Saturday can’t get here soon enough for the Fremont High School wrestling team.
The Tigers will be hosting the Heartland Athletic Conference Tournament in the Al Bahe Gymnasium. Competition is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m.
“The guys are pumped up,” Fremont coach Ben Wilcox said. “It has been a while since we’ve hosted the HAC tournament. This is one of the big three tournaments for us along with districts and state. I think everyone is excited and ready to go.”
The Tigers, who are coming off a dual win Tuesday night at Lincoln Southeast, finished as the runner-up Saturday at the Lincoln North Star Invitational. Fremont placed second to Kearney, ranked second in Class A.
This Saturday, Fremont will see Class A’s top-ranked team in Lincoln East.
“It is pretty obvious that East is the clear-cut favorite, but we are not going to back down from anybody,” Wilcox said. “In fact, we look forward to wrestling the kids from East. We saw Kearney last weekend and we battled them. We know East is one of the top teams and we’ll give them everything we can.”
While the Spartans are the favorite to capture the HAC championship, Wilcox believes the Tigers, Lincoln Southwest and Grand Island will also be near the top of the team standings.
“East will probably win it, but second place is up in the air with any of those three schools,” he said.
The Tigers have been solid all season with a Bergan Invitational championship and numerous runner-up finishes. They also are 5-0 in duals.
“I have definitely been happy with our progress,” Wilcox said. “In the last three weeks we’ve had to deal with a lot of adversity with people being sick and injured. We’ve had to shuffle guys in and out of the lineup, but that is an advantage we have with our depth. We can have guys that can fill in and do a solid job.”
The Tigers also feature some top-end talent. Junior Cody Carlson is ranked first at 132 pounds. His only loss came against Lincoln Northeast’s Corbin Sindel during the Dec. 30 Tom Dineen Invitational at Omaha Creighton Prep. Both are among the wrestlers expected to compete in a talented HAC class.
“I think 132 will be like a mini-state tournament,” Wilcox said.
The field at 120 is also stacked. Maxx Mayfield of Lincoln East is ranked No. 1 while senior Cody Fielder of Fremont is third.
“That could end up being a marquee matchup if they both make the finals,” Wilcox said. “Cody is like all of our guys, though. We tell them to take it one match at a time. If you get to the finals, focus on the guy at hand.”
Carlson and Fielder are just two of the Tigers that have been impressive this season. Noah Molzahn was second at 126 pounds at North Star.
“He is already over 20 wins and has finished in the top three at every tournament this year,” Wilcox said. “He is a solid wrestler.”
Carlos Ahumada, competing at 113, continues to make progress.
“Everyday he works out with the two Codys and that makes him better,” Wilcox said. “He is starting to get over the hump and is on the verge of 20 wins already.”
Freshman Tommy Wentz had lost twice to Gabe Mefford of Omaha Benson this season, but earned a 10-1 major decision in the 145 third-place match at North Star.
“Tommy is at a man’s weight — that 138, 145 or 152 class. It seems that the best athletes in wrestling are in those classes,” Wilcox said. “Being a freshman at 145 could be difficult, but he took a step in the right direction beating the Benson kid at North Star.”
Omar Garibo won the 182 championship at North Star while Jacob Wimer (138) and Trevin Escamilla (285) were third.
“What is awesome is guys like Carlos, Noah, Tommy and Trevin are all underclassmen,” Wilcox said. “They are moving in the right direction as freshmen, sophomores and juniors. By the time they are seniors, we believe they will be really good.”
The Tigers are enjoying one of their best seasons in recent memory. It isn’t by accident.
“I’m just so proud of our guys,” Wilcox said. “We’re tough on them, there is no mistake about that. We have high expectations, but what is exciting is they have all bought into what we are doing. They trust the process and know we are tough on them to help them reach their goals.
“We have a good unit and we get along great. We’re like a family is probably the best way to describe it. We have each other’s backs.”
Other top-ranked wrestlers expected to compete Saturday include Chance Fry of East at 145, DaShawn Dixon of the Spartans at 152 and Lincoln High’s Isaiah Alford at 170.