Members of the Central City wrestling team made plenty of sacrifices over the years.
And it resulted in a state championship on Saturday.
The Bison won the school’s fourth state title by capturing the Class championship with 135 points, eight more than runner-up Aquinas Catholic at CHI Health Center this past weekend.
Central City had six state medalists, with Drew Garfield (106 pounds) and brothers Dyson and Cole Kunz (138 and 113, respectively) all capturing titles.
Bison coach Darin Garfield, Drew’s father, said it’s those sacrifices over the years the wrestlers have made that helped with the Bison’s accomplishments.
“They put a lot of their social life on hold so they can achieve things like this. I’m so very, very proud of this group. They deserve it because of the work that they’ve put in,” he said.
Garfield added everyone involved in the youth program, as well as the families of the wrestlers and all of his assistants, need to be thanked because of the sacrifices.
“As a head coach and our assistants, we spend a lot of time with these guys at all levels,” Garfield said. “I’m so thankful to our parents to have their trust with us at that young early years. We as coaches put our own families on hold for 6-7 straight months. We would coach varsity tournaments on Saturdays, then turn around and be with our youth on Sunday. You got to have people willing to put in that time. There are a lot of sacrifices but it’s a direct result of our youth program as to what we accomplished.”
While there were plenty of highs for the Bison, there were also lows just like any state tournament. Sam Moore was undefeated and No. 2 at 170 pounds, but lost two matches and didn’t leave with a medal. However, Garfield was quick to point out that Gunner Bailey, who lost his first match at districts and came back to finish third, made up for those points. The 285-pound sophomore upset two ranked wrestlers Friday to make the semifinals and finished fifth.
“Gunner not just scored points (Saturday) but he scored 13 big points for us this weekend and we won by eight,” he said. “If we don’t have Gunner down here, we’re not bringing the big trophy home. He’s wrestling a man’s weight class and he’s just getting better all the time.”
Tristan Burbach (third, 120) and Tanner Schneiderheinz (second, 152) were the other medalists for the Bison.
Most of the athletes always jump into Garfield’s arms after they win big matches, especially individual state championships. Garfield said he always cherishes those moments, but the moment when his son Drew jumped his arms after winning the 106 title was one he’ll never forget.
“You can try to prepare for those moments and you think you’re prepared but when they happen, the waves of emotions are very exciting,” he said. “In my 20 plus years of coaching, that was probably the best wrestler jump into my arms moment that I’ve ever experienced. This is just awesome that Drew and I get to experience this together.”
The Bison lose a number of seniors, including Northern Colorado recruit Dyson Kunz, a two-time state champion who picked up his 200th career victory Saturday. Garfield said he’s blessed to have coached those seniors.
“I hope they were able to show a blueprint for our younger kids and people who want to achieve things like this,” he said. “Our formula works and they believe in it. Does it guarantee a state championship? No, but it gives you a chance to be really competitive and again it’s the sacrifice they have made.”
Central City wasn’t the only area team that had success at the state tournament.
In fact, a school in the Bison’s county brought home a trophy as well. Palmer also represented Merrick County well by bringing home the Class D runner-up trophy as it finished tied for second. The Tigers, who had four state qualifiers, had a set of brother win titles just like Central City did. Ruger and Gunner Reimers won Class D titles at 145 and 195, respectively.
Also, Chet Wichmann also finished third at 220.
“I’ve very proud of our guys. When you bring only four qualifiers down and you end up first, first and third, that’s pretty amazing,” Palmer coach Nathan Glause said.
Not to be outdone, Merrick County had another state champion in Nebraska Christian’s Carl Mundt, who won his second state title after winning the Class C 220 title. Mundt also wrestlers with a lot of the Central City wrestlers when he was younger.
Garfield said he’s excited to see the success Merrick County had this weekend.
“We got a great wrestling area. I really cheer for those guys to do well and I hope they do the same for us,” Garfield said. “That’s great to see those guys have success as well.”
To go along with the Merrick County success, other area state individual champions include:
- Grand Island’s Brody Arrants winning the 145 title in Class A, helping the Islanders take third.
- Aurora teammates Caden Svoboda and Trevor Kluck claiming Class B titles at 106 and 145, respectively. That helped the Huskies finish third in Class B.
- St. Paul’s Kaleb Baker finishing as the 120 champion in Class C, one week after finishing fourth in districts.
- Broken Bow’s Lathen Duda taking his second state title after winning the 195 championship in Class B.
In all, the area brought home a total of 47 medalists.
Note to coaches
The Independent will run its final All-Area wrestling leaders in Thursday’s edition.
Also, please make sure to let me know if any wrestlers achieved any milestones during the last two weeks of the season.