Huskermat Top 10 Stories of the Year 2017
The review of the calendar year that was is an annual feature Iíve been releasing for a number of years. So many great moments, individual performances and outstanding events filled up 2017 and itís hard to narrow the list to just 10. Below are the indelible memories that made this past year one to remember for me. May 2018 provide many more! Happy New Year!
1.) World Team Trials Lincoln. Burroughs and Green world performances.
In early June, Lincoln became the center of the wrestling universe, as the city served as the host for the 2017 World Team Trials. There couldnít have been higher drama than Jordan Burroughs and Kyle Dake and David Taylor against JíDen Cox but ultimately, the event was a showcase for the best wrestlers in the country to gather right in our own backyard. Burroughs would go on to win a 4th world championship, while Green would earn a world silver medal. Former Omaha Skutt and Iowa standout Thomas Gilman would make an improbable run through the trials, beating Tony Ramos in the finals, and earn a world silver medal in late August. The trials also marked the release of my book Matsider, which is the first and only publication of itís kind in our stateís history and which continues to garner sales and interest 6 months after release.
2.) Burwell takes down Amherst
The Longhorns, behind three individual state champions, dethroned 7x reigning state champion Amherst at the NSAA state tournament in February. The victory ended a record-breaking streak by the Broncos, and the sight of Coach Gideon and Coach Max celebrating after the Longhorn cinched up the team title is an image that wonít soon be forgotten by me. It was a great follow-up to a state football championship for Burwell that was won in November of 2016.
3.) Record setting Valentine
The Badgers steamrolled the rest of Class C in February, setting a state class record with 195 points, easily outdistancing 2nd place David City by 87.5 points. Coach Allisonís squad crowned 4 individual champions in Omaha and had 9 state medalists to go with their state tournament record 17 pins. The Badgers also tied a state record with 30 pins in the district tournament. The 2017 performance by Valentine left many wondering if they were the greatest small school (Classes C and D) team in the history of Nebraska.
4.) 4x champions: Meink, Miller
Campbell University bound Korbin Meink and future UNL (formerly UNI recruit) Husker Christian Miller capped off brilliant careers with 4 state championships, becoming the 27th and 28th in state history to accomplish that feat. Miller downed 2x champion Brody Lewis of Franklin in the finals to finish with a 165-2 record. Meink edged Scottsbluff sophomore Devontae Gutierrez 3-2 in the state championship match at 126B. With state duals participation a week later, Meink finished with a career record of 164-10.
5.) State champions crowned
Millard South, Omaha Skutt, Valentine and Burwell all brought home state team championships in Omaha in February. Millard South and Valentine also won state dual team titles the following week, while Gretna upstaged Skutt in Kearney, behind undersized and unheralded Tom Kienowís 1-0 victory at 220. It was an incredible match in a back and forth dual and it was the second year in a row that Skutt was denied a state duals championship. The state duals also marked the end of some great coaching careers for Millard Southís Doug Denson and Gretnaís Matt Bruggeman.
6.) Fargo Success
Kearneyís Phillip Moomey spearheaded some outstanding performances at the Cadet/Junior National championships in Fargo in July. Moomey became the first Nebraska wrestler since Thomas Gilman to bring home a stop sign, winning the Cadet National Greco Roman championship at 120 lbs. Moomey also finished 3rd in the Cadet Freestyle tournament. Incoming freshmen Nate Rubino and Connor Knopick were both Cadet National Greco runner-ups. Lincoln East sophomore-to-be Maxx Mayfield finished 4th in Cadet Freestyle while Jakason Burks of Omaha Burke finished 8th in freestyle and 5th in Greco. Incoming freshman Dyson Kunz of Central City was 8th at the Cadet Freestyle level at 88 lbs. Both Rubino and Burks were also placers at the UWW Cadet Greco championships in June.
7.) Jakason Burks Super32
Jakason Burks became the 3rd Nebraska wrestler, behind Colton Adams and Joey Harrison, to place at the prestigious Super 32 tournament in late October. Burks reached the semifinals of a bracket with well over 100 national level wrestlers, before losing to Iowa rival Cullen Schreiver, and then wrestled back to a 4th place finish. Kearneyís Phillip Moomey narrowly missed a placement, falling 1 match (and 1 point) short. Burks obviously put together one of the better offseasons youíll ever seen from a Nebraska wrestler.
8.) Salem Harsh, Scottsbluff
Harsh became one of the largest stories in our state last year, putting together one of the greatest single seasons in recent memory and wrestling at a level that was equal to some of the great seniors in our stateís history. Harsh had largely been forgotten as he didnít wrestle during his junior year but he ran roughshod over great competition and knocked off North Carolina recruit and nationally rated Clay Lautt to win the Rocky Welton in late January. Harsh gave up one takedown the entire year and was completely untouchable, going 50-0. As assistant Coach Brian Adams would later tell me, Harsh was wrestling at a level that was identical to Colton Adams during his senior year. Few from our state will ever see a schedule that tough and have that much success.
9.) Petree over Borer
Semifinal Friday night is arguably the best session of wrestling in our state on an annual basis and the 2017 was one of the most intense and incredible Iíve witnessed in some time. Perhaps no single match captured the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat more than Kyle Petreeís stunning victory over state champion Zach Borer of North Bend. I was mere feet away from the mat when Petree began a series of leg turks that kept the official counting nearfall until the final score was 16-2. It was one of the most incredible scoring sequences Iíve seen on a mat in all my years of covering the sport and the frenzied crowd agreed. The lasting image of that single match and its aftermath is something that will be ingrained in my mind for as long as I live!
10.) Lincoln East transfers
Thereís little doubt that the transfer to Lincoln east of the trio of Lincoln Southeast champion Chance Fry, former Hastings state champion DaShawn Dixon and Lincoln Southeast state medalist Adam Kinnaman was a premier story of the calendar during 2017. The three standouts have elevated the Spartans from being a state top 3 squad to a legitimate state title contender in Class A. Perhaps no school in state history has benefited more from a single group of transfers in the offseason than Lincoln East this year.