The state wrestling tournament ended with two first-time qualifiers earning a state medal for Ralston.
Ralston senior Gabriel James finished in fourth place at 160 pounds while sophomore David Hernandez placed sixth at 285. For the Rams, it was a solid tournament but they hope it leads to more success down the road.
“It’s very cool to see those guys medal,” Ralston coach Jason Fink said. “We brought six guys down, take back two medals and a lot of young kids saw a lot of growth.
“We’re really excited for what the next two years hold.”
James had a big day Thursday to clinch a medal. He used a pin and a late takedown for a 7-6 victory to advance the semifinals. In Friday’s semis, he dropped a 14-4 decision.
He responded by going 1-1 in Saturday’s action to earn fourth place. The lone Ralston senior to make state, James caps his season with a 27-7 record.
Fink said while James hadn’t wrestled much before high school and for him develop into the wrestler he is was a joy to watch.
“Hats off to Gabe,” Fink said. “It was a great season for him. He wrestled with a chip on his shoulder the second half of the season and he was beating good kids. He never seemed to get a whole lot of respect but this is where you get it. He got on that podium and no one can take that away.”
Hernandez won three straight matches to earn a medal after a first-round loss to York. His second win was an ultimate tiebreaker victory before a 7-5 win in the third consolation round clinched him a medal.
Despite falling short of a medal, the four other Rams that made state were all underclassmen and will have a chance to make some noise at state in the years to come.
“Guys like Michael Mass, Caden Corcoran and Miguel James getting wins at state is such a big deal for them,” Fink said. “We like where we are right now but we can’t sit still. If we sit still, we’re going backward.”
• With only three wrestlers making state, Bellevue West still managed to make some noise in the three-day tournament.
Kale Dawson was the T-birds’ only state medalist after compiling a 3-2 record to place fifth at 170.
Dawson, who placed fourth in districts to sneak into state, won his first to matches Thursday to clinch a state medal. He won 8-6 in the first round before a 5-3 sudden victory in the quarterfinals.
Both wins were against opponents Dawson has wrestled against and West coach Curtis Gocke thinks that helped his senior.
“Being a first-time kid here, we weren’t sure what we were going to get out of him but he came in confident,” Gocke said. “For him, it was confidence, knowing he’s wrestled these kids. He can put that away and focus on wrestling.”
After getting pinned in the semifinals, Dawson lost in the consolation semifinals before placing fifth with a 7-4 victory in his final match.
“Finish odd, that’s what we told him,” Gocke said.
While sophomore Jack McDonnell fell one win shy of a state medal, he nearly pulled off the upset of the tournament. In the quarterfinals, McDonnell notched three takedowns in the third period to have Burke’s James Burks on the ropes.
However, Burks ran out the clock to earn a 9-8 victory on his way to winning his fourth-straight state championship.
“Jack McDonnell is a tough kid, he’ll come back strong,” Gocke said.