Five may be the magic number this year for Grand Island.
“God, I hope so,'' Islander coach Mike Schadwinkel said.
By going 5-for-5 in Friday night's semifinals, the Islanders are within sight of the first five-year hold on the Class A state wrestling title since 1960.
Schadwinkel's team opened a 155-127.5 lead over second-place Omaha Burke at CenturyLink Center entering Saturday's final day of the 85th state meet. The championship matches begin at 3 p.m. with the Parade of Champions.
Omaha Skutt in Class B, Central City in Class C and Pender in Class D all used strong showings in the semifinals to take the lead in their classes.
No senior will be going for his fourth individual title, but five juniors can pick up their thirds to keep hopes of career sweeps alive. They are JaVaughn Perkins of Omaha North at Class A 160, Brett Velasquez of Bennington at Class B 120, Colton Adams of Scottsbluff at Class B 132, Will Schany of Blair at Class B 182 and Jacob Sebade of Pender at Class D 138.
Grand Island's finalists are returning champion Dante Rodriguez at 120, Matt Bolan at 126, Trey Trujillo at 132, Chase Reis at 195 and Edgar Silva at 220.
“We had a really good day,” Schadwinkel said. “We lost a total of three matches, and we got two pins in the consolation and a major decision from Chase.
“You have to hand it to our big guys. We went 4-for-4 tonight from 182 (pounds) on up.
“We have a big day tomorrow still, a lot of work to do. I doubt there's any lead that's safe. They have a lot of guys in the consolations who are going to score a lot of points.”
Burke managed a split of its six semifinals, getting wins from Otis Rollins at 106, returning champion Aaron Fletcher at 113 and Joe Contreras at 170 after a match settled in a tiebreaker. Burke will have nine medalists to eight for the Islanders.
Kearney helped the rival Islanders twice against Burke, with Hunter Bamford taking a 5-1 decision from Jacob Wilcoxen in a 126 matchup of two-time champions and undefeated Kalen Mazankowski nipping 2011 winner Justice Bridgeford 5-4 at 152.
Patrick Kelley, the other semifinalist from Burke, dropped a 6-3 decision to Joe Remaklus of Lincoln Northeast at 160.
Skutt won all three of its semifinals and four third-place consolation matches to take a 117.5-95 lead over Scottsbluff. The SkyHawks got unexpected wins at 106 from Brian Peska, who gave Clayton Cobb of Norris his first loss of the season; and at 126 from freshman Bailey Vanderpool, who got a first-period pin over Danny Ibarra of Lexington (35-2).
In between, 113-pound senior JT Sloboth pinned Andrew Null of Plattsmouth in 3:18.
“Brian did a nice job of getting us going. He's been doing that all year for us,'' SkyHawks coach Brad Hildebrandt said. “Our steady and strong leader, JT, did a fantastic job in his match getting some bonus points. And this little freshman we have, he's fearless. That was a big upset against a No. 1 kid.”
Hildebrandt, whose team has won 14 of the past 15 Class B titles, praised those who came through in the wrestlebacks to grab medals.
“They did a nice job of coming back from yesterday's nightmare, but this thing ain't over,'' he said. “There's a lot of wrestling to be done Saturday.”
Scottsbluff coach James Miller isn't convinced Skutt can be reeled in, even with head-to-head matches at 106 and 113 in the finals. Juan Delacruz takes on Peska and Keegan Hessler meets Sloboth. Adams is the Bearcats' third finalist.
“I think we're pretty well stuck in second,'' Miller said. “I don't think we're catching them.''
Scottsbluff will have six medalists to seven for Skutt.
Central City's semifinalists, all seniors, went 4-for-4 as the Bison gained a 113-101.5 lead over O'Neill. They are trying for the school's second title in three years and third in the past five.
“Our big four seniors stepped up big time,'' Bison coach Darin Garfield said. “That's what it's all about. I was almost in awe of what they were able to do tonight.”
Kolby Lenhart at 126, Kyle Sutton at 138, two-time champion Jake Anderson at 152 and Jake Brown at 160 are Central City's finalists. Sutton pinned a returning champion, Blake Eisenmann of Madison, in the first period.
“All wins are big,'' Garfield said, “but that was against a kid who beat him before, a defending state champion, and that's as good as it gets.”
O'Neill, which never has won state and hasn't taken second since 1966 in Class B, has Blake Walters at 132 and David Fox at 170 in the finals.
Pender hit perfection in Friday night's session. The Pendragons went 5-for-5 in semifinals and 3-for-3 in third-round consolations.
Mark Dunn at 120, Benny Oliver at 126 and Garrett Bowder at 132 are going for repeat titles. Ben Burmester, their 182-pounder, won a title in 2011 as a sophomore.
The door opened for Pender's first state mat title when three-time defending champion Amherst won only two of eight semifinals. The Broncos trail Pender 145-114.5.
“Last year we had the lead going into the last day, but Amherst backdoored us and took our chance away,'' Pendragon coach Dennis Oliver said. “I like where we're at, but that Amherst team isn't going away. They'll come back strong.”
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