While winning all five semifinal round matches Friday was a big accomplishment, the three consolation victories by Pender wrestlers brightened Dennis Oliver's smile.
Those wins helped create a bigger cushion for the Pendragons in their pursuit of the Class D state wrestling team title. Pender leads defending champion Amherst 145-114.5 heading into the final day of action at CenturyLink Center.
Oliver, the Pender coach, remembers all too well how a second-day lead slipped away from the Pendragons. That's a big reason he appreciated the results of the consolation round that guarantees the team will return home with eight individual medals.
“We had a perfect round,” Oliver said. “We still have to wrestle tomorrow, but they know what's at stake. It will be a restless night I do believe, but these kids like stepping up and facing a challenge.”
Wrestleback wins by Josh Davis at 113, Klint Conroy at 160 and Conner Albus at 285 — all by pin — provided a spark that Oliver said swept through the rest of the Pender roster.
“Our 113-pounder beating a kid who beat him three times total was a surprise to us,” Oliver said. “Same with our heavyweight. As far as medaling, they went way beyond my expectations.
“They did a huge favor for us.”
Three Pender wrestlers in the championship bracket were involved in matchups of No. 1- vs. No. 2-ranked competitors. Top-ranked Mark Dunn (120) and Garrett Bowder (132), along with second-ranked Jacob Sebade at 138, rolled into Saturday's 3 p.m. championship finals with solid victories.
Two other top-ranked Pendragons — Benny Oliver (126) and Ben Burmester (182) — also advanced to championship bouts with convincing wins.
Dunn got things started with a hard-fought 4-2 decision over Brandon Burruss of High Plains. The bout was scoreless after the first period before Dunn scored two in the second and two more less than 40 seconds into the third period.
Both Bowder and Sebade jumped to 5-0 first-period leads en route to their victories. Bowder earned a 12-0 major decision over Toby Nordmeyer of East Butler, while Sebade handed Devin Dibbern of Amherst just his second loss in 44 matches with a 6-0 win.
Oliver and Burmester joined Bowder as winners by major decision. Oliver shut out Chandler Tyan of Sutherland 10-0 before Burmester downed Gerrit Vanengen of Freeman 10-2.
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