Published Wednesday, February 19, 2014 at 12:01 am / Updated at 4:51 pm
Four for five? Five senior wrestlers taking aim at history

Win three state wrestling championships and you've had yourself a good career. People will remember the name and probably even the face after life adds a few gray hairs and more than a few pounds. But those who win four are in a special fraternity: Nebraska has had just 19 in its history.

Five seniors start a three-day journey to a place in history Thursday at the state tournament. Only once has a championship round at the state tournament had more than two four-timers crowned — three did it in 2012. Here's a closer look at the five who could make Saturday a day for the ages.

* * *

Colton Adams

Scottsbluff • Career record: 185-6 • 2014 record: 46-2

With a pair of wins at the GNAC tournament on the final weekend of the regular season, Adams became the state's all-time leader in career wins. He's the poster child for what youth wrestling can produce. If there's a tournament where the best competition shows up, Adams has probably been there. In December, he finished fourth at Ohio's prestigious Walsh Ironman for the second straight year. Last year at state, he led the Bearcats to a top two finish for the first time since their 1989 Class A team title.

College plans: Nebraska

Adams says: “It's awesome,” he said about a schedule that has consistently had him at some of the top tournaments in the Midwest. “I've gotten pushed a few times. That's what you're looking for.”

His coach says: “He's so dependable,” Scottsbluff coach James Miller said. “What sets him apart is his work ethic, his determination and his style. He's in your face, heavy hands, aggressive. You look at the time he spends working at it. That sets him apart from guys that are just trying to get wins. He's trying to beat good kids.”

Toughest career match: “It would be my semifinals at Ironman this year,” Adams said of a setback to Michael Kemerer of Pennsylvania. “I didn't win, but it was a high-paced, tough match. I couldn't score on him. He was fast. I was actually winning on a penalty point and got taken down with like 15 seconds left.” Kemerer, a junior, is currently ranked second in the country at 138 by Intermat.

When you knew four was possible: “I always kind of thought that, coming up through middle school and all. I thought, 'Maybe I can do this' after my freshman year, going undefeated. I think I destroyed everyone I wrestled pretty much that year.”

Biggest influence: “Gotta be my parents. My dad has really been like my coach throughout.” Brian Adams became a varsity assistant for the Bearcats when Colton reached high school.

Best wrestling attribute: “I would probably say wrestling on my feet. I'm really good at that. I can pretty much take anybody down. That's where I feel the strongest.”

Best thing about the sport of wrestling: “I would say that you have to push yourself to be what you want to be. No one else is going to do it for you. You have to do it.”

Must-do pre-match routine: “I don't really have a routine. I just kind of run a few sprints and get myself going.”

If you're No. 1, who is No. 2? “I would say JaVaughn Perkins. He beat Will (Schany), and those are both guys going for four. He went to Ironman and got fourth just like me, too.”

Favorite offseason food: “That's a tough one. Oh wait. Ice cream, of course.”

And what's the flavor of choice? “Just vanilla. I just love ice cream. Dairy Queen is the best. I'm not worried about weight at all. I was five pounds under after practice today. I think I had some last week, actually.”

* * *

JaVaughn Perkins

Omaha North • Career record: 148-6 • 2014 record: 39-2

A standout linebacker for the Class A state champion North football team, Perkins will continue his double duty at the next level. He expects to move to safety for Notre Dame of Ohio, a Division II school outside Cleveland, and wrestle for the Falcons, too. The youngest in a decorated wrestling family, JaVaughn is the last hope for a four-time champion named Perkins. Older brothers DaVaughn (2005-2007) and RaVaughn (2008-2010) each won three titles for the Vikings.

College plans: Notre Dame (Ohio)

Perkins says: “It's kind of tough thinking about the end. I'm pretty sure it's going to be emotional. It's been a good season, but at the same time, it's my last season.”

His coach says: “It was probably seventh grade,” North coach Anders Christensen said about when Perkins caught his attention. “I used to pick his brother up for school and we'd drop him at middle school. And he'd be around the gym when we'd be working out. We knew he was going to be one of the guys that the state was going to remember for some time.”

Toughest career match: “I think I'd have to go back to freshman year. Semis at state against (Zack) Denney (of North Platte). Going into the tournament, he was ranked No. 1, I was No. 2 and a kid from Grand Island was No. 3.”

And what sticks out about that match? “It was little-boy strength vs. grown-man strength. I just remember him being a lot stronger than I was. Just had to wrestle.”

