Columbus takes first-day lead at state wrestling tournament; Burke's James Burks avoids upset

Burwell's Joel Ostrom, top, wrestles Mullen's Jade Lovitt during the Class D 138-pound match.

While the close team races were expected, a close call Thursday by a three-time champion was not.

But Omaha Burke’s James Burks made it to Friday night’s semifinal at CHI Health Center.

The two-time All-Nebraska running back, one of two wrestlers going for his fourth state title this weekend, held on for a 9-8 decision over Bellevue West sophomore Jack McDonnell at 160 pounds.

Burks took a forehead to his face, bloodying his nose, in the first period when he and McDonnell tried to shoot at the same time. He needed an injury timeout.

Trailing 6-1 entering the third period, McDonnell got three takedowns against two escapes by Burks to close to 8-7. Burks escaped with 26 seconds left then each got a point at the 22-second mark — a stalling point on McDonnell and a penalty point against Burks.

Burks is bidding to be the Bulldogs’ first four-time champion and the 10th from Class A. Now 58-0 this season, the Northern State wrestling recruit improved his state-record career win total to 214.

Pleasanton’s Tyler Pawloski made quick work of his two Class D opponents at 132. He’s the other wrestler bidding for a fourth title.

The semifinals begin at 5 p.m., but action starts at 9:30 a.m. with two rounds of wrestlebacks — Classes A and D first, followed by Classes B and C around 12:30 p.m.

Going into Friday, Columbus in Class A, Hastings in Class B, Broken Bow in Class C and Fremont Bergan in Class D were in the lead. Each a fresh face.

Columbus last won state in 1984 and Hastings in 1988, when the latter was in Class A. Broken Bow and Bergan never have won individual wrestling titles, though Broken Bow won the Class C duals title earlier this month.

Columbus scored 77 points through the quarterfinals to lead Millard South by 4.5 points, with Metro Conference champion Burke in third with 67. Lincoln East and Kearney round out the top five entering Friday.

Columbus put seven into the semifinals — Tanner Kobza at 120, Carter Kucera at 132, Avery McMeekin at 160, Blayze Standley at 171, Carson Zwingman at 182, Anthony DeAnda at 195 and Karson Grape at 220.

Millard South, Burke and Lincoln East have six semifinalists apiece. Kearney has four.

Hastings broke in front in Class B, which lacks a dominant team as seven-time defending champion Omaha Skutt qualified five for state.

The Tigers lead Skutt 46-40 but have three in the semifinals to the SkyHawks’ four. So their wrestlebacks will factor greatly in whether they can prevail Saturday. Others in contention include Columbus Lakeview with 35 points and Sidney with 34 1⁄2.

Broken Bow, which has had four individual champions in the past 53 years, went 6 of 9 in quarterfinals to lead two-time defending champion Valentine 68-53. David City, the champion in 2014 and 2016, was in third with 49.5. Both Valentine and David City have five semifinalists.

In Class D, Fremont Bergan led Plainview by a half-point, 52.5-52. Among the leader’s five semifinalists is 120-pound Zach Hamilton, who won last year at 113. Plainview also has five in the semifinals.

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Reporter - High school sports

Stu is The World-Herald's lead writer for high school sports and for golf. Follow him on Twitter @stuOWH. Phone: 402-444-1041.

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