Mike Schadwinkel isn’t ready to reminisce.
Not just yet.
The coach of Grand Island wrestling, the state’s current flagship program on the mat, isn’t ready for the run to end.
Schadwinkel’s Islanders will again begin the season as the favorite in Class A, looking for a sixth straight championship.
“It’s strange, it’s amazing, it’s surreal,” Schadwinkel said of the feeling around Grand Island wrestling. “It’s kind of a neat thing, really. I don’t know that the kids have recognized how special this is, how uncommon it is. I don’t think they grasp that.”
Only one other school has won five Class A titles in a row. Omaha South won six straight starting in 1931 and five straight starting in 1956.
Dynasties from that far back probably don’t resonate with many teenagers, Schadwinkel said. But as his wrestlers have graduated and moved on, he’s seen more of them realize how special it is to be part of such a run.
The expectations have risen, but it also feels like business as usual, Schadwinkel said.
“Ours kids just kind of show up and work,” he said. “I think they just kind of look at it like, ‘This is it. This is what we do. This is how we do it.’ ”
They may be doing it in a bit of a different way this season.
Two-time state champion Dante Rodriguez, a three-time finalist, transferred to Kearney. Trey Trujillo and his two state titles are gone to graduation.
Grand Island is buoyed by its upper weights, including returning champ Chase Reis.
The standout linebacker on the Islanders’ state semifinal team, Reis is expected to wrestle at 220 this season after his crown at 195 last year. The senior will flip-flop spots with junior Javier Silva, a runner-up a year ago.
Reis admits that Grand Island’s run creates pressure. A target on the back isn’t something the Islanders shy away from, though.
“We kind of just take it all one step at a time,” Reis said. “Practice hard every day and keep going.”
Grand Island’s reign is expected to be tested by Omaha North this season. Schadwinkel said he sees “a lot of firepower” in the Viking lineup. North will travel to Grand Island for the Flatwater Fracas, the Islanders’ two-day tournament later this month.
“We’ll really know a lot more after that,” Schadwinkel said. “That’s going to be the big one that is going to set the tone.”