OMAHA — For the second day in a row, Plainview coach Dean Boyer didn't need a lengthy opening statement to assess his team's performance at CHI Health Center here.
“We competed very hard, and we wrestled well,” he said. “Overall, we wrestled well.”
It was, almost verbatim, the same thing Boyer remarked following Thursday's action.
“It sounds like yesterday,” he said. “Yes, it does.”
Boyer's simple summary was warranted with a Class D-leading 121 team points and four Pirates competing for gold medals Saturday. Mullen was sitting second with 88 points, while Neligh-Oakdale (56), Howells-Dodge (50) and Elkhorn Valley (47) joined the Pirates among the top five through two days.
“I've been in Northeast Nebraska now for 26 years, and we've been saying that same story just about every year,” Boyer said about the region's competition level. “It doesn't surprise me. I expected several of the teams out of our district to be up there high. If we do well in our area, we're usually able to do pretty well down here (at state) because our competition is pretty good.”
For the second day in a row, 170-pounder Alizae Mejia stayed undefeated after an unconventional finish. The junior improved to 30-0 on the season with a 6-4 decision over North Platte St. Patrick's senior Talan McGill, but it was not without controversy.
The clock was inadvertently reset at some point during the second period, leading to what officials deemed as 30 seconds of “bad time,” Boyer said, which resulted in points being taken off the board. The scoreboard had showed that Mejia, who was wearing the red ankle bands, was up 7-6, but then it was changed to a 6-4 lead.
“We lost a takedown, and they lost an escape,” he said. “Both refs, myself, the scorekeeper and the other coach all agreed that it was 6-4 red. Whether it was really that or not, I don't know, but everybody there agreed 6-4 red.”
Mejia then held on in the third period to secure the win. But after Mejia's hand was raised, an Irish coach was adamant that the score should have been reversed with McGill winning. That coach continued to plead his case, and Boyer returned to the mat a second time. “We agreed to 6-4, and we wrestled a whole period,” Boyer was overheard saying. After further debate involving officials and the St. Patrick's coach, the final score was eventually upheld.
“It was so crazy. I don't even know what to think at all,” Mejia said.
It followed a Thursday quarterfinal victory over Gunner Reimers of Palmer that was decided via ultimate tie-breaker, or triple overtime, after they finished regulation and two sudden-victory periods deadlocked at 5.
“It must be meant to be that he was supposed to make the finals, I can tell you that, because some controversy happened in both of them,” Boyer said.
Before that drama, Plainview punched three tickets to the finals. Two of those finalists continued one-loss defending champion seasons with dominating technical falls, while another was a point shy of a major-decision.
Junior Eli Lanham will go for his second-straight Class D 106-pound championship after he dominated Twin Loup sophomore Nolan Osborn for an 18-3 technical fall. Six minutes later, Scout Ashburn reached the finals when he scored four takedowns, two in the third period, to earn a 9-2 decision over Cayden Ellis of Winside. Senior Nate Christensen followed at 138 pounds with a 16-1 technical fall.
Lanham used a cradle to take a 10-0 lead heading into the third period, and then used a reversal plus three takedowns – the final one coming with 17 seconds left to end the match early. He'll face Hunter Bennett of Elkhorn Valley, who downed Lanham's teammate, Ashton Dane, with a 9-1 major-decision.
“I was getting my shots early,” Lanham said. “I took him right to his back, so that helped right away, and then just tough rides, scoring points, got off bottom, and then I saw my coaches telling me to let him go to get the takedown and get the tech fall.”
Ashburn led 2-1 until he took Ellis down with 37 seconds left in the second period. Ashburn then escaped Ellis 13 seconds into the third period, and added a takedown with 1:04 to go for a 7-1 lead. Ellis managed to get away once more but Ashburn's takedown with three seconds left sealed his first career finals berth.
Christensen pulled Xavier Perez of Elm Creek into a chicken wing for a takedown, and then Christensen escaped to begin the second period before taking Perez down again. Christensen nearly had Perez for a pin until time ran out in the second period, resulting in a three-point near-fall and an 8-1 lead. It turned out to be the first of three near-falls as Christensen finished off the victory. In the second final involving area wrestlers against each other, Christensen will face Gabe Escalante of Winside, who claimed a 7-3 decision over Dustin Klingsporn of Axtell.
“I focused on scoring points,” Christensen said. “No matter what, just keep scoring points. That's what Coach Boyer tells us what to do, especially for the team race. We wanted to seal that up, and getting a tech fall, that was huge for that.”
Also qualifying for the finals was Neligh-Oakdale senior Kaleb Pofahl, who pinned Ty Kvanvig of Mullen in 3 minutes.
Howells-Dodge had a chance to move back into third, but semifinalists Carter Throener (220) and Kyle Pickhinke (285) both suffered first-period pins.
“It's tough getting into those semis. It's a lot of work,” Howells-Dodge coach Brian Jones said. “You've got to be smart when you wrestle. You can't let the nerves get to you, and you just have to perform your best.”