Bearcats’ Adams joins grand company: Scottsbluff wrestler becomes first 4-time state champ west of U.S. 281; Bearcats take 3rd in Class B
     2014-02-27      By Terry Gaston    sports@geringcitizen.com
Photos by Jeff Timblin/for the Citizen - Bearcat senior Colton Adams went on record as the 22nd four-time state champion and the only wrestler from the western two-thirds of Nebraska to earn a fourth state championship.  
Four-time state champion.

Until Saturday, only 19 wrestlers in Nebraska high school history could claim the title.

Scottsbluff senior Colton Adams, who entered the state tournament Thursday as one of just 108 wrestlers who were three-time state champions — and one of just two from Scottsbluff, after Tyler Nation became the first triple gold medalist and No. 98 statewide in 2012 — left the CenturyLink Center in Omaha on Saturday as a quadruple champion.

Adams’ performance helped the Bearcats finish in third in the team standings with 99 points. Scottsbluff, which was second in the team race last year, finished behind repeating team champion Omaha Skutt Catholic, which had 179 points, and Beatrice, the runner-up with 105.5 points.

And, with four other wrestlers also reaching the state title grand slam Saturday, Adams is now one of 24 four-time state champions — but the only one from west of Greeley and Grand Island, along U.S, Highway 281, or basically the western two-thirds of Nebraska.

“That is a great accomplishment for Colton, and he will be in the record books with that one,” Scottsbluff coach James Miller said of Adams (50-2), who also increased his state record for career victories to 189. “That is pretty amazing.”

Adams swept through his first three matches in Class B’s 145-pound division, scoring two pin falls, both in 2:59, of the first two rounds. Adams pinned Chase Nelson of Beatrice in the opening round, and in the quarterfinals he won by fall over Ibraccio Wilkinson of Boys Town, the eventual fifth-place finisher.

In the semifinals, Adams won by a 22-10 major decision over Quinten Dawes of Gretna, the eventual third-place medalist. And that set up Adams’ final state tournament championship match against Vince Thatcher of Crete, who entered the title bout with a 32-0 record.

With the score knotted at 2-all after two periods, Adams scored from the down position in starting the third period when Velasquez let him take an escape. Adams then fended off any takedown attempt made the rest of the way and held on for the 3-2, history-making victory.

“Thatcher had a plan and they wanted to wrestle Colton close,” Miller said. “Thatcher is a fast, strong kid and his strong suit is on his feet, so if Thatcher wanted to win the match I’m sure that’s how he thought that was how he was going to do it.

“Colton was aggressive and was looking for shots, and he ended up getting a stall call on Thatcher. He was tough for Colton to finish, but he got the one (takedown early), which was really a great shot, and he stayed after him. (Thatcher) is an aggressive kid, but wrestling Colton in the finals is a tough draw for anybody.”

By virtue of the four-time champions’ finishing order, Adams will be listed as the 22nd four-time state champion since he was the third of the five finishing their golden slams. Adams joined Brett Velasquez of Bennington (Class B), Jacob Sebade of Pender (Class D), Will Schany of Blair (Class B) and JaVaughn Perkins of Omaha North (Class A) in this year’s quintet of four-time state champions.

“We were thinking, when would be the next time that you would have even have two or three?” Miller said. According to the Nebraska School Activities Association, multiple four-time championships were crowned in 1995 (two), 2000 (three), 2002 (two), 2004 (two) and 2012) three.

“Those five guys are talented guys, they all know each other and they have respect for each other, and it’s kind of cool to see that translate through the different classes,” Miller added.

One of the Bearcats’ two other finalists, 126-pound junior Keegan Hessler, was looking for his second state championship but was Velasquez’s history-making victim in their final match when the Bennington senior pinned Hessler in the second period.

The match left Hessler at 42-10 on the season. Hessler advanced to the finals after scoring a 10-8, sudden-victory decision over Andrew Null of Plattsmouth.

“Keegan ran into a tough one, wrestling Velasquez in the finals,” Miller said. “He went out and battled at least, and in the end he lost to a great kid and a talented wrestler who is now a four-time state champion.”

