Published Wednesday, February 19, 2014 at 12:01 am / Updated at 1:34 am
wrestling
Islanders may need depth to reach pinnacle again
Last year's team champs
Individual tournament
Class A: Grand Island
Class B: Omaha Skutt
Class C: Central City
Class D: Amherst

Dual tournament
Class A: Omaha Burke
Class B: Omaha Skutt
Class C: Madison
Class D: Amherst

Another packed house and television audience likely will be witnesses to a historic final round Saturday at the state wrestling tournament.

But the most important parts of a potentially record-tying weekend for Class A's latest dynasty may have already taken place the two days before.

On Saturday, it's possible that five wrestlers will end the three-day tournament at the CenturyLink Center etching their names onto a growing list of four-time state champions.

The fraternity of four-timers, which numbered just 16 before three more joined in 2012, could have new members in JaVaughn Perkins of Omaha North, Will Schany of Blair, Colton Adams of Scottsbluff, Brett Velasquez of Bennington and Jacob Sebade of Pender.

While that aspect is sure to help TV viewership — the finals on Saturday are on statewide television — it will be the earlier rounds on Thursday and Friday conducted amid much less fanfare that may determine the race for the Class A team title. There is history on the line there, too.

Five-time defending champion Grand Island brings 11 qualifiers to Omaha looking to tie the Class A mark for consecutive team titles.

Only one other Class A program has won five consecutive titles. A sixth in a row for head coach Mike Schadwinkel's bunch would match the string by Omaha South from 1931 to 1937.

Although their five-year run is probably already enough to label the Islanders a dynasty, Schadwinkel said he hasn't thought much about that.

“I guess I don't throw that word around much,” he said. “If five years is a dynasty, I guess we're a dynasty. I suppose someday, maybe 15 or 20 years down the road, I'll look back and maybe call it that. We're still enjoying it now, though.”

The top-ranked Islanders feature a pair of unbeaten wrestlers in second-ranked Andrew Rojas at 138 and No. 1 Chase Reis at 220. Edgar Silva is also ranked first at 195, one of seven Islanders in the ratings.

But it will hardly be easy for the top-ranked Islanders. Last year's winning margin of 10 points over second-place Omaha Burke was the Islanders' narrowest during the streak. That could change this weekend.

Omaha North is ranked No. 2 and has more than just Perkins. Among their nine qualifiers, the Vikings have three wrestlers ranked atop their respective weight classes and two more rated second.

Millard South and Kearney, the next two teams in the ratings, each qualified wrestlers in 13 of the 14 weight classes. The Patriots bring a young bunch with enough quality and quantity to make a run.

Kearney could be a wild card in the mix. The Bearcats have heavy favorites in 120-pounder Isaac Stansbury and 132-pounder Dante Rodriguez — a two-time state champion and Grand Island transfer. And they have enough depth to make things interesting.

After narrowly beating out Millard South at districts, the Bearcats have designs on a big tournament.

“We're kind of that team that's good enough to be in the mix, but we're not spoken of,” Kearney coach Ty Swarm said. “We're an outside-looking-in team. So that's a pretty good place to be. We're good enough.”

Swarm said the key to a team title may not be how many champions you crown Saturday, but how many guys are still wrestling that day.

“I think that's going to be the difference in who wins Class A this year,” Swarm said. “Who has the depth or the guys that are going to be able to compete through the back side of that tournament? That will be the difference.”

Grand Island and Kearney see each other plenty before the holiday break, but haven't seen each other since.

“I know they've been hammering people lately,” Schadwinkel said. “I don't know what it's going to look like when we get everyone together. It's going to be interesting.”

And very well could be up in the air for all three days.

“I think it could be a three- or four- or five-team race come Saturday,” Schadwinkel said. “It may very well come down to the finals.”

Contact the writer: Nick Rubek

nickrubek@gmail.com    |   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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