It's been a long time since Custer-Edgemont wrestling has been able to claim a title in its own tournament.
With 190 points and seven appearances in Saturday's finals, the Wildcats were able to do just that, winning the Custer Invitational and holding off Douglas-Rapid City Christian, which had 182.
"We’ve been young for the last five years, so we just haven’t had the kids," Wildcat coach Jared Webster said. "Now they’re starting to come up, they’re still young ones but they have a lot of technique now. They’ve been wrestling long enough. There’s veterans in there, and it’s just great to see leadership, kids that want to wrestle. They want to win, and if they lose, they’re back in the room again to figure it out."
Chance Gill won the 138-pound division by beating Dylin Johnson of Lead-Deadwood 10-1 and Micaiah Grace beat Stone Durham from St. Thomas More in the 160-pound division for both of Custer's wins.
"We have great kids, and we talked about it this year; there’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to step it up now. So that was one goal, now we have several other goals we’ve got to accomplish through the year. We just have to stay healthy because it’s a long season," Webster said. "They just wrestled tough. We have to work on some things, but we’ll keep fighting.
"We showed that we’re pretty good fighters in the finals. Some matches we didn’t step up, we have a lot of kids who we haven’t beat before and we had some kids who took it to us, by the end we got it figured out."
Grace's win against Durham came while he was unranked. He said the match was a way to prove to himself and the state that he deserved to be ranked higher, but his title match didn't get off to a great start.
After falling down 7-2, he came back for the pin.
"When I was down, I thought ‘this is going to look bad if I get pinned,’ so I have to win this, because I wasn’t ranked and he was, so I felt like I had to do this to prove something," Grace said.
In other title matches, Oakley Blakeman from Belle Fourche topped Jestyn Woodward of Douglas in the 106-pound title match in a 4-1 decision.
"I focused on my shots and finished them. Four of my points were off shots," Blakeman said of his championship-match win. "It’s a pretty big win. I was seeded first and got first."
Blakeman, who is in eighth grade, also said the win was important because he wants to win the Black Hills Conference and place at state this season, and knows that for the conference meet, he'll have to take down a lot of the same wrestlers he did in Custer.
William George of Custer took first in the 113-pound division with a 3-0 win over Dominik Colicheksi of the Rapid City Stevens junior varsity.
"I just kept moving, circling and working hard," George said. "I came in kind of nervous, so I decided to keep circling and I just thought about shooting, I always feel nervous before a match. To get over it I just step in there and go to work."
Sherman Taber of Douglas topped Max Johnson of Lead-Deadwood in the 120-pound title tilt with a pin in the first period, but the Golddiggers got their revenge in the next championship match when Carson Pinske beat Ethan Thibeault of the Rapid City Central junior varsity with a pin in the second period.
"I just went out there and wrestled, thought of every match as if it were my last," Pinske said. "I just went out here, worked hard and made it happen."
Pinske said he had extra motivation, because Lead-Deadwood hasn't had a winner at Custer in a few years.
"My game plan? I really I don’t have one," he said. "I guess the reason I wanted to win so bad is because, first of all, who doesn’t like winning? And second of all, my best friend who graduated two years ago was the only one who had won this tournament in a long time for our team, and I figured it’d be cool if I won one, so I just went out there and wrestled."
Bay Norton, who is now an assistant on the Lead-Deadwood staff, was the last to win the tournament at 132 pounds.
This year's winner was Trevor Nelson from Crawford, Neb., who beat Brennen Hanes of Custer in the final with a pin in the first period. Kody Hagen of Hot Springs won the 145 pound class by taking down Eli Mines of Custer with a pin in the second period, and Colton Jackson of Douglas won the 152-pound class by beating Levi Mines of Custer, also with a pin in the second period.
Corten Dobesh of STM won the 170-pound crown over TeeJay Atwood of Hot Springs 7-1, but the Bison would get a winner 182 in Marcus Harkless when he beat out Blake Kainz of Custer 13-9. Sam Adams was the only Harding County winner of the day, winning the 195-pound title over Garrett Heil of Hot Springs with a pin in the second period.
Robbie Lester of Lead-Deadwood won the 220-pound division over Ty O'Connor of Stevens with a pin in the first period and Dante Bravo of Pine Ridge took home the 285-pound medal over Cade Payne of Hemingford, Neb. with a first period pin.
Following Custer and Douglas was Lead-Deadwood with 155, Hot Springs with 141 and Belle Fourche with 114.
Stevens took sixth (with a large portion of the team competing in Mandan, N.D.) with 107, Hill City seventh with 96, Crawford, Neb. in eighth with 87, Sturgis in ninth with 84 while STM and Hemingford, Neb. tied for 10th with 79.