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WRESTLING

Rubek: Blue Devils shine a year earlier than expected

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Blue Devils shine a year earlier than expected

A few weeks ago, Curtis Gocke thought his Plattsmouth team was a year away.

After two days at the state wrestling tournament, that timeline has been sped up quite a bit.

Gocke’s Blue Devils are the Class B leader in the clubhouse, a position almost exclusively reserved for Omaha Skutt, going into Saturday’s final rounds.

In an interview in late January, Gocke pointed to the fact that the Blue Devils didn’t have a senior on their roster and hoped for big things at the 2016 tournament.

“When you’re in the moment,

it’s like ‘Why not right now?’” Gocke said after his team finished Friday night.

Both he and top-ranked 170-pounder Gage Orton — one of three Plattsmouth wrestlers who advanced to the finals — said there has been a feeling all year that this could be possible.

“We knew it right away last year,” Orton said.

The way they’ve shown up through two days, it’s hard not to believe him.

“Honestly, you can ask any of our kids,” Gocke said. “We’ve talked about it all year. There’s that potential to be there.

“You can’t just turn this kind of mentality on. You don’t do it the week before.”

After 106-pounder Andrew Nielsen was on the wrong end of a 7-6 decision to top-ranked Van Schmidt of Skutt, Plattsmouth responded.

Five straight wins — three in the semis and two in the consolation third round — gave Gocke and company a nine-point lead in the team race.

The same squad that won one tournament all season — its own invitational in January — and finished fourth at districts has a shot at its first state title since 1990.

Both Orton and Gocke said they didn’t believe nerves would be an issue. Each said he would sleep well Friday night.

“I’ve got a wife and two kids at home that are kind of oblivious to all of this,” Gocke said with a smile. “If I drive home slow enough they’ll probably already be sleeping.”

Make no mistake, the Blue Devils are not out of the woods yet. I’d be shocked if Skutt doesn’t have a Saturday finishing kick to push Plattsmouth and third-place Scottsbluff to the wire.

You don’t win 16 out of 17 Class B titles without a backbone, and the SkyHawks will likely show that early in the finals.

But the Blue Devils are daring to dream.

Even this year.

Cheering for overtime

There’s no cheering in the press box.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

On two occasions Friday night I found myself with a heavy rooting interest.

Overtime.

First at 170 pounds in Class A where Grand Island’s Billy Thompson put an abrupt end to a potential track meet with his second-period pin of Markell Vaughn from Omaha North. Thompson, ranked No. 1 in the class, was taken down twice in the first period but scrapped his way to a 4-4 tie after one with a penalty point, an escape and a reversal.

Vaughn again led early in the second with a reversal, momentarily putting Thompson on his back in the process.

But a reversal they’ll be talking about for some time around the Islander program switched that position and put Thompson in charge. Moments later he sealed the pin.

And then the big boys in Class B took center stage.

Gretna’s Logan Radik scored a takedown in the final seconds, just moments after being hit with his second stalling point of the period, to topple DeTerence Smith of Boys Town 5-3 in a 220-pound semifinal.

The two powerhouses went toe-to-toe for six minutes. If only it could have been seven.

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