It's Amherst, again.
The Broncos, pursuing a seventh straight team title, built a big lead on the first day of the state meet using some unexpected wins Thursday to score 57 points. Second-place Elkhorn Valley (36.5 points) has a thin edge on Plainview (35), Sutton (35), Burwell (34) and Friend (31).
"Amherst did a really good job tonight. They've got the numbers. ... I don't know, I don't see (anyone catching Amherst), but you never know," Burwell coach Luke Gideon said. "It's amazing what they've done. To be that consistent, to have their kids come down here and always be on top of their games."
Amherst qualified 12 wrestlers in 14 classes; no other team has more than eight. Amherst has five wrestlers in Friday's semifinal matches.
"When the brackets came out, we might have only been favored in two of those quarterfinal matches," Amherst coach Tyler Herman said.
Amherst picked up a huge second-round win when Trace Baasch defeated Connor Hazen of Creighton 4-3 at 113 pounds. Baasch's four-point move in the first period gave him the lead, but Hazen rallied with an escape and takedown in the second. The final period was scoreless but hardly boring. Baasch, third last season at 106, nearly scored a reversal, but a stalemate was called with 26 seconds left.
"If I'd had a couple more seconds ..." Baasch said.
Hazen then nearly tipped Baasch, but Baasch barely managed to stay off his back.
"I got out of position but I wrestled through it," a panting Baasch said afterward. "Gotta win those close ones."
Dawson Trampe of Amherst scored a pin in his first match, despite having to take a break to vomit. It was an unwanted first for Herman in his 12-year career.
"I've never had a wrestler puke on the mat until this year," Herman said. "He wasn't sick. I'm not sure if he got squeezed a little too hard or what."
Trampe, a senior, also won his second-round match.
Herman announced last Tuesday that this would be his last season as coach. He's taking a job at Kearney High School next year. Herman was unsuccessful in deflecting attention away from himself.
"Everything going through my head this week is 'do it for coach,' " Baasch said.
Plainview has three wrestlers in the semifinals. It has never won a team state title, finishing second twice, most recently in 2014. Elkhorn Valley is in the best position to threaten Amherst with four wrestlers in the semis, including a headto-head at 160, where Noah Rutjens (41-3) will take on the Broncos' Kalen Klingelhoefer (44-5).
Burwell also has three wrestlers — Tori Huffman (35-4) at 182, Lane Helgoth (32-1) at 195, and Tyler Gideon (37-1) at 220 — all of whom are a threat to win the big prize and the team points that come with it.
"Our three guys we got in the semis are all legit," Gideon said.
Friend has three wrestlers still alive for a championship, including senior Jesse Wells at 195. He scored an overtime takedown in his second-round match to make his deepest run in three state tournament trips.
Wells weighed 250 pounds two years ago — "Can you believe it?" he joked — but dropped 55 pounds to accommodate other teammates.
"We had a guy that could lift a brick house and he wasn't going to cut weight, and another guy who was about 8 feet tall, so he couldn't cut any weight," Wells said.
How'd he do it? "I think I ate a granola bar twice a day for three weeks," Wells said. Does 195 feel normal? "Honestly, I don't know what normal feels like," Wells said.
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"He's one heck of a role model. He always wants to make others better."
— Teammate Jesse Wells on Zemua Baptista