Gretna’s wrestling program has long been a power but it reached new heights Saturday.
The Dragons crowned three state champions at the State Wrestling Champions, the most in school history. No other Class B school had more than two champions.
Seniors Logan Radik (220) and Dan Zeleny (132) and sophomore Trevor Fauver (106) each posted 4-0 weekends to take home state titles.
“There’s 14 weight classes and Gretna has three champions,” Dragon coach Matt Bruggeman said. “It’s amazing, I don’t know what to say.”
Radik started the champion run in dramatic fashion. Tied at 1-all with Adams Central’s Kendall Oberheide, Radik notched a takedown with under 10 seconds left in the match for the win. The win pushed Radik’s season record to 55-1.
“Logan’s been one of best wrestlers in the history of Gretna and for him to finish with a state title, it’s what he deserves,” Bruggeman said.
Radik led 1-0 after the second period before Oberheide tied it with an escape. Despite it going down to the wire, Radik was confident he would pull it out.
“I got in there and took a shot,” Radik said. “I knew he’d tire out because he did that last time we wrestled and it happened this time, too. I caught him straight legged and took advantage of it.”
The state championship was a long time coming for Radik, who was defeated by one point in the state finals last year.
“I’ve had my sights set on this since I started wrestling and my dad started coaching,” Radik said. “Even back when state was at the Devaney (Center).”
Saturday’s win capped off an impressive weekend for Radik. He posted first-round pins in all three victories to reach the finals.
He was determined to get a state championship, which was bad news for everyone in his path.
“I felt really good the last few days,” Radik said. “I wanted to prove I was here on a mission and I wasn’t here the play around.”
Radik set the tone for the next two Dragons in the finals.
Fauver needed overtime to earn his state championship in a 7-2 sudden victory over Blair’s Walker Moore.
Moore took a 2-0 lead with a reversal in the second round but Fauver tied it up with two escapes. In the overtime period, Fauver got a takedown and followed with back points late in the period to win the match.
After finishing three periods tied, Fauver knew what he had to do in overtime.
“I was a little nervous, to be honest,” he said. “But I knew I needed one more takedown and I just had to seize the moment.”
It marked the third win for Fauver over Moore this year. Fauver did a good job staying with his plan for the match, which can be tough on the big state of the state finals.
“We had a game plan and he stuck to the game plan,” Bruggeman said. “He kept moving his feet, picking his shots and we capitalized at the end there.”
After taking home a sixth-place medal last year as a freshman, Fauver knew he had to get better to reach his goal of a state title.
“I had to work harder and work on more technique,” he said. “I’m also bigger this year. I wrestled at 103 most of last year but this year I was having to cut weight.”
Fauver’s toughest match in his championship run was at 4-2 win in the quarterfinals against George Hernandez of Scottsbluff. He also added a pin and a major decision.
While Fauver and Radik were both the top ranked wrestlers in their respective weight divisions by the Nebraska Scholastic Wrestling Coaches Association, Zeleny wasn’t even ranked at 132 pounds.
Zeleny held off Jake Cluxton of Bennington for a 5-4 decision in Saturday’s finals. Cluxton defeated Zeleny twice during the season.
“From where he started as a freshman to where he is now is unbelievable and we’re very proud of him,” Bruggeman said. “He’s a state champion, I can’t believe it.”
Zeleny notched an early takedown on his way to building a 3-1 lead going to the third period. After Cluxton earned a reversal to tie it at 3-all, Zeleny responded with a reversal of his own to retake the lead with just over a minute left.
“Once I got that first takedown I just wanted to wrestle smart and hard the rest of the way,” Zeleny said. “I felt like I was in good control the whole time.”
Not being ranked and being overlooked most of the season gave Zeleny added motivation.
“I was glad I could prove myself as one of the top wrestlers in the state,” Zeleny said.
Zeleny was able to control the tempo in the finals matchup with Cluxton, something he wasn’t able to do in the first two matches of the season.
“I tried to slow his pace down,” Zeleny said. “I knew I could win if I wrestled my match.”
Zeleny reached the finals after a come-from-behind 6-5 victory over York’s Scott Fulsos in the quarterfinals, which Zeleny said gave him a lot of momentum. He won 6-4 in the first round and 2-0 in the semifinals, pushing his season record to 47-8.
• Three other Dragons earned medals at the State Tournament.
Grant Bruner suffered a loss in the semifinals Friday but returned Saturday to pin McCook’s Eric Langan and win a 5-0 decision over Seth Gutzmer of Columbus Scotus to take third place at 182.
After the loss in the semis, Bruner was determined to take third.
“You got to be sad for a bit because it sucks to lose,” Bruner said. “But I flushed it down the drain and got back after it and came back with a new attitude trying to get third.“
Josh Gasper finished in fourth place at 195 for the Dragons. Josue Ayala of Lexington posted a 6-4 victory over Gasper in the third-place match. It was a revenge match for Ayala, who was pinned by Gasper in the quarterfinals.
Gasper notched a pin in all three of his victories on the weekend.
Tristan Towey took sixth at 120 after his tournament was cut short due to a hand injury. Towey posted two wins by decision Thursday to advance to the semifinals against Korbin Meink of Skutt. Towey was injured just 49 seconds into the match and wouldn’t take the mat again.
Cody Everhart was one win away from medaling at 138, losing in the heartbreak round by a 3-2 decision to Holdrege’s Devin Logston.