughes in the state championship as a freshman, up-ended Hughes who was bidding to become a four-time state champion. Hughes joins Kearney’s Brandon Brill as the only other wrestler in state history to lose his bid for four titles in his final state tournament match.
9.) Millard South Duals Streak Ends
The Patriots had a state 120-match dual winning streak ended during the semifinals of the state duals to eventual champion Kearney when the Bearcats won 49-23. The streak, which had previously eclipsed the Chuck Deter-led Gering record of 96 straight in 1982, is one that is unlikely to ever be broken again in our lifetimes. The 120-straight wins were just outside of the all-time national high school top 10 winning streaks in history.
10.) State Duals Champions
Kearney, Skutt, Broken Bow and Burwell captured state duals championships, the last of the current format which change this year to new qualification rules and the week preceding the district tournaments. Kearney flipped the script on team state champion Lincoln East, beating the Spartans 36-34 after state champion Brayden Smith’s 11-1 major decision at 113. The Spartans had to be wondering what if since state champion DaShawn Dixon didn’t compete in the event. Omaha Skutt edged out Blair in the final match of their Class B championship dual, when Caleb Lazure scored a takedown on state champion Jackson Nielsen with mere seconds left on the clock. Broken Bow got pins in 7 of 8 wins to take down defending champion Valentine in Class C 46-31. It was the first team wrestling championship of any-kind for the Indians and avenged an earlier season loss to Valentine. Burwell became the first team other than Amherst to win a state dual championship, beating Elkhorn Valley 44-30 to win the Class D title.