A change in NSAA rules could help the Nebraska City wrestling team reach the Nebraska State Dual Tournament this season after being left out a year ago.
Nebraska City finished fourth in its district last year with 10 qualifiers. And you would think that would be enough. But the Pioneers were in a very tough district. And with each district champion getting in automatically, there simply wasn’t enough wild card spots out there to get Nebraska City into the tourney.
“I wholeheartedly believe last year’s team should have been in the duals,” said Coach Tyler Hodges. “There are several teams that made state duals that we had beaten throughout the year.”
Nebraska’s high school athletic association made a change that hopefully will correct this issue. Under the new rules, district assignments will be determined using a serpentine method that considers returning state points and then returning state qualifiers for each school.
By adjusting the district assignments in this manner, the hope is that the districts will be more even rather than having the risk that one becomes loaded with quality teams as was the case with Nebraska City’s district last year.
Nebraska City didn’t have the ultimate chance to determine its own dual tourney destiny. This year they will. And that’s a big deal, because this team loves to compete. The Pioneers definitely wanted a shot at duals last year. They’ll go after it again this year.
“We always come in to compete,” said Coach Hodges. “We don’t change our goals.
“We walk in to compete for titles.”
Whether the competition comes from big schools or small schools, Nebraska City wrestlers have a reputation of never backing down from a challenge.
Right off the bat, this year’s squad will be setting goals to win the conference, win the district, get state medals and go to state duals.
Last year’s impressive 10 qualifier finish is evidence of that determination.
Of course, like any team, the Pioneers graduated some talented wrestlers last year. Despite those losses, the team looks set to have another great campaign.
The team will be led by a group of four state qualifiers and a lot of up and comers.
State qualifiers are Chris Adams, who will wrestle at 106 or 113; Rhett Trail, 145 or 152; Andrew Harrah, 195; and Jake Kreifel, 220.
Turning to those up and comers, the Nebraska City wrestling program has built a depth of talent that seems to always produce great wrestlers.
Coach Hodges said the junior varsity team last year had a great season and noted that, often times, some talented wrestlers on the Pioneer roster have been waiting in the wings, honing their skills for an opportunity.
In short, this is the Joe Seyler story. Seyler didn’t wrestle varsity early in his career. He paid the price in the wrestling room, honed his skills at the JV level and excelled later in his career by making into the state tourney.
“We always have kids like that,” said Hodges. “That’s where building that depth is huge for us.”
Lineup wise, the Nebraska City team should be solid throughout with competition at a number of weights. Coach Hodges said the team will have competitive flexibility. In dual tourneys, one guy might wrestle at a certain weight for a couple of duals and another guy might wrestle in a couple.
That should keep the wrestlers fresh, polish skills and help to build the best line up.
Nebraska City opened the schedule on Thursday, Dec. 1, with a clash against Omaha Skutt. The season schedule that follows will have a bit of a change. The Pioneers won’t be attending this year’s Flatwater Fracas at Grand Island. Instead of a two-day tourney, the team is going with two one-day tourneys in the Wahoo and Aurora events.
“Because of the way they are doing districts, I felt we needed to see some different teams,” said Hodges.