A conference rivalry spills over to the state semifinals Friday night in Class A’s 170-pound class.
On one side is Omaha North’s Jacobi Jones, the top-ranked wrestler in the division after a season full of tough tests.
In the other corner is Jake Anderson of Omaha Creighton Prep, a returning state champion ranked No. 2 with designs on another gold medal.
“There’s not a lot to say about it,” Anderson said after a win the quarterfinals. “It’s just going out and wrestling now.”
Each was impressive in a pair of wins Thursday. Jones opened the tournament with a second-period pin and followed that up with a major decision in the quarterfinals.
Anderson blanked his first-round opponent 7-0 and pinned fifth-ranked Preston Kelly of Papillion-La Vista to move into the semifinals.
Friday night’s showdown is a rematch of the Metro Conference championship, a clash that Jones won 5-1 to retake the top spot in the ratings. It’s the only loss on the season for Anderson.
“The game plan (Friday) is the same as it was then,” Jones said. “Go back at him. Just keep pushing the pace. Keep pushing the action.”
It’s a style that has worked well throughout a 44-win senior season for Jones. A 4-2 showing at the Walsh Ironman tournament, one of the country’s toughest, came just a week after finishing up a run to the state football title with the Vikings. Both of his setbacks there came against medalists.
A few weeks later, he was getting pushed at another high-level tournament, this one in Wisconsin. It was after a semifinal loss there that Jones said he turned things on.
“That’s when it really hit me,” he said. “I told myself, ‘It’s time to go. Pick it up.’ ”
He hasn’t lost since, including a run to the title at the Top of the Rockies tournament in Colorado.
But Friday’s meeting with Anderson has a little more importance to it than your run-of-the-mill tournament.
Anderson pinned his way to the finals at 182 a year ago and finished the job on Saturday. He’s been under the Friday night lights at the CenturyLink Center and didn’t blink. Jones fell in the quarterfinals last season before battling back for third. Both lost in the semifinals in 2012.
For his part, Anderson said he’ll approach it as another match, but admitted there is a little more on the line.
“This is my last chance,” he said. “I’m prepared. I’ve done everything I can to get here. Now I just have to go out and wrestle.”