KEARNEY, Neb. — Grand Island’s journey for a fifth straight Class A state wrestling championship started much the way the last four have — with a team championship at the Kearney High Invitational.
The Islanders scored 210 points Saturday to beat runner-up Lincoln Southwest by 40 points. On the way, five Grand Island wrestlers won championships with two more finishing second. The Silverhawks had three champions and three runners-up.
“The kids we expected to wrestle well, the most experienced kids, really came out and performed really well,” Grand Island coach Mike Shadwinkel said. “But we have a lot of little things to shore up and get better at, but it’s the first big tournament.”
Defending state champion Dante Rodriguez cruised through his 120-pound weight class, winning by a pin in the championship bout. Chase Reis (195) and Javier Silva (220) also scored pins in their championship matches, and Andrew Rojas won with a major decision in the 132-pound final.
The win by Silva and a win by Billy Thompson at 152 were among “some nice surprises” for the Islanders, Shadwinkel said. Silva and Thompson counted as two of the three champions who did not start the day as a No. 1 seed in their weight bracket, as there were few surprises.
Kearney’s Hunter Bamford, who defeated Grand Island’s Trey Trujillo, 3-0, in the 126-pound final, won the Outstanding Wrestler Award. Bamford won two state championships before a one-point loss in the 113-pound championship match last year. Trujillo finished second at 126 last year.
“He’s probably the toughest kid I’ll have all year. We see Grand Island a lot before state, so that’s nice. ... It keeps me focused for every weekend,” Bamford said.
Kearney’s Isaac Stansbury won the 113-pound class to join Bamford on the top of the medals stand. They were Kearney’s only champions as the Bearcats finished fifth under new coach Ty Swarm, who replaced Tom McCann, who retired last year after 42 years as Kearney’s head coach.
“It was pretty much what we expected,” Swarm said. “We weren’t on top today, but we came out and competed.”
Kearney was short two returning state qualifiers, Kalen Mazankowski and Austin Marshall, sidelined by injuries. Still, 10 Bearcats advanced to the medal rounds.
“It’s a great place for us to start and build off of,” Swarm said. “A lot of the kids have been really receptive to some of the changes we’ve been doing, but we’re not fully into the swing of things yet and they’re not executing them yet to the point where we want them as the season goes along.”
Team scoring: Grand Island 210, Lincoln Southwest 170, North Platte 147.5, Bellevue West 135.5, Kearney 133, Lincoln East 113.5, Hastings 111.5, Columbus 77, Omaha Bryan 43.
Championship matches: 106 pounds: Nolan Laux, Hastings, dec. Cameron Williams, LSW, 4-2 SV. 113: Isaac Stansbury, Kearney, pinned Jonah Navarette, NP, 4:42. 120: Dante Rodriguez, GI, pinned Jake Garner, BW, 2:41. 126: Hunter Bamford, Kearney, dec. Trey Trujillo, GI, 3-0. 132: Andrew Rojas, GI, dec. Nate Morrow, Hastings. 18-8. 138: Adam Willman, LE, pinned Evan Augustyn, LSW, 2:39. 145: Kenny Martin, LSW, pinned Parker Ridgeway, Columbus, 1:11. 152: Billy Thompson, GI, dec. Jamieson Oertle, Kearney, 5-0. 160: T.J. Burbach, LSW, dec. Brian Najera, GI, 7-5. 170: Grant Holscher, NP, dec. Jared Torell, LSW, 6-4 SV. 182: Preston Lauterback, BW, pinned Ryan Kubr, Columbus, :54. 195: Chase Reis, GI, pinned Jason Lienemann, NP, 3:02. 220: Javier Silva, GI, pinned Fernando Gomez, Columbus, :32. 285: Eric Oltman, LSW, dec. Mike Quaas, BW, 9-2.