|Season Opening Remarks 2016-17|
As October closes out, high school football and fall sports seasons end, and we turn our attention to the upcoming scholastic (and college) wrestling seasons, I wanted to share a few thoughts on our upcoming year, state of the state and various happenings in our wrestling world.
With our season creeping closer and I embark on my 17th season as a wrestling analyst in the state of Nebraska and 30th overall season involved (competitor, fan and analyst), I'm reminded of a quote from one of my favorite movies where during a reflective conversation, one of the actors tells the other "Everything changes. Nothing stays the same." Truer words couldn't be said regarding what we see in our sport of wrestling in our state at this time.
Changes are aplenty as we enter the 2016-17 high school wrestling season. This offseason, all classes were moved to a district serpentine model for districts 1-3, following a similar format for all four districts in Class A that has been in place for several years. For a traditionalist like myself it means throwing out what I've known in terms of geographic boundaries for state qualifiers and looking at a different variation every year going forward. There's many positives though with this change, in terms of making our state tournament and state dual tournament as top notch as we can. The days of the "Super" district are largely gone and we will probably never see another qualifier look like the Norris qualifier did last season.
It's now more difficult than ever to reach the top of the podium at our state tournament due to offseason training regimens and specialization. So many individuals put in incredible amounts of time and effort and those individuals will certainly be recognized as we move forward with coverage of the upcoming season. Know that your hard work is noticed and will be recognized and reflected in our annual Elite lists. I can honestly say one of the highlights of my career was taking the group of some of our state's very best out to Colorado in March of last season to watch them compete against some of the best wrestlers from Kansas, Colorado and Utah. You see up close how a group of our state's best stacks up against some of our neighboring states-let's see if we can do that again next March!
Changes are on the horizon-next year at this time I'm told we may be looking at an all-female state wrestling tournament. State Duals is almost certainly going to look different a year from now or it will just cease to exist altogether. We could potentially see a state duals tournament before the individual state tournament or possibly even a home site championship for state duals. If it remains in place, this will almost definitely be the last year it's held at UNK in it's current format. You may even see the era of singlet wrestling gone and optional shorts and shirts as replacements. The state of Nebraska is also about to enter one of the potentially brightest times in our history in terms of talented youth wrestlers hitting the high school ranks. I've said previously, that the talent influx would start as a slow drip and then the faucet would be opened wide. The slow drip begins this year with several elite freshmen that will contend for state titles but a host of national caliber wrestlers are waiting in the wings in our youth ranks.
Plenty of story lines dot the landscape as we head towards the start of the Nebraska season. Two wrestlers in the C/O 2017 will seek to join the exclusive list of 4x state champions in our state's history but both Korbin Meink of Omaha Skutt and Christian Miller of Plainview may not have any easy roads in terms of capturing their 4th state titles, with the way their weight classes are setting up-let's see if they are involved in some memorable matches in mid-February in Omaha. In Class A, Millard South should be a prohibitive favorite to capture their 3rd straight state championship with a great mix of old and new faces in their lineup, with the likes of Kearney and Omaha Burke as top challengers. Class B is a complete mystery now due to uncertain lineups with the perennial contenders from Omaha Skutt, Gretna and Scottsbluff-each of those teams boasts plenty of firepower and experience but it could be a dynamic race right down to the end. In Class C, Valentine has waited for the upcoming year for a very long time and fields what could be one of the better Class C teams in recent memory. And it's a new era at Class D power Amherst, where longtime Head Coach Tyler Herman has moved on. Can the Broncos continue their stranglehold on the state's smallest class by winning their 8th straight state championship? National level participation will continue to be a staple for many of our state's elite-just recently Omaha Burke Sr Joey Harrison became the 2nd Nebraska wrestler to ever place at the prestigious Super 32 tournament. Four wrestlers from our state (along with myself) will head to the Walsh Ironman in Ohio in December and look to join Doyle Trout and Colton Adams as Nebraska wrestlers that have ever placed at the nation's #1 in-season tournament.
Social media continues to dominate our method of communication in the state and Twitter has (as I predicted in 2009) been by far the most popular medium for relaying information. Last year saw a major influence from the video app Periscope and some of the biggest matches throughout the year were broadcast via live stream-I only see an upside with Periscope and I know the app itself has made some significant upgrades between now and last season.
In terms of Huskermat, since the model of statewide analysis I provide continues to be unique and popular, there will be few changes to the site format and concept launched in 1999. Since I've dedicated a large number of years of my life to following wrestling in our state, I feel very confident that nobody else knows the layout of our state backwards and forwards like I do-it's my job and it has been for years. I've been to nearly every HS gym in the state in the past 30 years, seen nearly every big match (nothing will ever top being there for Dethlefs and Eckley in 1987) and been blessed to develop an incredible list of sources and contacts that help me relay the kind of information that people want to know. I do plan on working very hard to develop our Podcast and take that to the next level this season since my dream has always been to work in the talk radio world. Technology now gives me the opportunity to run my own broadcasting studio in ways that we've never seen before and I foresee this element being the future of Huskermat (and I may enter into the talk radio world in other formats as well). So stay tuned to the site (and Twitter) as we will be rolling out some exciting changes with our Podcast in the very near future.
In the next few weeks, preview forms will be distributed to programs around the state and the annual top wrestler lists, preseason previews and season coverage will be released on the site. I also plan on releasing an All State Wrestler/Football team for the first time. As many of you know I have tremendous respect and a 2nd love for football in our state and I've had a great opportunity to see so many household names from the winter wrestling mats, on the fall gridiron in the last few months. Names like record-setting Trevor Nichelson, James Burks, Bailey Thompson, Sam Kolterman and Jack Sutton, Trevor Walton, Derek Robb, Billy Higgins and many others. So if you want to nominate a wrestler for this team, let me know via Twitter or email so I can make sure they get some recognition.
Speaking of football, it's an incredible experience to be on the sidelines and watch a different sport and gain a completely different perspective on coaching, competition and talent. It's also interesting to see how many non-traditional media have joined the fray of coverage of football in our state. Sometimes the sidelines have so many different media that it seems the amount of coverage is over the top. It is also great to see new faces joining the wrestling fray as well as it's been incredibly lonely at the top since Nebraska Wrestling Illustrated folded shop many years ago. I can tell you that what I do is not news and I've never wanted to tell the story of "What" happened. Since I was young I only wanted to tell "Why" it happened and attempt to forecast events before they took place. So I will let the news bring you the news while we here at Huskermat continue to do analysis work that nobody else is qualified to do for our sport (especially people from other states who act like they have lived here their entire lives). I love to put things in historical context and will continue to let 30 years of experience in wrestling in this state drive that perspective and give you the insight you won't find anywhere else.
As usual Huskermat offers a premium package for a year's coverage on the site, which helps offset costs incurred to run our site. You can always find information on the front page of Huskermat for getting yourself signed up and helping support coverage and promotion of our sport in the state. The college season is just around the corner and we have just 3 weeks until High School practices officially get underway. Between now and then, several large preseason tournaments will be used as final criteria before our annual Elite wrestler lists are released. As always, it's sure to be a memorable journey to Omaha in February and I'll be with you every step of the way. Don't hesitate to email or contact if you have any questions. Start your engines-the season is here!
PS-working on a new updated logo I hope to have released soon. Change!
Bennington High School alum
Current resident of Blair, NE
No pretenders here