Published Saturday, December 7, 2013 at 10:45 pm / Updated at 10:48 pm
Grand Island answers challenge at Kearney invite

KEARNEY, Neb. — The Grand Island wrestling team got a scare.

The Islander juggernaut, which has won five straight state championships, needed a strong next-to-last round to enter the final round with a 3.5-point lead over Kearney at the Bearcats’ invitational.

But with seven champions, the Islanders left with a 255-249 win. Hastings was a distant third in the 10-team meet with 143.5 points.

“Kearney came and performed well today, and I thought we kind of stumbled a little bit here and there,” Grand Island coach Mike Schadwinkel said. “They put together a great effort today and we powered through it with upper weights in the medal rounds, and that was the difference.”

Kearney won three weight classes through 132 pounds, but Grand Island won all but two of the weights from 138 on up.

Senior Andrew Rojas got the Islanders rolling with a technical-fall victory over Kearney’s Trevar Bigelow in the 138-pound championship. Rigo Barraga (145), Billy Thompson (160), Haris Talundzic (170), Tyler Shriner (182), Edgar Silva (195) and Chase Ries (220) followed with championship victories. Thompson, Shriner, Silva and Ries won with pins, adding bonus points to the team total.

Schadwinkel told his team entering the final round, “We’ve got to go get every win we can, and we have to get some bonus points, because we knew they were going to fight and give us a challenge the rest of the way.”

Kearney started strong, with Gabe Crocker winning the 103-pound championship and brothers Damon and Dante Rodriguez winning at 126 and 132 pounds. Kearney’s only other champion was heavyweight Gabe Ledesma.

“We did everything we could, but we gave a couple close matches away that we probably could have pulled off the win against them,” Kearney coach Ty Swarm said.

Coaches voted Damon Rodriguez the outstanding wrestler award. The transfer from Kearney Catholic defeated three returning state medalists on his way to the gold medal.

“For him to step out and do what he did today was unbelievable. He just wrestled solid and won the major battles ... and showed some guts in winning every match he had,” Swarm said.

Damon Rodriguez — the younger brother of Dante, who transferred to Kearney from Grand Island after winning two state championships — finished sixth and fourth at the state meet in Class D while wrestling for Kearney Catholic.

“I like Class A. It’s treating me better,” he said with a smile. “I didn’t know a lot of people. I just assumed they would be a lot tougher.

“I just went out there and gave it my best and proved a lot of points. I think I showed a lot of people what I’m capable of.”

Each week during the high school sports season, highlights a matchup in the ongoing "Hiland Dairy Game of the Week" series. Previous matchups »

Refuel with Hiland »

< >
2013 All-Nebraska football, volleyball teams
View The World-Herald's selections to the 2013 All-Nebraska football and volleyball teams.
2013 Super Six football team
Meet The World-Herald's 2013 Super Six team, honoring the area's top college football prospects.
All-Nebraska basketball teams 'shake' it up
Being known more for their ability to shake off a defender than for their dance moves didn't stop our 2013 All-Nebraska basketball selections from busting a few "Harlem Shake"-inspired moves.
Facebook: Nebraska Prep Zone Page
The Nebraska Prep Zone Facebook page is your home on the social web to get the latest Nebraska prep sports news, photos, updates and more from around the Midlands.
Map: Nebraska Stadiums
Need help finding a stadium in the state of Nebraska? We've got you covered with this interactive map of high school and college facilities from across the state.
Nebraska high school all-time swimming leaders
See a complete list of the all-time leaders from Nebraska high school swimming and diving competition.
Nebraska high school all-time track charts
See a complete list of the all-time leaders from Nebraska high school track and field competition.
The disappearance of small-town football
Friday night lights across rural Nebraska are going dark. But one town, in its last season of gridiron independence, proved that school spirit is stronger than ever.
Western Iowa high school all-time track charts
See a complete list of the all-time leaders from Western Iowa high school track and field competition.