Omaha Burke had its first-day setbacks, but a bigger blow struck Grand Island before the Islanders even got to town for the state wrestling tournament.
The four-time defending Class A team champion is without Billy Thompson, a 152-pounder who was ranked third in his class. He broke a hand during practice on Tuesday.
“Anytime you take away a kid who's ranked from a team that's in the hunt to win a state championship, it's going to affect you,” Islander coach Mike Schadwinkel said. “It is what it is. A kid gets hurt, you can't control it, it happens. All we have to do is take care of our other guys, and they have to step up and do well.”
Burke ended Thursday's two rounds of wrestling at CenturyLink Center two points ahead of the Islanders (67-65).
The Bulldogs have six wrestlers in Friday's 5 p.m. semifinals, one more than Grand Island, but two of their title hopes — third-ranked Jared Green at 138 and second-ranked Jordan Hammond at 145 — lost quarterfinals to wrestlers ranked behind them.
Unlike Thompson, the Bulldog duo can still rack up points in the wrestlebacks.
“We'll see what they're made of,” Burke coach Wes Boehm said. “Hopefully they'll come back and get third for us.”
Perennial Class B champion Omaha Skutt also must rely on wrestlebacks more than usual. The SkyHawks won only three of 10 quarterfinals and hold a six-point lead over Plattsmouth.
“We wrestled probably one of our best first rounds ... and we went to probably the worst round we've ever had,” Skutt coach Brad Hildebrandt said. “We just have to regroup, hold our heads up and fight for this a little bit.”
O'Neill and Central City are 1-2 in the Class C team standings, with three-time defending Class D champion Amherst having the largest lead in the four-class meet.
Two rounds of wrestlebacks during the day Friday are the lead-in to the 5 p.m. semifinals, along with third-round consolations. Semifinal winners will be in the Parade of Champions that opens the 3 p.m. finals session on Saturday.
In the semifinals for Burke will be Otis Rollins at 106, Aaron Fletcher at 113, Jacob Wilcoxen at 126, Justice Bridgeford at 152, Patrick Kelley at 160 and Joe Contreras at 171. Fletcher won 3-0 over John Mottl of Grand Island in the only quarterfinal between the Bulldogs and Islanders.
Hammond (34-3) dropped a 3-1 decision to third-ranked Sammy Flores (33-1) of South Sioux City. Green (34-5) lost 7-2 to Adam Willman of Lincoln East (42-3).
Grand Island's semifinalists are Dante Rodriguez at 120, Matt Molan at 126, Trey Trujillo at 132, Chase Reis at 195 and Edgar Silva at 220. Silva's match ended after teammate Juan Medina lost a 1-0 decision to Eric Oltman of Lincoln Southwest at 285.
“Five's not bad. You can't complain,” Schadwinkel said. “We had some chances to do a little bit better and get a little bit more, but ultimately we have to come through and we didn't in some spots.
“Of all the wins we got today, only two or three of them were decisions. We did what we needed to do and scored a lot of bonus points.”
Grand Island is missing two state qualifiers in Omaha. The second, Rigo Barragan, tore an ACL during the district meet.
Asked about the Islanders' situation, Boehm said Burke, too, has had injuries and “I don't play that game.”
Skutt started the Class B quarterfinals with three wins in a row, from Brian Peska at 106, JT Sloboth at 113 and Bailey Vanderpool at 126. Then came the losses.
“We thought we might be able to get six, maybe seven through,” Hildebrandt said. “We were in some of those matches. We just let up. We had one we lost in overtime and two in the last four or five seconds.
“It's just mat awareness, knowing where you're at, and being ready to go.”
O'Neill, which is looking for its first state title in wrestling and hasn't been runner-up since 1966, got pairs of wins Thursday from Joseph Gillham at 113, Jon Marvin at 120, Blake Walters at 132, David Fox at 170 and Spencer Knopp at 182.
Central City's semifinalists are Kolby Lenhart at 126, Kyle Sutton at 138, Jake Anderson at 152 and Jake Brown at 160. The Bison are after their third state title in five years.
Amherst, which won eight of nine quarterfinals, opened an 81-59 lead over Pender in its bid for a fourth consecutive Class D title.
The Broncos' semifinalists are Dawson Trampe at 106, Bryan Wietjes at 113, Colten Bergt at 120, Logan Dibbern at 132, Devin Dibbern at 138, Mason Klingelhoefer at 145, Stuart Hircock at 170 and Kris Rasmussen at 182.
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Video: Sights and sounds from the first day of the Nebraska state wrestling tournament