OMAHA – The seniors on the Grand Island Senior High wrestling team want to finish their careers on a good note.
So far, five of them moved a step closer for the No. 7-rated Islanders in advancing into the semifinals in their weight classes in Class A after Thursday’s action at the CenturyLink Center Omaha.
Skylar Schmidt (No. 2 at 126 pounds), Blake Coen (No. 4 at 145), Chris Doty (No. 4 at 152), Tim Reis (unranked at 160) and Gage Grinnell (No. 3 at 285) all pulled out two victories for Grand Island.
That has the Islanders sitting in second with 47 points. Defending champion Millard South leads the team race with 68.5 points.
"Those five seniors been training with each other for the past four years here and are putting it all here on the line here at state," GISH coach Joey Morrison said. "It’s tough because they know this is it for them and the last hurrah for them. It’s great to see them showcase what they’ve been working for."
Tim Reis, who scored the winning takedown with 35 seconds left in a 3-1 victory over Norfolk’s Josh Kohl, said it’s been fun for the five seniors this season and getting into the semifinals is just as exciting.
"We just want to go out there and give it our all," Reis said. "It’s been amazing to see all of us stepping up and coming up big for the team. We’re just great friends and we get along well together. This is fun. But we’re not done yet."
And there was some drama for the Islanders. Other than Reis’ match, Doty pulled out a 4-3 win over No. 5 Connor Olin of Millard South. After Olin put Doty on his back to tie the match at 3-all, Doty got up but Olin was called for stalling for not attempting to bring Doty back on the mat. Doty held on for the win.
Meanwhile at 285, Grinnell scored two takedowns on No. 2 Shane Henderson of Elkhorn South in the second period and even put him on his back for three nearfall points for an 8-1 lead and went on to a 10-2 major decision.
"Those were two big matches right there for us and Tim’s was huge as well," Morrison said. "In Chris’ match, both guys were getting after it and glad he came out on top. Gage really wrestled well against a very strong opponent and did a great job controlling that match. Tim showed a lot of mental toughness in his match as well."
Schmidt and Coen had no problem in their quarterfinal matches. Schmidt cruised past Hastings’ Nick Sadd 13-1, while Coen posted a 10-3 decision over Lincoln Pius X’s Joshus Guerra.
Schmidt (28-3) gets a rematch in his 126-pound semifinal match as he takes on top-ranked John Feeney, who earned a 7-4 win in the 120-pound semis last year. Coen (26-6) battles No. 3 Zach Clarity of Millard South at 145, Doty (28-13) duals with top-ranked Caleb Licking of Norfolk at 152, Reis (15-5) takes on No. 2 Brandon Sorgenfrei of Papillion-LaVista at 160 and Grinnell (33-6) has Lee Herrington of Kearney at 285.
The Islanders had two other wrestlers that weren’t as fortunate in the quarterfinals. Emerson Urbina lost an 8-0 major decision to Millard West’s Jack Huffman at 113, while Zack Kuta dropped an 8-1 decision to Papillion-LaVista’s Thomas Cahill at 132.
Eliceo Ramirez (106), Kolton Sliva (120), Tyler Longland (138), Joey Rodriguez (170) and Brett Garcia (220) all lost opening round matches. The wrestlers that lost Thursday will wrestle early Friday in the consolation rounds and have a chance to come back and get medals.
No. 4 Kearney is right behind Grand Island with 46 points, while No. 2 Columbus is fourth with 44 points.
Morrison said he knows there’s still plenty of tournament left but feels good about where the Islanders are at right now. Morrison said there’s still plenty of time for teams to do well.
"We’re competing hard in every match and tomorrow is a new day," Morrison said. "You got to show up every day and that’s what makes state exciting and nerve racking. We got some great wins earlier today and some more in the quarters. We’re happy that our 12 guys came through and battled hard today and hopefully we can do that tomorrow."
Hastings moved two wrestlers into the semifinals as well in Connor Laux (No. 3 at 120) and DaShawn Dixon (No. 1 at 145).
Laux (40-2) posted a 6-0 win over Cody Carlson of Fremont, and takes on top-ranked Wesley Dawkins of Lincoln High at 120, while Dixon posted a 13-6 victory over Jacob Schroyer of South Sioux City and battles No. 5 Dylan Petersen of North Platte at 145.