Nebraska City’s 11-member district roster earned five qualifying positions for the individual state wrestling tournament during Class B-2 action at Boys Town’s Palrang Field House on Saturday afternoon.
That gave the Pioneers 122.5 points and a fifth place finish in a field of 12 teams.
Plattsmouth won the tourney, followed by Northwest, Beatrice and Hastings. Teams finishing behind the Pioneers were West Point Beemer, Boys Town, Elkhorn, Douglas County West, Falls City, Omaha Concordia and Omaha Gross.
Four Nebraska City wrestlers made it to the finals on Saturday and, in doing so, qualified for state. Those grapplers were Rhett Trail, 145; Andrew Harrah, 195; Jake Kreifel, 220; and  Dalton Williams, 285. Dylan Ramage, 132, wrestled back for a state qualifying fourth place finish.
“We had a good showing,” said Nebraska City Coach Tyler Hodges. “I am proud of the guys and the way they performed. They wrestled hard.”
A few wrestlers finished just shy of going to the state meet. Jorge Loarca, 106; and Jordan Moyer, 138, made it to the third round consolation match, or, as it is known to wrestling fans, the heartbreak round. Jordan Williams, 126, suffered an injury that kept him from competing on Saturday. He had advanced to the semifinal round and would have only needed one win to reach the state tourney.
Coach Hodges said the Pioneers would have liked to get a few more to the state meet, noting that a few mistakes and some misfortune prevented that.
In looking back at the season from Saturday’s perspective, however, Coach Hodges said Nebraska City has had a good year of wrestling. A series of circumstances and unfortunate results, some self inflicted, didn’t prevent the Pioneers from reaching to high achievements.
Hodges noted that, despite having to wrestle short-handed this year, the Pioneers still got 16 dual wins.
“I am proud of the guys that we’ve got,” Hodges said. “I’ll take these 11 guys to war against anybody.”
Returning to the state qualifiers for Nebraska City, Kreifel won by pin in just over a minute in two matches before being injured on an illegal slam in the finals. That prevented Kreifel from continuing, but, due to the illegal nature of the move that caused the injury, resulted in a disqualification victory for the Pioneers.
Kreifel sought treatment from the trainer after the bout and the feeling was that he would be ready to go for the state tournament next week. Regardless, the Pioneer has posted a great season to this point with 36 wins against just six losses.
At 145 pounds, Trail, who has been dealing with injury issues since the Syracuse-Dunbar-Avoca dual back in mid-January, wrestled at a high level. Coach Hodges said care was taken in the last two weeks to make sure Trail would be ready for districts.
“He’s where he needs to be,” said Hodges. “He dominated this entire tournament just as I thought he would.”
Trail won by pin twice and won by major decision to get to the finals and then narrowly missed a tech fall win. Hodges said it was important for Trail to wrestle all the way through the final match as preparation for state.
In the 285 pound final, Dalton Williams, the Pioneers’ top rated grappler, was tested in a competitive bout against a well known rival from Plattsmouth. Three wins, all of them coming in the neighborhood of one minute, had the momentum favoring the Pioneer. Williams responded well after Plattsmouth got him down for some back points. A reversal forced overtime and Plattsmouth was called for stalling to end the match.
At the 195 spot, Coach Hodges said Harrah won an impressive semifinal match before losing to a returning state runner up in the finals. Hodges said Harrah hasn’t been at 100 percent health wise but wrestled well at the district meet with wins by tech fall, pin and decision and should be in even better health by next week.
Rounding out the qualifiers, Ramage looked especially strong in the 132-pound consolation third round match. He had won by pin in the quarterfinal and was trying to bounce back after a semifinal loss to Plattsmouth. Ramage controlled the action from the whistle against Elkhorn in the match to get to state and won by pin. He was also in the lead in the third place match, but got caught in a bad position and fell by pin. Coach Hodges noted that Ramage is a very sound grappler when he wrestles from positions of strength and, if he avoids mistakes, is a difficult match for any competitor.
Nebraska City’s five state qualifiers will return to action on at 4 p.m. on Thursday for the first round of the state tournament at Omaha’s CenturyLink Center. Opening day involves first and second round championship bracket matches. Friday action begins at 12:30 p.m. and involves two rounds of consolation matches before the 5 p.m. session which is the third round consolation and championship semifinal matches. By winning the first two matches of the tourney or by wrestling back through the consolation third round, wrestlers are guaranteed a medal finish.
Saturday’s medal rounds will begin at 9:30 a.m. and the championship finals are at 3 p.m. with televised coverage by NET, Nebraska’s public television station.
Pioneer preparations for the state meet figure to be detail oriented.
“We’ll go back and we’ll really fine tune things for about three or four days and then we’ll get them ready to roll in Omaha,” said Hodges.