KEARNEY, Neb. — A pin parade led to a Monarch march Saturday at the state dual tournament.
Class C No. 2 David City Aquinas turned a double-digit deficit into a title behind four consecutive falls, knocking off top-ranked Valentine 39-31 in the championship round at the Buffalo County Fairgrounds.
It’s the first dual tournament title for Aquinas, which lost in last year’s final.
“Being on the biggest stage always makes it easier the next time around,” Aquinas coach Roy Emory said. “And we wrestle a pretty tough dual schedule, so we’ve been in these kinds of situations.”
Hunter Vandenberg put Aquinas up with a second-period pin in the opening bout at 120 before Valentine strung together six wins in the next seven matches.
But it was the lone Badger loss in that stretch that may have been the difference.
Trailing in the second period, junior Nolan Eller put Drake Janssen on his back for a pin that gave Aquinas a shot in the arm.
“I knew that was going to be a tough match,” Emory said. “That was really a momentum swing.”
A Chase Olson pin and a Gunnar Battershaw major decision in the following two matches put Valentine up 25-12, but then the bottom fell out for the Badgers.
Ben Kment (182 pounds), Cory Meysenburg (195), Nolan Schultz (220) and Owen Schram (285) each heard a slap of the mat in victories — and they wasted little time in doing so.
All four pins came in the first period — three of the four in less than a minute — for a 36-25 lead in the blink of an eye.
“You have to keep telling guys to believe,” Emory said. “We knew we had some points coming, we just had to keep grinding.”
Valentine wasn’t done. Casey Miller’s pin at 106 pounds brought the Badgers within five points going to the final match of the dual.
But Aquinas freshman Zander Kavan halted any hopes of a miracle comeback for Valentine with his 2-0 decision at 113 pounds to give the Monarchs a state title.
“They’ve got some really good wrestlers,” Emory said. “We minimized their bonus points. And our depth ... it’s hard to match up with every one of our guys.”
Valentine coach Shane Allison also pointed to bonus points — some that his team gave up and some they didn’t secure — as the difference Saturday.
Returning state champion Chris Williams of Valentine was pushed to the end of a 4-3 decision over Zach Zitek at 126. Teammate Morgan McGinley also missed out on bonus points with his 6-3 victory at 145. Williams and McGinley are ranked No. 1 at their weight classes.
“We couldn’t afford to give up pins,” Allison said. “We needed to win every toss-up match. And we needed to win with bonus points. Those things didn’t really happen. (Aquinas) wasn’t going to give up pins.”
120: Hunter Vandenberg, David City Aquinas, pin Ashton Lurz, Valentine, 4:00. 126: Chris Williams, Valentine, dec Zach Zitek, David City Aquinas, 4-3. 132: Tobin Olson, Valentine, dec Noah Scott, David City Aquinas, 5-2. 138: Gage Krolikowski, Valentine, pin Christopher Nickolite, David City Aquinas, 4:40. 145: Morgan McGinley, Valentine, dec Cameron Schrad, David City Aquinas, 6-3. 152: Nolan Eller, David City Aquinas, pin Drake Janssen, Valentine, 2:43. 160: Chase Olson, Valentine, pin Marcus Eickmeier, David City Aquinas, 3:11. 170: Gunnar Battershaw, Valentine, maj dec Paul Buresh, David City Aquinas, 10-2. 182: Ben Kment, David City Aquinas, pin Sage Schrunk, Valentine, 0:30. 195: Cory Meysenburg, David City Aquinas, pin Tanner Yager, Valentine, 0:42. 220: Nolan Schultz, David City Aquinas, pin Jayce Anderson, Valentine, 0:57. 285: Owen Schram, David City Aquinas, pin Steven Fullerton, Valentine, 1:45. 106: Casey Miller, Valentine, pin Grady Romshek, David City Aquinas, 1:10. 113: Zander Kavan, David City Aquinas, dec Cayden Lamb, Valentine, 2-0.