OMAHA – Conestoga wrestlers minted a number of valuable memories this week during their two-day trip to the state meet.
The Cougars finished 27th in team standings with 28 points in the Class C State Tournament. Braden Ruffner, Keaghon Chini, Cameron Williams and Carter Plowman represented the school at CHI Health Center Omaha. All four Cougars scored points for the team and Chini and Williams each captured medals.
Conestoga head coach Sean Trampe said he felt the Cougars performed well in their matches. Several of their opponents appeared in the championship round on Saturday night.
“I’m very proud of our state qualifiers for not only making it to the state meet, but for the way they wrestled in Omaha,” Trampe said. “Every wrestler won at least one match and all put forth great efforts.”
The Cougars began action Friday afternoon with multiple matches. State officials held the tournament on Friday and Saturday this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Ruffner began his tournament at 120 pounds with a close 9-8 defeat to Twin River’s Ashton Johnson. He rebounded from the setback with a successful performance against O’Neill’s Joseph Yates. He went ahead 4-0 early in the second period and increased the gap to 9-0 early in the third period. He went on to win the consolation match 9-2.
Boone Central’s Gavin Dozler squared off with Ruffner in the second round of consolations. Dozler broke a 2-2 tie midway through the third period and left with a 5-2 victory. Ruffner finished his season 35-10.
Chini earned a sixth-place medal with his work at 126 pounds. He pinned Amherst’s Ian Hughes in 3:20 in the first round before running into eventual silver medalist Konner Schluckebier of Milford. Schluckebier collected a pin in 3:22.
Chini secured a medal by defeating Ponca’s Dalton Anderson 11-7 and pinning Battle Creek’s Boston Reeves in 4:40. Zach Zitek of David City Aquinas and Alex Schademann of Fillmore Central stopped Chini in consolation matches Saturday afternoon. Chini ended his season 49-10.
Williams collected a fourth-place medal at 132 pounds. He built a 13-2 lead over Ord’s Brendan Boyce in the first round before pinning him in 5:46. He then edged Centennial’s Ryan Payne 9-7 in overtime in the quarterfinals.
Eventual champion Ty Rainforth of O’Neill (42-1) pinned Williams in the semifinals, but he bounced back with a 13-5 victory over Raymond Central’s Logan Bryce. Payne won a rematch in the third-place bout 4-1 on Saturday afternoon. Williams finished his campaign 44-8.
Plowman wrestled three matches at 138 pounds. Wood River’s Dylan Ancheta edged him 4-2 in the opening round, but Plowman responded with a major rally against Hayden Kluthe of Ord. He erased a 7-0 deficit by scoring eight straight points in the final 1:11 of the second period. He went on to win the match 8-7.
Seth Fairbanks of Bishop Neumann ended Plowman’s season with a pin later Friday night. Plowman finished the year 41-13.
Trampe said he was proud of the way Ruffner responded to adversity during the season. The senior finished his time at CHS with 143 victories. He climbed to the top of Conestoga charts with his efforts over the past four years.
“I’d be remiss to not make mention of how proud I am of senior Braden Ruffner and his career as a Conestoga wrestler,” Trampe said. “Nobody better exemplifies the values we preach to our kids. His work ethic, passion and leadership have made a profound impact on our coaching staff, on our younger wrestlers and on the future of the program.
“Unfortunately, he did not end his career the way we had all hoped, but the humility he showed in his situation speaks volumes about his character. I couldn’t be more proud of him and his accomplishments both on and off the mat over his four-year career. Fittingly, he ends his career as the school’s all-time leader in wins.”
Trampe said the entire roster adapted well to the pandemic-caused adjustments at tournaments and duals during the season. Restrictions on crowd sizes changed the environment at several events, but the Cougars were able to complete their season with valuable state experiences.
“This season was definitely different than any before,” Trampe said. “With COVID, it felt like there was this storm cloud constantly hovering over us waiting to rain all over our season. I have to give a ton of credit to our kids who stuck with it and kept working hard through the uncertainty. That’s a huge testament to their commitment to our team, and ultimately what I’m most proud of.”
Class C Team Results
Central City 135, David City Aquinas 127, David City 110, O’Neill 79, Logan View 71.5, Ord 66, Milford 65.5, Amherst 55, Cross County/Osceola 50.5, Arlington 47, Boone Central 47, Centennial 44, Fillmore Central 44, Crofton-Bloomfield 42.5, St. Paul 42, Ravenna 41, Valentine 41, Bishop Neumann 40, Raymond Central 40, Syracuse 37, Bridgeport 34, Fort Calhoun 31, Battle Creek 30, Nebraska Christian 30, Wilber-Clatonia 30, Yutan 29, Conestoga 28, Norfolk Catholic 27, Sutton 24, Oakland-Craig 21, Tekamah-Herman 21, Mitchell 20, Tri County 19, Malcolm 18, Twin River 17, Wood River 17, Gibbon 16, Kearney Catholic 15.5, Archbishop Bergan 13, Gordon-Rushville 9, North Bend Central 9, Bancroft-Rosalie-Lyons-Decatur Northeast 8, Loomis/Bertrand 5, Chase County 4, Lutheran High Northeast 4, Arcadia/Loup City 3, Hershey 3, Lincoln Lutheran 3, Palmyra 3, Quad County Northeast 3, South Central Nebraska Unified District #5 3, Ponca 2, Hartington Cedar Catholic 1, Humboldt-Table Rock-Steinauer/Pawnee City 1, Lincoln Christian 1
120 – Braden Ruffner
Dec. by Ashton Johnson (Twin River) 9-8, dec. Joseph Yates (O’Neill) 9-2, dec. by Gavin Dozler (Boone Central) 5-2
126 – Keaghon Chini (6th)
Pinned Ian Hughes (Amherst) 3:20, pinned by Konner Schluckebier (Milford) 3:22, dec. Dalton Anderson (Ponca) 11-7, pinned Boston Reeves (Battle Creek) 4:10, dec. by Zach Zitek (David City Aquinas) 8-2, maj. dec. by Alex Schademann (Fillmore Central) 15-6
132 – Cameron Williams (4th)
Pinned Brendan Boyce (Ord) 5:46, dec. Ryan Payne (Centennial) 9-7 (OT), pinned by Ty Rainforth (O’Neill) 2:28, maj. dec. Logan Bryce (Raymond Central) 13-5, dec. by Ryan Payne (Centennial) 4-1
138 – Carter Plowman
Dec. by Dylan Ancheta (Wood River) 4-2, dec. Hayden Kluthe (Ord) 8-7, pinned by Seth Fairbanks (Bishop Neumann) 2:35