Hello and welcome back wrestling fans from all parts of the state and country! I hope the beginning of the 2019-20 scholastic wrestling season finds everyone in great mind, body and spirit as we embark on another multi-month journey of competition that culminates at the state wrestling tournament in Omaha in late February. As we start on our 21st year of providing wrestling analysis in Nebraska, the theme that keeps returning to my mind is the most precious commodity any of us will ever know-time. We all have a limited undefined amount of time to live, work, eat, breathe and ultimately make our mark in the world around us. Operating with efficiency and urgency towards personal goals and treasuring the time we have with our family and friends is something that we all can lose track of and take for granted before we wake up one day and realize how the days and years have passed us by with regret. How does this tie back to wrestling? Well itís another year (my 21st!) with a special group of seniors that seemingly was just beginning their high school careers yesterday. I can still remember when Maxx Mayfield made his career debut at the Millard West Invite in January nearly 4 years ago competing against Joey Harrison. Maxx was also on our Rocky Mountain duals team with the likes of Garrett Nelson, Isaiah Alford and Korbin Meink in spring of 2017 and in a few months his high school career will be over and his sights will be set on Northwestern. I can vividly remember when Isaac Trumble burst on to the scene as a sophomore at the Metro tournament, knocking off James Burks twice on consecutive days. Like Mayfield, Trumble will be at North Carolina State in less than a year. I can remember young Jakason Burks at the Burke Invite as an 8th grader when older brother James, then a freshman, nearly knocked off senior Isaac Deloa. Indeed it does seem as if it was all yesterday. In a short time, these wrestlers and many others in the Class of 2020 have dedicated themselves to being the absolute best at their craft-all with a limited time to climb the mountain and become the best they can be. As those three years have gone by, the next three months will fly by as well with many twists, turns and storylines to be created between now and February. One movie I like to watch often especially when on a long flight is last yearís Clint Eastwood directed ďThe MuleĒ where the character Earl Stone laments ďIt's just time is all. I could buy everything, but I couldn't buy time.Ē So I encourage you as a parent to simply enjoy this process, knowing that at some point it will have an end. As a coach to enjoy your time around these wonderful dedicated athletes. As a wrestler, take every practice and opportunity to compete as if itís your last because it really could be. I know that at some point I wonít be able to do what I do any longer which is why these days I simply enjoy the process, the people, the relationships and the comradery that wrestling brings, more than ever. The sport is bigger than all of us and we should simply take time to take in all the entertainment that these great athletes provide us every week. My urgency lies in being able to continue to promote the successes of these incredibly hard working athletes while Iím able. Before you can blink, Februrary will be here and the season will be over so let the fun begin!
On the wrestling season storyline front, it promises to be another fantastic season of great down-to-the-wire team races, great competition and exciting matches. I continue to marvel at the levels some of these young wrestlers are able to reach with the training opportunities presented. Being on a world team, being a world-level medalist or champion, being a Super 32 placer, being a Fargo placer, being able to place or win a national-level tournament or being able to beat an elite wrestler from a power state is something that is now commonplace among our very best kids on an annual basis. We have high school wrestlers in this state that train and receive coaching like college wrestlers used to and attract some of the very best programs in the country for recruiting. There were certainly years in the past where if we had one Division 1 recruit it was a banner year-when you see how the top of the C/O 2020 has five D1 commits and then see the classes behind them with blue chip recruits, on top of the just graduated who are now making their mark at the college level-you realize what a good position the state of Nebraska wrestling is in. Thatís one of the only things I ever wished to see happen-to see our state get respect and thatís where we are currently at. Iím also proud to have received the NSWCA State Media Outlet of the Year during this summerís banquet-what a great honor to be respected by my peers enough to receive at their annual Hall of Fame banquet. Back to time-it is bittersweet to see the likes of Matt Vacanti and Jay Sherer both grown up and raising families as they were among the earliest classes that we covered back in the early days of Huskermat. Love to see those guys become great productive citizens and great husbands and fathers!