Hessler had won his state championship at 112 pounds last season as a sophomore.

“Keegan manned up for the team this year,” Miller said. “He wrestled heavier than he wanted to because that was where we needed to be. Velasquez is a full 126-pounder, so Keegan was a little undersized in the match to begin with.

“Brett is a four-time state champ and he’s a talented kid and a great wrestler. But I’m proud of Keegan and the way he handled himself at state this year. He knew it was going to be a battle if he wanted to win his second, but he bought into the team concept this year where we needed him to be in the lineup in order to make a run at Skutt at state.”

Senior 285-pound heavyweight Andrew Aratani (46-6), who was ranked second all season to Matt Clark of Syracuse, got his chance against the undefeated Clark (45-0) but was pinned in the third period.

“I thought ’Tani wrestled a great match against Clark on his feet,” Miller said. “He was working on (Clark), trying to open him up and he had him frustrated, he basically shut him down on his feet and nobody was able to do that all year to him.

“We thought ‘Tani would be able to catch him. There were a couple times where Andrew actually was in on a shot but just wasn’t able to finish it.”

Aratani scored two pins, both in the first period, in the first and semifinal rounds and a quarterfinal sudden victory in making the finals.

The Bearcats had two other medalists in the Harsh brothers. Junior Sabian Harsh placed fifth at 160 pounds and freshman Salem was sixth at 120 pounds.

“There are some mixed emotions there,” Miller said in referring to Scottsbluff’s other six state qualifiers. “We would have liked to have seen Sabian Harsh finish higher than he did. He had a surprising loss in the quarters and a tough draw in the wrestle-backs.”

The Bearcats entered the state tournament with five district champions.

“You look back and you see how the kids wrestled and how things went, and you see what they need to continue to work on and what they have to do to improve to get them where we want them to be,” Miller said of the team’s younger members.

“I think that being top three in the state is something to be proud of and is an accomplishment for these guys. The ones (who will return) that we took down to state are the ones that do their best, and hopefully we will get them to where they should be and wrestling to their potential.”

The Bearcats’ season is not finished, however. Scottsbluff will compete in the second annual State Dual Tournament on Saturday in Kearney.

The Bearcats are the No. 3 seed and will take on Bennington in the first round. Scottsbluff will meet either No. 2 seed Adams Central or No. 7 West Point-Beemer in the semifinals, either championship or consolation.

All teams are guaranteed three duals in the tournament, in which Scottsbluff finished fifth last year.

Ramos gets Gering’s lone win

Gering had tough luck with only one of its four state qualifiers — who were all No. 3 and 4 seeds coming out of districts and lost their first-round matches — even surviving the first round of wrestle-backs.

Junior Marcelino Ramos lost a first-round decision at 113 pounds but rebounded to score a 14-3 major decision over Tyler Fralin of Beatrice in the first round of consolation matches. Ramos’ state tourney hopes ended with a 4-3 loss to Scottsbluff freshman Robert Price.

Junior Baily Hort and senior Elijah Timblin were making return visits to state but were shut out, as was senior Damian Hort in his first state trip.

“We definitely came out with some things to learn and think about for next year, myself included,” said Gering coach Jj Behrens, whose team scored two team points to finish 41st. “I think the boys and I expected more than what we got. The most important thing is that coming out of districts with that 1 or 2 seed gives you that much greater chance for success.”

With Baily Hort and Ramos returning next season, and with what he calls a strong incoming freshman class, Behrens’ optimism for next year is already strong.

“We’re going to be huge,” he said. “I anticipate that we’re going to have a pretty big freshman class. To that we will be adding some leadership and the guys who will know what to expect throughout the season will definitely set the tone.

Other area placers at state

In Class C, two Bayard wrestlers earned medals and one Mitchell competitor made the top six as well.

Mitchell sophomore Drew Gilliland finished fourth at 113 pounds.

Bayard junior Tristan Hunter earned a fourth-place finish at 220 pounds, and Tiger senior Bayard’s Tanner Willey took home a sixth-place medal after placing fifth last year.

In Class D, Morrill junior Matthew Hessler earned a fourth-place medal at 285 pounds.

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