SkyHawks soar above competition

Omaha Skutt's Bailey Vanderpool, in green, attempts a takedown against Scottsbluff's Ben Rodriguez in their 138-pound match. Vanderpool earned a 4-2 semifinal win over Rodriguez, the defending champion at 132 pounds. Vanderpool is one of three SkyHawks who will wrestle in Saturday's championship round.

Plattsmouth went into Friday night within striking distance, 10 points behind leader Omaha Skutt with seven wrestlers in the semifinals.

But after going 2-5 in the semifinals, the hill to the first state title since 1990 looks a little more steep for the Blue Devils.

Skutt, seeking its 18th Class B title in the past 19 years, expanded its lead as it goes into Saturday's final day at the CenturyLink Center with 132 points. Plattsmouth is next with 106.5, followed by Gretna with 98. Skutt and Gretna each have three wrestlers in the finals, while eight schools have two.

"It's a humbling sport, it really is," Plattsmouth coach Curtis Gocke said. "The highs and lows, you got to catch the wave when it's high and try to avoid the lows. The end result sometime is you just crash into the beach. We had some tough matches. But in the long run, you live to fight another day.

"We got six kids wrestling early tomorrow morning (in the wrestlebacks). As tough as it is to say we've got to focus on wrestling, that's truly what you got to do. You wipe the slate clean and push forward."

Like Gocke, Skutt coach Chas DeVetter also was looking for a few more semifinal wins. The SkyHawks won three of their first four semifinals before losing their last three.

Skutt's finalists are junior Korbin Meink (120 pounds), senior Bailey Vanderpool (138) and sophomore Billy Higgins (152).

Meink will be seeking his third state title as he won 106 as a freshman and 113 as a sophomore. After pinning two opponents Thursday, Meink won his semifinal when Gretna's Tristan Towey had to end the match with an injury in the opening minute.

Vanderpool picked up a 4-2 win over Scottsbluff's Ben Rodriguez, last year's state champion at 132. Vanderpool got a three-point near-fall midway through the match to break a scoreless tie. And then Higgins, who didn't medal last year, rallied for a 5-4 win over Fairbury's Justyn Franklin.

"He gave up an early takedown, but he battled back. That's tough to do when you get down," DeVetter said. "It maybe wasn't his best match, but he got the W and is in the finals."

Plattsmouth's finalists are Andrew Nielsen (113) and Gage Orton (170), both top-ranked in their weight classes. Another top-ranked Blue Devil, Andrew Null at 160, lost a 7-1 decision to second-ranked Marcus Dodson of Columbus Scotus.

Gretna has a pair of top-ranked wrestlers in the finals — Trevor Fauver at 106 and Logan Radik at 220. Radik, who improved to 54-1 this season, placed second last season and third in 2014. He's pinned all three of his opponents this week in the first period.

The other teams with two finalists are Scottsbluff, Nebraska City, Bennington, Boys Town, Adams Central, Columbus Scotus and Ashland-Greenwood.

That means teams can still make moves in the standings. Gocke is hoping for that from his squad.

"I think Class B is the toughest in the state. You have to be ready every single match," Gocke said. "We're going to find out the character we have in our room and see if these guys want to come back and get third. I think we're still in the team hunt. They can make some things happen, but they have to wake up tomorrow with the mindset that they can get third."

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