OMAHA — It could be said that Mike Leatherdale of Wayne is the lone bright spot Northeast Nebraska wrestlers in the Class B bracket of the state tournament.
If that's the case, Leatherdale is a big bright spot — and not just because of his size.
The junior 285-pounder nailed his third pin of the state tournament when he took down Alfredo Valquier of Nebraska City in 4 minutes, 43 seconds to reach the Class B finals.
“It's pretty exciting,” Leatherdale said. “I just kept doing what my coaches said, I did what I had to do, and I got the job done.”
He broke away from what was a close match to record the pin. He scored a takedown and a two-point near-fall within a span of eight seconds of the second period to take a 6-4 lead and led 6-5 before recording the fall.
“He tried to throw me, and I was able to roll through,” Leatherdale said. “I did that a couple of times, and it worked both times. The final time I was able to roll through and get the pin.”
Leatherdale, who did not medal at state as a freshman and was injured as a sophomore, becomes the first finalist for Wayne in the last 15 years. He will attempt to become the first champion for the Blue Devils since Matt Nelson, who won three-straight championships from 2002 through 2004.
Despite that, Leatherdale said he doesn't feel pressure to end the drought.
“There's no pressure. Just have to do what I need to do to get the job done,” he said.
The area put three more wrestlers into the semifinals, but all three suffered setbacks.
O'Neill sophomore 120-pounder Ty Rainforth dropped his first loss of the season when Paul Ruff of Gering rode a first-period takedown all the way to a 2-0 decision. Rainforth's classmate, Brady Thompson, fell 10-3 to Grand Island Northwest senior Collin Quandt at 138 pounds.
The only other semifinalist was Pierce sophomore Ashton Schweitzer, who dropped an 8-0 major-decision to Elliot Steinhoff of Platteview.