Five Panhandle wrestlers emerged as champions at the 33rd annual Chadron High School Invitational Tournament on Friday and Saturday in the Nelson Physical Activities Center at Chadron State College.
Both Gering and Morrill had two champs. The Bulldogs are freshman Nate Rocheleau at 126 pounds and senior Cody Ybarra at 195. The Lions are sophomore Nathan Murillo at 113 pounds and junior Austin Garcia at 152.
The remaining gold medal winner from the Panhandle is senior Jorgen Johnson of Alliance at 145 pounds.
Ten more Panhandle grapplers reached the finals, but they had to settle for second place.
Led by four weight class winners, Valentine won the team title, scoring 192.5 points. 6.5 more than runner-up Alliance. It was the first team championship at the Chadron Tournament for the Badgers, who are the defending Class C Nebraska State Tournament champions and are ranked No. 1 in C again this year.
Coach Shane Allison said the Badgers have been coming to the tournament “about nine years.” They were last year’s team runner-up at the Chadron Tourney with 156 points. Campbell County High of Gillette, which did not enter this year’s shindig, tallied 174 points to win the 2017 team championship.
Besides Alliance, four more Panhandle schools placed among the top 10 in the team standings. Natrona County High at Casper was third with 170.5, while Bridgeport (146.5), Gering (126) and Morrill (121) were next on the list and Chadron wound up eighth with 102 points.
Valentine’s Jordan Kelber was the recipient of the tourney’s outstanding wrestler award among lighter weights for the second year in row. He won the 132-pound title this year after winning the 126-pound crown last year.
This year’s outstanding upper weight class trophy winner is Brett Brenton of Casper Natrona, the 170-pound titlist. He entered the tourney with a 30-2 record.
Kelber, now 30-0, is one of two entries to leave the tournament with a perfect record for the season. The other is Chase County High’s Aaron (Eli) Hinojosa, now 32-0. The Longhorns’ senior, who has signed to continue his wrestling career at Chadron State, also became the 220-pound champion at the Chadron Tourney for the third consecutive year.
Kerber, Brenton and Hinojosa were the only 2017 tourney winners to repeat as champs this year.
The team standings and championship match results follow:
Team Standings—1, Valentine 192.5; 2, Alliance, 186; 3, Casper Natrona, 170,5; 4, Bridgeport, 146.5; 5, Gering, 126; 6, Morrill, 121; 7, Bennett County, S.D., 104; 8, Chadron, 102; 9, Ogallala, 98; 10, Hot Springs, S.D., 86; 11, Gordon-Rushville, 71.5; 12, Hemingford, 57; 13, Bayard, 55.5; 14, Chase County, 52; 15, Crawford, 49; 16, Mitchell, 35; 17, Newell, S.D., 18; 18, Pine Ridge, S.D., 17; 19, Hay Springs, 8; 20, Little Wound, 5; 21, Minatare, 2.
106—Chris Williams, Valentine, dec. Paul Ruff, Alliance, 6-4.
113—Nathan Murillo, Morrill, dec. Jaydon Walker, Hemingford, 1-0.
120—Gage Krolikowski, Valentine, major dec. Evan Steggs, Alliance, 12-1.
126—Nate Rocheleau, Gering, dec. Trevor Nelson, Crawford, 10-8.
132—Jordan Kelber, Valentine, major dec. Mitch McKibbin, Bayard, 16-7.
138—Shawn Marrs, Bennett County, major dec. Holden Schleve, Morrill, 12-1.
145—Jorgen Johnson, Alliance, dec. Paulo Benabise, Casper Natrona, 3-0.
152—Austin Garcia, Morrill, major dec. Brody Benson, Valentine, 15-3.
160—Caleb Long, Valentine, dec. Lane Applegarth, Alliance, 2-1,
170—Brett Brenton, Casper Natrona, dec. Don Stephen, Valentine, 6-2.
182—Garrett Heil, Hot Springs, pinned Logan Coalson, Bridgeport, 2:16.
195—Cody Ybarra, Gering, dec. Marce Vasquez, Bridgeport, 13-7.
220—Aaron (Eli) Hinojosa, Chase County, dec. Yahav Shraiber, Casper Natrona, 10-5.
Hwt—Trevon Smith, Casper Natrona, pinned Curtis Freeze, Bridgeport, :22.
Panhandle wrestlers who finished third in their weight classes are:
106—Quinton Chavez, Gering; 113—Tallon Craig, Chadron; 132—Aaron Tovar, Gering; 138—Blake Henry, Gordon-Rushville; 145—Jake Lemmon, Chadron; 152—Conner Halverson, Gordon-Rushville; 160—Karsen Hunter, Bayard; 170—Will Howell, Morrill; 220—Will Hood, Alliance; Hwt—Cade Payne, Hemingford.