When you knew four was possible: “After my freshman year. My sophomore year I had a pretty stacked bracket. There were three state champs. After I beat those guys during my sophomore year, it was more real.”

Biggest influence: “My mom. Making my mom happy is what I work for. She had two other shots at getting a four-timer. I just knew I had to do it for her.”

Best wrestling attribute: “Physicality. Just the way I wrestle. It's just physical. As a freshman, you can't just go out and rough up the seniors. When you're a freshman, you get roughed up. Now I just go out and it's an all-out thing.”

Best thing about the sport of wrestling: “Competition. Just going out and wrestling the different competition. Guys all over the country, getting the best of the best.”

Must-do pre-match routine: “Mess with my coaches. Gotta be. I just annoy them. Jump on their back, flick 'em upside their head.”

Don't they know to get out of the way when you're coming? “There's three coaches. They all can't get away.”

If you're No. 1, who is No. 2? “Colton (Adams). He's just the same as me. He dominates. If you can go anywhere and dominate guys in your weight like he has, you are up there pound-for-pound.”

Favorite offseason food: “Homemade spaghetti. With any sauce. And ground beef.”

* * *

Brett Velasquez

Bennington • Career record: 164-4 • 2014 record: 42-0

Velasquez would become the school's second four-time champion and only the second to win four Class B titles for someone other than Omaha Skutt. He actually grew up in Grand Island before moving to Bennington in seventh grade. But before you think of another four-timer in purple and gold as part of the five-time defending Class A champion Islanders … Velasquez says he probably would have ended up at Grand Island Central Catholic.

College plans: St. Cloud State

Velasquez says: “My goal my freshman year was just to medal. Coach (Alan) Pokorny sat me down and told me he saw more potential than that in me. I kind of started to think along different lines then.”

His coach says: “The biggest thing he has is a motor that doesn't stop,” Pokorny said. “He just goes and goes and goes. Guys just can't keep that intensity for six minutes. He's also a very intelligent wrestler. He's No. 1 in his class academically, too.”

Toughest career match: “Jordan Brummer from Woodbury Central my sophomore year. He was a three-time state champ in Iowa. He had 180-some career wins. I tied it up 2-2 in the first period, then pulled him on top of me and gave up five points. But I didn't give up. I worked myself back into the match and headlocked him late and was able to secure the 8-7 victory. That was my most exciting, biggest match.”

When you knew four was possible: “I think after the freshman title. I felt like I was very confident that if I won it freshman year, there was no stopping me in having the opportunity to go for four.”

Biggest influence: “I'd probably say my dad. He's been pushing me ever since I was a little kid and always supporting me in the sport. All my coaches have been there, too.”

Best wrestling attribute: “I'd have to go with quickness. I win most of the scrambles I get into, and that is a huge part of wrestling. Sometimes you don't finish a shot correctly or sometimes a guy will come out all guns blazing and you have to be able to scramble. I feel like I have a pretty good gas tank, too.”

Best thing about the sport of wrestling: “I think it's challenging yourself every day to step on that mat and give it your all. It's so different than any other sport because it's just you. If you step on that mat and don't give it your all, you can be beaten. The amount of personal drive is just a huge part.”

Must-do pre-match routine: “A couple of matches before I wrestle, I just do a prayer. Kneel down, do a prayer. Have a little conversation with the Lord. I always do that. I've calmed it down a little since freshman year, but I still slap myself a little. I just wake myself up a little bit. My freshman year I think I scared people with all the slapping.”

If you're No. 1, who is No. 2? “Colton Adams always brings it when he comes to wrestle. Will Schany always brings a level of intensity that is unbelievable, too. And Perkins brought it to Schany. (Harrison) Phillips from Millard West is crazy, too. He almost just plays with his opponents. I've watched him and it's not even funny.”

Favorite offseason food: “I love Taco Bell. I get the Baha Chicken Chalupa. It's great. Can't beat it.”

* * *

Will Schany

Blair • Career record: 159-9 • 2014 record: 37-1

Schany broke the Class B record for takedowns in a career this season. The first state champion in school history, he has become somewhat of a cult hero in Blair. Bears head coach Erich Warner said a middle-school student dressed up as Schany for Halloween this year, complete with a curly red wig, singlet and golf club. (Schany is a standout on the golf team, too.)

College plans: Virginia

Schany says: “It's weird, it almost comes up every day,” he says about being a four-time champion. “It's like, 'What am I preparing for today?' That same goal is on your mind every time. To be one of the few who wins four, that would be a cool group to be involved in. I think about it a lot. I think about it and I'm just excited. I'm ready.”