With the preseason largely in the books and official practices slated to start in a little over a week, what are some things to watch for this coming year? How about the absolute juggernaut program at Millard South, which could go down as one of the best in state history if the wrestlers are separated into the right classes. We have the likes of Jakason Burks, who is wrestling a level thatís as high as ANY that Iíve seen since starting Huskermat back in 1999. How about whatís looking like an epic team race in Class B between Omaha Skutt and Hastings? Will Valentine and Broken Bow continue their historic rivalry in Class C? How about perhaps the most decorated incoming freshman in Nebraska history entering the high school ranks? How great will it be to see this top-heavy class of seniors give us one last opportunity to see them compete up close before they start making their mark at the NCAA level next season? We continue to see progress on the girl's wrestling side of things with the NSWCA creating a state girls wrestling championship (see the Twitter timeline for post). We have just have one seeking a 4th state title-Valentine's Gage Krolikowski-but you could see some unreal matches especially at the upper weights throughout the state (anyone for Griess and Trumble at the Fracas??). We'll see at least two wrestlers at the annual Ironman in week two with Paul Garcia and Grady Griess. New classification rules are being implemented and with new schools scheduled to open over the next few years, there will continue to be changes on that front. On the college avenue, Coach Mark Manningís team looks outstanding on paper with a strong possibility of a top 5 national finish. In the D2 ranks, Kearney starts at 5 while Chadron State is 24th. Concordia is 18th in the preseason NAIA ratings. The college season is in full swing with the annual Cowboy Open having taken place yesterday. Speaking of colleges, many of the Class of 2020 are making their choices prior to the November 13th National Letter of Intent day so please keep us in the loop on college decisions and weíll make sure we get the word out.
Like last year, my off-season has been incredibly rewarding as I continue to grow another sports platform with my NENextt football concept. This is something that takes me back to the very beginnings of Huskermat, where I logged thousands of miles and watched countless wrestling matches. I believe I have seen over 70 football games this fall at all levels and thereís nothing like simply going to work to promote another sport and set of athletes! Itís very similar to wrestling with the networking aspect and itís re-energized me on a personal level with something thatís new and bright. This started two years ago at an 8th grade football game and has quickly turned into a huge entity with a whole new fan base of contacts. With just a few weeks left in the high school playoffs, I feel like I know many of the football players/wrestlers even better than I did with just covering one sport-many of us will be transitioning to our winter sport together over the next few weeks. On a sidenote, please send over your nominations for the all-state football/wrestler team that will be released once the football season has concluded.
The format and content for Huskermat will remain the same as in yearís past. My primary avenue for discussion is Twitter so make sure you follow me and get other fans to follow me so we can continue to be a dominant information sharing resource. I use Twitter to post updates and content links to the Huskermat paid content. I have also opened up the Direct Messaging function this year as it worked really well for NENextt-so if you need to contact me you can click the mail icon on my Twitter page and send over a message. Email seems to be going away! Our price for our season coverage will once again be $24.95 as it was when it was introduced in 2003. All you have to do to sign up or renew is click on the right side of www.huskermat.com on the icon that says Huskermat Insiders. Your paid subscription will get you all our analysis and thoughts throughout the year, including preseason previews, Elite wrestler lists and rankings, weekly recaps and previews, Power Ratings, District projections and state tournament and dual predictions. You can also view previous yearís content under the archive links.
Thereís a link on the main page at www.huskermat.com where I post all my links to features as we add them and thereís also a note about renewals for existing subscribers. And if you havenít purchased my book Matsider which was released in 2017, you can find it on Amazon in both paper and ebook format. Matsider is my personal story and documents a lot of history of wrestling in Nebraska, including the top 100 wrestlers of all-time in our state. We will start our 2019-20 paid content shortly with the release of the annual Elite 30 Seniors, which honors the very best in the Class of 2020. After that, coaches will be receiving their preseason forms next week and weíll have an entire month of November features that take us up to the start of the season in a little over one month. We will also be bringing back our Big Mat Show where we should be able to bring in some coaches and wrestlers from around the state to interview and talk with. My goal with the podcast is to have a quality production and I didnít feel I could do that a year ago-since then Iíve reinvented the concept with my Next Quarter show for football so I feel ready to continue on with that idea. I always appreciate the subscribers as itís still costly to maintain a site and everything that goes with our operation of promoting the sport.
A few notes on renewals: As long as you use your same email address when you pay through Paypal, the system will automatically update your existing subscription with another 12 months and you can login with the same username and password as before. Please, please, please check your spam filter for login information as many times, the confirmation emails end up in spam. I probably get a million emails a year asking for login when the information ended up in spam. Iíd also recommend just emailing me directly (email@example.com), instead of using the Contact Us form on the site, as sometimes that also causes emails to go into my own spam folder. Or you can just message me on Twitter as well with the DM function. Coaches-preseason forms will be sent out in the next few weeks once your practices have gotten started.
Lastly, if you could, please consider helping out one of our own-Raymond Central assistant coach Adison Kenning and his family are going through a very tough situation with their young daughter that no parent should ever have to deal with. I have tweeted a post regarding the health of his young daughter Syd, so if you scroll through my Twitter timeline you'll see the story. Wrestling people are some of the most generous out there and I know together we can help one of our own in this time of need.
I look forward to another season of promoting these great dedicated athletes, entertaining the wonderful fans that follow our sport and watching so many of the wrestlers achieve their dreams. Donít hesitate to contact me if you have any questions-I look forward to meeting many of you over the next few months! See you soon and let the season begin!
Blair, NE USA
Twitter Handle: Huskermat