In Grand Island on Friday morning, a wrestling match right out of the wild west awaits.
On one side is a rough-and-tumble small-town talent. The biggest fish in the Class B pond.
The other side features a star from the city. Perhaps the toughest guy in Class A.
“A showdown at high noon,” is what Omaha North coach Anders Christiansen calls it.
Nebraska high school wrestling history will be made at the Heartland Events Center when Blair’s Will Schany and North’s JaVaughn Perkins square off at the Flatwater Fracas.
Each is a three-time state champion and is widely considered among the top five or 10 high school wrestlers in the United States at 182. Combined, their career record is 242-14. They won national championships on the same weekend this offseason and both will wrestle in college — Schany at Virginia and Perkins at Division II Notre Dame in Cleveland.
And they’ll both be heavy favorites in February to add to a select group of only 19 wrestlers in Nebraska history to win four state titles.
“It’s pretty cool that you can go right up or down the road and get two kids that are at that level,” said Schany, whose hometown is just north of Omaha. “It’s just one match, but it’s a big match.”
It’s believed that Friday’s showdown will be the first regular-season match involving two wrestlers with three state titles already on their résumés.
“It’ll be a special moment for both teams,” Perkins said.
Schany and Perkins admit they’re a little sick of all the talk.
“I’m just ready for it,” Perkins said.
The talk started around North almost immediately after the conclusion of last season when it was apparent Perkins would make the move from 160 to 182.
The hype made its way to Blair, too.
“I told (Schany on Monday) that it was official and he had a big ol’ grin,” Blair coach Erich Warner said. “He wants it. This is one of those times that you can point at and say, ‘This is why you put in all the work.’”
Christiansen said he can’t help but think back to a summer match between a couple of his buddies that had some of the same anticipation. Former Bennington standout Brett Allgood and ex-Omaha Skutt star Todd Meneely got together in an offseason tournament that Christiansen said was one for the ages.
“They shut everything else down and everyone gathered around the mat to watch it,” Christiansen said. “That’s the kind of matchup this is. We have one of the best matches in the history of Nebraska here.”
As for the actual wrestling, both participants expect a heavy dose of physical. They’ve rarely been in the same tournament, but each said he has seen enough of the other to know what to expect.
Schany perhaps has an advantage in terms of being in wrestling shape. Both are also football stars, but Perkins’ North team went all the way to the state title and he didn’t get started on the mat until after Thanksgiving. Perkins is also coming off a fourth-place showing at the prestigious Walsh Ironman tournament in Ohio last week, a grueling two-day run littered with nationally ranked opponents.
But no one will be thinking about any of that when the whistle sounds Friday morning.
“They may not realize it right now,” Christiansen said, “but 15, 20 years down the road when they are sitting around talking wrestling, they’re going to understand that they were a part of something special.”
Contact the writer: