KEARNEY, Neb. — Millard South reversed a result and finished off a Class A wrestling double Saturday night, adding the state dual championship to its individual team title.
The Patriots defeated Kearney 40-22 in the championship at UNK’s Health and Sports Center, turning back the Bearcats, who trailed by three points halfway through the contest.
But that’s where things turned around.
In the 126-pound match, the Patriots’ Austin Coufal pinned Kearney’s Gabe Crocker, avenging a loss two weeks ago at the district tournament.
“Before that we were running neck-and-neck, and that just went over the other way, and I was, ‘Oh, my, we’ll take that,’” Millard South coach Doug Denson said.
The Patriots went on to win three of the next five matches to pull away to become the first Class A team to win back-to-back dual championships.
“It’s always stressful. It feels good, but it hasn’t really sunk in yet,” Denson said. “You battle all day long, and it’s back and forth, oh my gosh, the emotions just drain you.
“It’s the whole team atmosphere. It’s you against another team. It’s so pressure-packed, and there’s not time off. It’s one match right after another. You have no time to get your breath back, and the momentum shifts are huge.”
After winning the individual championship last week and carrying the No. 1 ranking throughout the year, many people expected Millard South to win the dual championship. But Denson was less confident.
“When you win a big, emotional event like the individual, the kids aren’t the same through that week. ... It’s way hard to motivate them, but when they get here, they take off,” he said.
The motivation caught fire when Coufal won with a pin.
“A pin gives you double the points. It’s like winning two matches,” Denson said.
Kearney had that momentum building. The Bearcats got a pin from Andy Mason in the third match of the dual and a pin by freshman Phillip Moomey at 113 pounds to cut Millard South’s lead to 19-16.
The Patriots’ Nathan Rodriguez then won a decision to make the score 22-16 before Coufal’s pin gave Millard South a 28-16 advantage that Kearney couldn’t erase.
“We found ourselves on our backs and didn’t fight off today,” Kearney coach Ty Swarm said. “Pins kill you, and we got pinned three or four times. You can’t win a dual doing that.”
Kearney was the runner-up to Millard South at the individual tournament last week in Omaha. The Bearcats didn’t have a champion, but they had eight medalists in that tournament.
That made the Bearcats challenging, but Swarm said they didn’t quite have the fight they had the week before even though they reached the dual finals for the first time.
“We didn’t come to wrestle as well as they did. That’s what it comes down to,” he said. “We have to be better in the finals for the state duals than we were tonight to think we can beat that team.
“I think we have a team that’s capable of doing that. ... Our guys didn’t quite have the battle we’ve seen out of them in some big duals. You can’t beat Millard South if you think they’re going to come in and hand something to you.”
Millard South 40, Kearney 22 — 170: Dayton Rojas, MS, pinned Tyler Tracy, 1:38. 182: Gavyn Angerman, MS, dec. Leo Palomo, 9-1. 195: Andy Mason, K, pinned Rajan Ellebb, 1:44. 220: Alex Cloyd, MS, pinned Sean Jackson, :28. 285: Lee Herrington, K, dec. Andrew Goff, 13-0. 106: Blake Jackson, MS, dec. Salvidor Aguirre, 1-0. 113: Phillip Moomey, K, pinned Alex Vacha, :24. 120: Nathan Rodriguez, MS, dec. Jordan Bober, 3-0. 126: Austin Coufal, MS, pinned Gabe Crocker, 3:13. 132: Nick James, K, dec. Mike Theisen, 10-8. 138: Isaac DeLoa, MS, dec. Ashton Arrants, 7-0. 145: Zac Charity, MS, dec. Parker James, 18-10. 152: Trevar Bigelow, K, dec. Connor Olin, SV-1 4-2. 160: Braden Trimble, MS, pinned Trey Grube, 1:35.