Schultz is runner-up, Bolles third at state wrestling



For The Herald

OMAHA — Sometimes it’s not how many you bring to state, it’s what you do with those who make the trip.

Only five Wayne High wrestlers from the boys and girls teams made the trip down to state, but the Blue Devil grapplers made the most of the experience by coming away with two medals and a ton of excitement heading into next season.

Four of the five Blue Devils who competed over the course of three days at the Nebraska State Wrestling Championships won at least one match. Two earned medals, highlighted by a state finals appearance for senior 120-pounder Garrett Schultz and an impressive overall effort that netted a bronze medal for sophomore 130-pounder Nyla Bolles.

“We always look at quality over quantity,” coach Levi Pofahl said as the tournament concluded Saturday evening. “We want to come down and wrestle our best, and getting some of those kids wins was huge.”

Schultz, as has been his way during his four years, gave fans their money’s worth with three excellent efforts before losing in the finals to three-time finalist Hunter Jacobsen of Waverly on Saturday afternoon.

Schultz, who came in ranked fifth at 120 pounds, shut out Hudson Harlow of Douglas County West 5-0 and handled Cole Karlin of Beatrice in a 9-4 decision on Thursday, setting up one of the more exciting matches of Friday’s semifinals against Christopher Gamino of Scottsbluff.

Both wrestlers started the second and third periods with escapes, and after Schultz scored a takedown to take the lead, Gamino escaped and then tied the match on Schultz’s second stalling call.

The match went into sudden victory, and as they scrambled on the far side of the circle, Schultz fell on top of Gamino and secured the winning takedown with :15 left in the overtime and leaped into Pofahl’s arms in celebration.

“We saw him at districts and we knew it would be tight,” Pofahl said. “We just had to stay in our offense, and Garrett is comfortable in those close decisions. It’s always been his M.O. and it gives us heart attacks in the corner, but he’s comfortable there and it was a big win.”

Unfortunately, he could never get anything going in the finals against Jacobsen.

“That kid is tough,” Pofahl said. “He had one loss this year and we knew he was good on his feet. We thought we’d match up well with him, but he’s just a better wrestler and that’s how life goes sometimes.”

It was a great finish to a career for the senior, who qualified four times and medaled three, including sixth-place finishes as a freshman and a junior.

“One thing you never have to worry about with Garrett is his effort level,” Pofahl said. “He’s gong to bring it every day in the room and on the mat and it’s been that way the last four years. We went into this week with the idea that they’ve doubted him; all these rankings he’s never been up there and he had a chip on his shoulder and went in there every time he took the mat with the idea that he belonged here.”

Wayne almost had a second wrestler in the Walk of Champions, but Bolles’ last step was an impossible one as she had to face Omaha Westside standout Regan Rosseter, who won four straight state titles (three NSAA plus one in NSWCA in 2021) and wasted little time with the Blue Devil sophomore, pinning her in just 78 seconds.

Bolles showed the heart of a champion in Saturday’s consolation semifinals and finals, getting a pin to set up a third-place match against Stanton’s Micah McGillivray. Bolles used a reversal to score the match’s only points and kept her opponent on the mat for two full minutes in the final period to secure a 2-0 win and the third-place medal at 130 pounds.

“Nyla had a great weekend for us,” Pofahl said. “We knew going into the semifinals that she was going to have a tough one with Rosseter, but there’s no shame in losing to the best girls wrestler in the state and she was able to forget that on Saturday and come out and finish with two great efforts for us, so we’re really proud of how she competed.”

The Blue Devils had three other wrestlers compete who came up short of the medal stand.

On the boys side, Alex Frank’s four years of hard work paid off as he got an opening-round win at 144 pounds before losing in the quarterfinals and following that with a second-round loss on Friday to bow out of the tournament.

“Alex has done everything right for four years,” Pofahl said. “He came in as a freshman and worked his butt off, and the steps he took from a junior to a senior was incredible.”

Grant Maas, who missed part of the season due to illness, had to move up two weights to 165 pounds just to qualify for state. He came up winless on the day, but wrestled well considering the disadvantage he had going in as a lighter wrestler.

“Grant was at 138 a month ago and stepped up to 165 at districts to get down here, and I thought he wrestled well also,” Pofahl said.

On the girls side, freshman Essynce Owens-Webb went 1-2, losing a heartbreaker in the first round to a fourth-ranked wrestler who had pinned Owens-Webb a few weeks earlier. She lost in the rematch in sudden victory, 8-6, before coming back to go 1-1 in the consolation bracket at 100 pounds.

“Being a freshman coming in her was pretty great,” Pofahl said. “She got pinned by that Bayard girl the last time they wrestled and she really gave her a great match. She just got caught on the wrong end of a headlock.”

Schultz and Frank will graduate, but Pofahl said the future looks good for Wayne wrestling and hopes all of the kids will put in the offseason work to make them better next year.

“I said at the beginning of the year I wanted us to be tough and give a great effort every time, whether it’s on the mat or in the practice room or in the classroom, I want us to show up and give our best and I can’t be more proud of these kids,” he said. “Hopefully next year we can get these three back along with some kids we left behind in the heartbreak round at districts. I’ve told the kids that champions aren’t made from November to February, they’re made from February to November, so if they make the right choices I think Wayne High wrestling will be on the right track.”

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While the five Wayne High kids participated, Tri County Northeast was making history with its first-ever state qualifier.

Wolfpack 157-pound junior Bryan Isom was a district runner-up the previous week and came into the meet hoping to set a standard for the future of the co-op effort between Allen and Emerson-Hubgard.

Isom found himself in a tough bracket and went 0-2 for the weekend. He opened with a match Thursday against Battle Creek’s Conner Neuhalfen, which ended in a first-period pin for the Battle Creek wrestler. He followed that in Friday’s consolation with a tough effort against Westyn Mendenhall of Chase County, which resulted in an 8-3 decision that ended Isom’s season.

Still, as a junior, Isom will have an opportunity to come back and give it another go, and hopefully the experience gained will be passed down to his teammates as they work toward next winter.