OMAHA – Grand Island Senior High seniors Kolby Lukasiewicz and Daylon Keolavone have been state qualifiers but haven’t been able to bring home any hardware.
The two Islanders finally broke through.
After suffering state tournament heartbreaks and injuries during their careers, the two Grand Island wrestlers will leave Omaha with medals after earning semifinals berths.
Lukasiewicz and Keolavone are two of four Islanders wrestlers competing in the semifinals, which has No. 5-rated Grand Island (NSWCA) sitting in fourth place with 62.5 points after Wednesday’s action at CHI Health Center Omaha. Top-ranked and two-time defending champion Millard South leads the team race with 103 points, while North Platte and Papillion-La Vista are tied for second with 65 points each.
Blake Cushing and Brody Arrants, both rated No. 2 at 126 and 145 pounds respectively, also earned semifinal berths for the Islanders.
Keovalone, who moved up to 220 pounds the week of districts, said it’s nice for the two wrestlers to get medals.
“That’s awesome,” he said. “We’ve been wrestling together since freshman year and finally getting medals feels really good.”
GISH coach Joey Morrison said he’s happy to see the two seniors get into the semifinals and get medals.
“Both those guys have been through a lot during careers and for them to get an opportunity to compete for a spot in the finals is great to see,” Morrison said.
Lukasiewicz, No. 6 at 160, earned his semifinal berth after posting a 5-0 win over Papillion-La Vista’s Colten Haggin.
Lukasiewicz is a three-time qualifier who was one match away from earning a medal the past two years.
“It feels good to get over the hump finally, especially losing in the heartbreak round at state in back-to-back years,” Lukasiewicz said. “I’ve been working harder a lot in the practice room and it’s been paying off.”
All of his points were scored in the second period. After an escape and a takedown made it 3-0, Lukasiewicz worked his tilt to two nearfall points. He rode Haggin out in the third period.
Lukasiewicz said he likes to work that tilt in every now and then to get the points when he can.
“I felt I was lucky to get it that time but whenever I’m on top and can get the wrist, I feel like I can get it whenever I can,” he said.
Keolavone, who missed the later part of last season because of an injury, upset previously undefeated and No. 2 Noah Sprieck of Lincoln Southwest 5-1 in his quarterfinal match for his first medal. He scored two takedowns in the match, including the final one with 11 seconds left for the final margin.
“I’ve been waiting for a chance to get my shot and I finally got it,” Keolavone said. “As a senior, I’ve been working hard for this moment.”
Morrison said he thought Keolavone wrestled a smart match and he was wrestling up a weight class.
“We were up a weight and weren’t really sure what was going to happen there, but I thought his maturity showed a lot in that match,” Morrison said. “That’s been lacking in years past but we’re happy he was able to keep his head on against a really good opponent.”
But Keolavone said he and Lukasiewicz aren’t satisfied with just getting to the semifinals.
“We want to get to the finals and win,” he said.
Cushing and Arrants had no problems as both wrestlers scored pins in their quarterfinal matches.
Cushing, the returning state champion at 126 pounds, takes on No. 4 Case Jurgens of Lincoln East, while Arrants has No. 3 Jacob Licking of Norfolk, Lukasiewicz meets No. 2 Josh Licking of Norfolk, and Keolavone battles with No. 5 Garret Moser of Fremont.
“I like all of their chances to get to the finals,” Morrison said. “They just need to be ready to go and wrestle smart.”
Grand Island had four other wrestlers who made the quarterfinals and lost. Juan Pedro Jr. dropped a 3-0 decision to Kearney’s Archer Heelan at 113, while Ein Obermiller was pinned by Bellevue East’s Gabe Grice at 120. Rogelio Ruiz was stuck by Millard South’s Aiden Robinson at 132 and Dane Arrants dropped a 16-4 major decision to Elkhorn South’s Grant Kingston at 138.
However, Pedro, Obermiller and Ruiz bounced back from their quarterfinals with wins in second-round consolations and will wrestle in third-round consolations Thursday morning with a chance to leave with medals.
Dane Arrants lost in his second-round consolation match. Also, Michael Isele (285) finished 1-2 and Madden Kontos (106), Casey Reis (170) and DeAndre Brock (182) all went 0-2. All those wrestlers are eliminated from the state tournament. Tyler Salpas (152) did not compete as he was battling a shoulder injury and defaulted out.
Morrison said there is still a chance for Grand Island to come back and be in the hunt for a trophy.
“It was pretty good day for us. There are obviously some matches we would like to have back. We had some good matches in the quarters and some that didn’t,” Morrison said. “We were able to get some guys through on the backside so we’re still sitting in a good spot.”
Action starts at 9 a.m. Thursday with the semifinals and third-round consolations. The finals are set for 7 p.m.