OMAHA - Three-time defending Class C state champion Valentine will likely not win a fourth straight title, but the Badgers are in contention to take home the Class C runner-up trophy in the state high school wrestling championships at CHI Health Center.
“I think we're sitting in pretty good shape as far as second place goes,” Valentine coach Shane Allison said. “David City really had a nice round. Those guys are wrestling outstanding. You get a team that's wrestling like they are, and they're really tough to beat.”
After two days, the Badgers were in second place with 83 points, behind David City with 118, but ahead of third-place David City Aquinas with 70.
Logan View was the only other area team in the top-10. The Raiders were 10th with 46 points.
Valentine went into Friday in fourth place but used a great night session, where the championship semifinal and third-round consolation matches are contested simultaneously.
The Badgers went 5-0 to bulldoze their way into second place in the team standings.
On the championship side, Chris Williams, Gage Krolikowski and Chase Olson advanced to the finals,
Williams, a 126 pounder, is a junior and will be going for his third title but he'll have to beat his nemesis, Casey Faulkenberry of Broken Bow. “I beat him the first time. He pinned me the second time, then the third time, I got lucky, kind of, and I ended up on top,” Williams said.
Krolikowski will be going for a four-peat at 138. His semifinal against Cameron Graham of Cross County/Osceola was a battle of unbeatens, but the anticipated showdown soon turned one-sided.
Krolikowski scored takedown and a pair of 3-point near falls in the first period before finishing off Graham early in the second with a pin.
When asked about the possibility of a fourth title, Krolikowski said he's taking it just like any other tournament. “Just next match up,” he said.
Krolikowski credited his coaches for always having him and his teammates prepared with some tough practices in the Valentine wrestling room. “Some days you just get beat up,” he said. “It helps when you get down here because you're wrestling the tougher kids and it feels a little bit easier.”
Olson, the Badger 160 pounder will be wrestling in the finals for the third straight year, but will be looking for his first title. Olson outlasted Dylan Jones of Louisville in the semifinals, 3-2.
“Chase, sometimes, he'll wrestle close matches, but he's just so hard to score on,” Allison said. “He just stays in really good position. When he opens up, he can put a lot of points on the board too. He's one that really deserves a state title.”
Valentine 132 pounder Tobin Olson went 3-0 in the consolation bracket on Friday to put himself in contention for a medal and Morgan McGinley at 145 won two matches and will also compete for third place.
“I'm proud of our guys. They've had to battle some adversity over the last couple of weeks and I'm excited for them,” Allison said.
It will be an all-Northeast Nebraska final for the Class C 220-pound title when Landon Beaver of Wisner-Pilger battles Kolby Johnson of Madsion.
Beaver earned an 11-3 major decision over Peyton Cone of Fremont Bergan while Johnson hung on for a 1-0 victory over Wayne Moore of David City.
Beaver's win was even more impressive because he's recovering from having separated ribs. “I wasn't even supposed to wrestle districts,” he said.
Johnson earned an escape in the second period, then rode the David City wrestler hard for the entire third period to secure the win.
“I just knew if I rode him out, I'd be in the state finals and that's what kept me going,” Johnson said. All year, making state and winning state has been my top goal. So, just being that close to it, I didn't want to let it go and that translated to me not letting him go.”
Beaver and Johnson wrestled each other once this year, in the East Husker Conference tournament, a match Johnson won in overtime.
Two other area Class C wrestlers will march in the parade of champions: Gavin Dozler of Boone Central (113) and Tom Maline of Oakland-Craig (170).
Meanwhile, four saw their dreams of a state championship come to an end in the semifinals: Carter King (120) of Battle Creek, Dalton Anderson (126) of Ponca, Jaxson Jones (16) of Twin River and Jazper Ames (195) of Lutheran High Northeast.
Saturday's championship matches will start at 145 pounds and end with the 138 pounders, including Valentine's Krolikowski as he goes for his fourth state title.