With 14 qualifiers going to the CHI center for the Patriots, they already had an advantage over the rest of the Class A field. Columbus (13 qualifiers), Burke (12 qualifiers), Lincoln East (12 qualifiers) and Kearney (10 qualifiers) would all keep pace though until the very end of the tournament in what would prove to be one of the most exciting State Championship tournaments ever remembered.
After the first round was over, 10 Patriots were able to advance into the quarter-finals in their respective brackets. 2 Patriots provided for quite the exciting match, but came up short. Alex Vacha was able to stay on top of Colten Kowalek for the entire 2nd period without getting back points, when Kowalek chose bottom to start the 3rd period, giving Vacha a final chance to secure the cradle and get a win. Kowalek was able to get a reversal in the middle of the 3rd period to avoid the upset by Vacha. Jeremy McKee was ahead 8-4 on the Number 2 ranked, Nathan Rizek of Lincoln East heading into the 2nd period before getting caught and pinned.
In the quarter-final round, the Patriots took their lumps. Out of the 10 wrestlers in the round, only 6 were able to make it through to the semi-finals (guaranteeing them a spot on the medal stand). In the round, the Patriots were able to get gritty efforts from Blake Jackson, Conor Knopick, Blake Smith, and Krew Tran in their losses. Caleb Coyle had one of the most exciting quarter-final matches, as he was able to throw Archer Heelan of Kearney to his back for 4 during a 2-2 match. Caleb was able to win by a score of 8-4 to earn his second straight trip to the semi-finals and second straight medal.
Friday, brought a new day for the Patriots, and a chance for those wrestlers who lost in the first or second round to fight for a medal. If a wrestler lost in the first round (4 Patriots), he wrestled in the first round of wrestle backs. If a wrestler lost in the second round (4 Patriots), he wrestled in the second round of wrestle backs. In the first round of wrestle backs, only 1 wrestler was able to make it to the second round of wrestle backs. Alex Vacha was able to secure the cradle and PIN against Hunter Robertson of Fremont to earn a much valuable 3 team points. In the second round of wrestle backs, 4 out of the 5 wrestler were able to earn their way to the 3rd round of consolations on Friday night. Friday night is also the time that the semi-finals take place on 1 mat.
Of the 10 wrestlers still in the tournament on Friday night (6 in the semi’s and 4 in the wrestle backs), 7 wrestlers managed to still be alive for Saturday when the placement matches took place. Caleb Coyle was the first Class A finalist after his 4-0 decision over Juan Pedro over Grand Island. Blake Jackson dropped a heartbreaker in his 3rd round consolation match to Clay Cerny of Columbus by a score of 4-3. Conor Knopick earned a PIN in his consolation match over DJ Schuman of Elkhorn South to find the medal stand for the 2nd straight year. Following that match were the 2 fabulous freshmen at 132 and 138. Antrell Taylor earned a major decision over senior, Nolan Niemiec, while Tyler Antoniak earned an 8-3 decision over senior, Preston Mort of Lincoln Northeast to secure their spots in the finals. Blake Smith wrestled his best match of the year against Caleb Connor, but fell by a 4-2 deficit. Krew Tran lost in overtime against Blake Forsythe of Norfolk at 170 pounds. Isaac Trumble earned an 11-0 major decision over returning State Runner-up AJ Muthersbaugh of Lincoln East. Josh Trumble lost a hard-fought match against the eventual champion Dillyn Miller of Omaha Burke. Gavin Peitzmeier lost in his semi-final match against Tony Pray of Creighton Prep.
When it was all said and done, the Patriot’s earned 7 medalist for the second consecutive year. Saturday morning proved to be the separation day for the Patriot’s against the other contenders. With Conor Knopick and Josh Trumble finishing in 3rd place and Gavin Peitzmeier earning 5th place, the Patriot’s were able to gain maximum points because they all won by bonus points in one or both of their matches. Before the finals started, the Patriots were up 7 points over Columbus, and 14 points over Lincoln East.
With the finals starting at 138 pounds, Tyler Antoniak started us off. The problem, however, was that he was going up against the defending champion and 2-time finalist Maxx Mayfield of Lincoln East. Tyler was able to keep the match close up until the 3rd period when Maxx started on top and was able to pin Tyler. Next up, at 182 pounds, Isaac Trumble had little trouble with Trajean Linear of Papillion-LaVista South to cap off his 56-0 undefeated season with a State Championship! Caleb Coyle again had the most exciting match of the finals with his ultimate tie-breaker loss to Gabe Grice of Bellevue East. If there was another second or two on the clock, Caleb would have score 2 points for a reversal as opposed to 1 point for an escape and would have won the match. However, Caleb started on bottom in the ultimate tie-breaker and couldn’t get free (according to the referee), and ended up with a runner-up medal for the second year in a row. With the last match starting at 132 pounds, Antrell Taylor wrestled his most impressive match of the season against the 2-time defending champion and Cornell recruit, Phil Moomey. Antrell was up 2-1 in the third period before Phil hit a flurry of moves and caught Antrell on his back with little time left on the clock. Antrell would wind up as runner-up.
As mentioned, this was the tightest team race that Class A has seen in a long time. Final team scores:
Millard South – 166.5
Columbus – 157.5
Omaha Burke- 157.5
Lincoln East – 157.0
Kearney – 143.0
Omaha Central – 88
Grand Island – 83
Papillion-LaVista – 77.5
Bellevue East – 70
Papillion-LaVista South – 63.5