The David City and Valentine coaches have already gotten a taste of how tough it will be to win the Class C wrestling tournament.
After meeting each other in the Valentine tournament in December, they went head-to-head Feb. 6 at the Devaney Center.
Then-No. 1 Valentine won the first go-round at home. Now-No. 1 David City won the dual 39-30.
They’ll head to the real deal this week in Omaha after both won their districts. Each team is sending 10 qualifiers to state.
“It looks like a dogfight between us and David City,” Valentine coach Shane Allison said. “They’ve won everything they’ve gone to. We’re the only team to beat them.”
Said David City coach Tahner Thiem: “We’ll see those guys again, there is no doubt.”
David City’s victory before a big crowd at the Devaney benefited both teams, mainly as a dress rehearsal for state.
“I think it was a neat experience for the kids to go down there and wrestle,” Allison said. “I think it helped a couple of kids who haven’t been to the state tournament. It hopefully helped acclimate them to the big lights and replicated the state tournament a little bit.”
After both looks at David City, Allison said the Scouts may seem to have the top-end guys, with four wrestlers ranked No. 1. His team will bring balance.
“Every week someone has a bad week and someone else will have a good week. If we can get them hitting at the same time ...” Allison said. “We’re going to have to wrestle our best. They are pretty good.”
Valentine will bring back 113-pounder Jordan Kelber, who won at 106 pounds last year, as well as runners-up Noah Eklund, who finished second at 126 and has moved up to 138, and Hudson Pearman, second last year at 138 and now at 145. Braxton Coleman returns at 170, where he placed third.
None have perfect records, but that’s OK with Allison. He set up a rugged schedule on purpose.
“We want to be in those battles during the year so we know how to handle those battles at state,” he said. “We take some losses during the year, but I think it pays dividends at the state tournament.”
David City would like to bounce back from a less-than-stellar performance last year at state. Thiem’s not sure why, but the Scouts didn’t perform at their best even though they came back to win the state duals for a second straight season.
They also return a state champion in Wyatt Phillips, who claimed the title last year at 120. He’s ranked No. 1 this season at 126. Other state medalists returning include No. 1 Trent Daro (120), No. 1 Melvin Hernandez (132), Ryan Worm (182) and Raymond Fuller (220). Dustin Papa is No. 1 at 152.
“We’ve had a pretty good year,” Thiem said.
Thiem didn’t know if scheduling the dual with Valentine was such a smart move so close to districts, but he wanted to know where his team stood against such a tough opponent.
“At that dual, we exposed some weaknesses,” he said. “We can still make our kids hungry at practice and see why they need to improve even late in the year.”
That’s the name of the game for Thiem. He talks to his wrestlers about continually making themselves better, not claiming state titles.
"If we take it one match at a time and wrestle well, we have a shot at winning," he said. "I don’t like to get ahead of myself. At the end of the day, it’s still state, and crazy things happen."
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