Kenny Martin’s long wait is finally over.
The Lincoln Southwest senior finished the business he started three years ago, winning the Class A 145-pound title with a first-period pin over South Sioux City’s Sammy Flores on Saturday at the state wrestling championships.
Martin had reached the final as a freshman at Omaha North, and he led comfortably in the third period. But a stunning turn of events landed Martin on his back for a fall.
He transferred to Southwest just over a year ago and Saturday became the school’s second state champion.
“He deserves it,” Southwest coach Aaron Finley said. “Kenny’s been through a lot. For him to be able to come to us and have success in school and life and now in wrestling, it’s incredible.”
After capping an unbeaten season, Martin had hugs waiting from his current and former teammates, as well as coaches from North.
“They know how bad I wanted this and how hard I worked to get here,” Martin said.
Martin isn’t sure what he’ll do next year. He is strongly considering a junior college in Oregon or an academy in New Hampshire. Finley said the ultimate goal is to get Martin wrestling at Nebraska.
Whichever he chooses, Martin will go there as a state champion, something he said he’s thought about the last two years while watching the state tournament from the stands.
“I just started looking at the big picture as I got older,” Martin said.
Finley, who dropped to his knees when the pin was final, was emotional in his postmatch interviews.
“He’s a special kid,” Finley said through tears.
Bailey Vanderpool didn’t have the prettiest record.
In fact, the Omaha Skutt freshman had the most losses of any finalist Saturday.
But Vanderpool’s gold medal has a good look to it.
Unranked Vanderpool beat No. 4, unbeaten Tanner Oborny of Seward 10-7 in the Class B 126-pound championship match, helping the Skyhawks to another team title.
Skutt coach Brad Hildebrandt said he saw a change in Vanderpool after the River Cities duals the first weekend in February.
“From then on, he’s just been a different kid,” Hildebrandt said. “It’s been very impressive.”
Vanderpool has a strong youth wrestling background and cut his teeth on Skutt’s tough schedule for most of the season.
“We knew he’s talented,” Hildebrandt said. “It just took him a while to get around that corner.”
Perfect in pink
There was no mistaking DJ Castillo’s cheering section.
The Lincoln High senior had a strong following decked in pink T-shirts, headbands and other gear. Castillo, who wears pink shoes and headgear, beat Edgar Silva of Grand Island for the 220-pound title in Class A.
It capped a 36-0 season for Castillo.
Among this year’s many changes to the meet was the Nebraska School Activities Association requiring medalists to wear school uniforms or warm ups when on the awards stand. A slip of paper was given to every medalist as they left their respective mats reminding them that “no jeans, hats or other clothing not part of the school issued uniform may be worn.”
A quick look around the four mats during the heavyweight championships yielded a couple of interesting things to follow.
In Class A, Division I football prospect Harrison Phillips, a junior at Millard West, was finishing off his second state title. On the Class B mat was Syracuse’s Matt Clark beating Trent Kasbohm of Nebraska City, who was wrestling with a torn ACL, MCL and lateral meniscus from a football injury in September.
Clayton Lange of Ord beat Fillmore Central’s Zach Ekeler in Class C. Ekeler had 48 wins entering Saturday’s finals, 21 more than Lange. In Class D was Nathan Bazata of Howells-Dodge finally getting his state title with a victory over Vinny Ross of Perkins County. Bazata, an Iowa football recruit, had lost in the finals each of the last two seasons.
Slimming way down
In the offseason, Kyle Sutton said, his natural weight is about 156 pounds “on a good day.” The Central City senior wrestled the closest to his weight as a sophomore, when he was in the 152-pound class and took sixth. Last year, he was a 145-pounder and took fifth.
This year, he was at 138 pounds and won. He defeated Martin Phillips of David City 9-3.
“I knew going down to 138 would be the best possible place to help our team,” said Sutton, one of four seniors to win for the Class C team champion.
— Nick Rubek and Stu Pospisil