His coach says: “We'll see the benefit of Will coming through for years to come,” Warner said. “He does things the right way. He's kind of raised the game of everybody in our program.”

Toughest career match: “Of course the match with JaVaughn (Perkins),” Schany said. “If you were to go outside of that, my freshman year at districts is probably the one that comes to mind. I wrestled Grant Randall (Omaha Skutt). I had to come from behind. That's one that really sticks out to me. If I lose that one, I drop into the wrestlebacks and who knows what happens.”

When you knew four was possible: “When you win your freshman year, you think it's possible. But it probably wasn't until I won my third that I thought it. After my junior year, it was more realistic.”

Biggest influence: “There are quite a few wrestlers I looked up to when I younger, but I'd have to say my coaches. My freshman year I came in and started 0-2. I kind of thought, 'What did I get myself in to?' In my middle school, I was just stronger than everyone, and then you get to high school and it's way different. My coaches changed some things I was doing, so they deserve a lot of the credit there.”

Best wrestling attribute: “I would say quickness. For a bigger guy, when you can be quick it helps a lot. I would say on my feet I'm pretty quick.”

Best thing about the sport of wrestling: “The fact that it's you and another guy on the mat. You can't blame a loss on anyone or anything else. You have to be mentally tough. Whatever you do or don't accomplish out there, it reflects on you.”

Must-do pre-match routine: “I tie my laces and I have to tuck those into my shoes every time. And I have to pull my socks up a little bit. Not too much. Just a little bit. Then I know I'm ready.”

If you're No. 1, who is No. 2? “I have to give that to JaVaughn Perkins. It's almost a tie with Colton Adams, though. They've both accomplished so much in their careers.”

Favorite offseason food: “Chinese foods get me. That's my sweet spot. You can find me at the Chinese buffet. And Snickers. I sneak some of those every now and again during the season.”

* * *

Jacob Sebade

Pender • Career record: 145-10 • 2014 record: 41-0

Originally from Emerson, Sebade transferred because the school did not offer wrestling. “I transferred with a dream and it's paid off,” he said. “Best decision I've ever made.” Getting to three state titles hasn't been easy for Sebade. He was pushed to overtime in the 2012 semifinals and won 1-0 in last year's championship.

College plans: Nebraska (academics)

Sebade says: “My senior season has been one to remember. It's the best of my wrestling career. It's just been special. If I can win the state tournament again, I think that would be the absolute best way to end my wrestling career.”

His coach says: “His best quality is that he doesn't like to lose,” Pender coach Dennis Oliver said. “And he's very determined not to. He's a very intelligent wrestler. We've had a really good group of kids that have gone through here that know the sport, study it, work out really hard. He's definitely part of that group.”

Toughest career match: “I don't know if I could pinpoint a toughest career one. A pretty memorable one was last year in the state semifinals (against Devin Dibbern of Amherst). I lost to him at Cross County a couple weeks before. I worked really hard and focused on that and was able to win 6-0.”

When you knew four was possible: “Honestly, growing up as a kid I never really saw it as a possibility. You go to the state tournament as a kid and see the seniors winning theirs and think, 'Wow, it would be awesome to win my senior year.' I kind of turned a corner eighth grade to freshman year. Sophomore year I won it and that was when the reality kind of kicked in.”

Biggest influence: “My parents didn't even know anything about wrestling until the second grade. So they deserve a lot of credit. My coaches, Tom Liakos and Dennis Oliver, do as well.”

Best wrestling attribute: “I'd say my best attribute is just being able to handle myself. You see some kids go to state and choke — knock on wood, I'm probably jinxing myself now — but I pride myself on handling a situation and handling the pressure and going out and performing at the highest level on the biggest stage.”

Best thing about the sport of wrestling: “The best thing about the sport is that it's just you. You're the one that determines if you win or if you lose. You don't depend on a teammate. Ultimately it's up to you how you're going to do.”

Must-do pre-match routine: “I wouldn't say I have one of those. Just make weight. That's about it.”

If you're No. 1, who is No. 2? “It would either have to go to Colton Adams or JaVaughn Perkins. They're solid. Both really good.”

Favorite offseason food: “Definitely my mom's chocolate chip cookies. I can put those things away.”

Contact the writer: Nick Rubek    |   402-850-0781    |  

Nick Rubek covers Nebraska football, Omaha Beef football and high school sports throughout the state, including football, wrestling and soccer.

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