They changed the Parade of Champions, the match introductions and the medal presentations.
What stayed the same Saturday at the Nebraska high school wrestling championships were the winning teams.
Grand Island, for a fifth consecutive year in Class A.
Omaha Skutt, for the 15th time in 16 years in Class B.
Amherst, for the fourth straight year in Class D.
Only Central City in Class C wasn't a repeat champion, but the Bison claimed their third state title in five years.
A jazzed-up production from start to finish, the finals began with the CenturyLink Center arena darkened and spotlights used during the Parade of Champions. The processional had its traditional anthem, Queen's “We Are the Champions,” relegated to a snippet that followed an opening instrumental tune.
For each weight class, the finalists were introduced to the final-day crowd of 10,221 under spotlights in the darkened arena, with the arena lights flipped back on for the action. Awards were presented between weight classes instead of in one ceremony halfway through the finals and another at the conclusion of the meet.
Of the 56 individual champions, a record eight became three-time winners. Five of them were juniors.
If they all prevail again in 2014, JaVaughn Perkins of Omaha North, Brett Velasquez of Bennington, Colton Adams of Scottsbluff, Will Schany of Blair and Jacob Sebade of Pender would be the largest class of four-time winners in tournament history.
Seniors who won for the third time were Hunter Bamford of Kearney, Ronald Wells of Omaha Central and Jake Anderson of Central City.
Entering the finals, only Skutt had its team title clinched. Strong showings in the final two rounds of consolations had moved Omaha Burke six points past Grand Island and O'Neill a half-point ahead of Central City. Amherst made its move in the consolations, too, scoring 61 points to overtake second-day leader Pender.
“It was nerve-racking. It was all weekend long,'' Islanders coach Mike Schadwinkel said. “I knew Burke was going to score a ton of points this morning. Ultimately we had faith in our kids. There was nothing else we could control out there other than our own performance, and they performed like they're capable of.”
Grand Island won three of its five finals while Burke dropped its three bouts, leaving the Islanders with a 180-170 advantage in the closest Class A team race since 2001, when Papillion-La Vista held off Millard North by four points. Not since Omaha South in 1960 had a team won Class A five years in a row.
Burke, the runner-up for the second straight year, dropped matches in the first two weight classes. Nolan Laux of Hastings completed an undefeated season with a 9-2 decision over Bulldog freshman Otis Rollins at 106, and then freshman Isaac DeLoa of Millard South used a late takedown to defeat returning champion Aaron Fletcher 7-5 at 113.
Grand Island tied the Bulldogs with Dante Rodriguez's pin of Lincoln Southwest's Keegan Williams at 120 and went up 174-170 when Trey Trujillo, at 132, won his second title in three years.
Burke's final wrestler, 170-pounder Joe Contreras, trailed Bellevue West's unbeaten Preston Lauterbach 3-2 after the first period when Bulldog coach Wes Boehm requested an injury default because Contreras had hurt his shoulder.
“He's going on a football scholarship to college (Morningside), and I didn't want to risk (further injury),'' Boehm said. “I was pleased with our effort today. The kids were putting the team first.”
Chase Reis gave Grand Island a third champion when the junior 195-pounder pinned Zach Dawe of Papillion-La Vista in the second period.
Grand Island's other finalists were Matt Bolan, who lost to Bamford at 126, and Edgar Silva at 215.
Skutt had its second straight title in hand before the finals. The SkyHawks had two champions, Brian Peska (46-5) at 106 and freshman Bailey Vanderpool at 126. Their third finalist, JT Sloboth at 113, lost a 5-3 decision to Scottsbluff's Keegan Hessler.
“I was glad we wrestled so well this morning,'' Skutt coach Brad Hildebrandt said. “We've been in a couple of those (close races), and it's fun, it's exhilarating, but at the same time it's an experience.”
Vanderpool (29-13) had the most losses of any champion.
“He just put everything together the last couple weeks,'' Hildebrandt said.
Scottsbluff, which trailed the SkyHawks 146.5-119, had champions in Hessler and Adams. Cruz Delacruz, who lost to Skutt's Peska at 106, was the Bearcats' third finalist. It was their best finish since winning Class A in 1989.
Central City, which ended with a 135-115.5 advantage over O'Neill, regained the Class C lead when Kolby Lenhart (35-3) pinned Fort Calhoun's Vince Hartline early in the third period at 126. The Bison wrapped up the title when Kyle Sutton beat David City's Martin Phillips 9-3 at 138.
Anderson and Jake Brown at 160 made it 4-for-4 for Central City's seniors in the finals.
O'Neill had its best finish since finishing second in Class B in 1966. The Eagles had two runners-up, Jon Marvin at 120 and David Fox at 170.
Amherst offset Pender's record-tying five champions to keep the Class D crown. The Broncos had six wrestlers come back to take home third-place medals.
Bryan Wietjes virtually clinched the team title with his major decision at 113. That put the Broncos ahead by 29½ points, forcing Pender into needing pins in every final to remain alive. The Pendragons recorded none among their winners — Mark Dunn at 120, Benny Oliver at 126, Garrett Bowder at 132, Jacob Sebade at 138 and Ben Burmester at 182 — and were outscored 185.5-172.0.
Amherst's Stuart Hircock completed an undefeated season at 170 for his team's second individual title.
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