Being the second-ranked team in Class B wrestling can sometimes feel like a pretty anonymous position.
Curtis Gocke’s Plattsmouth team is hoping to put a face to the name of “challenger,” starting this weekend.
The No. 2 Blue Devils go into the belly of the beast, the Jesse Greise Invitational hosted by the Omaha Skutt team that has owned the top spot in the ratings and won 16 of the past 17 Class B state titles.
“We got into this tournament about six or seven years ago with the idea that we had to see them,” said Gocke, in his ninth year at Plattsmouth. “We don’t want the first time we wrestle them to be at the state tournament. Skutt has a schedule that takes them across the Midwest. They’re going to be prepared and ready when it matters at the end. We need as many cracks at them as we can get.”
The first one comes Saturday.
Despite being in the same tournament in Fargo, North Dakota, earlier this month, the top two teams in Class B did not have a match against each other. Skutt finished fifth in the 63-team Rumble on the Red, while Plattsmouth was a point away from cracking the top 20.
The Blue Devils had the only champion between the two, though. Sophomore Andrew Nielsen, ranked No. 1 in Nebraska at 106, won seven matches over the course of two days for the tournament title.
Nielsen was a state semifinalist last year at 106 before settling for fifth.
“I wasn’t really expecting to go to the semifinals as a freshman,” Nielsen said. “I realized anything can happen.”
He’s one of four Plattsmouth wrestlers in the ratings. Each is ranked either No. 1 or No. 2. And three of the four have a Skutt wrestler either ranked just above them or just below them.
The field for the Greise tournament — named for the late Skutt state champion — features three teams in the Class A ratings (Omaha Burke, Omaha Creighton Prep, Lincoln Southwest) and a fourth (Omaha Central) that was ranked earlier this season.
“It’s definitely that time of the year,” Gocke said. “Get everybody healthy, get everybody on the mat. Whether it’s Class A or Class B, this is going to be some tough competition.”
It will provide Gocke with a chance to see what some of his supporting cast can do, too. Aside from Nielsen, 132-pound Zach Prall, Andrew Null at 138 and 170-pounder Gage Orton, the Blue Devils are still looking to fill in what Gocke calls “the missing links.”
“The great quality about teams like Skutt is that they have depth,” Gocke said. “They’ve got guys that are going to win on the backside of the state tournament. We have some guys that are starting to wrestle like they want to be at the state tournament, too.”
A Blue Devil roster that features no seniors is priming up for not only the long haul, but the immediate future as well. Being careful to make sure he didn’t provide any bulletin board material, Nielsen said that process starts Saturday.
“This is a pretty big weekend,” Nielsen said. “I don’t want to stir anything up, but we would like to go out and kind of give a message that we’re going out there to compete.”
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