The Blair wrestling team's defense of its 2019 Class B State Dual Championship ended before it could really get going Saturday at the Buffalo County Fairgrounds in Kearney.
The sixth-seeded Bears dropped their first matchup of the 2020 dual tournament 36-35 to No. 3 Pierce.
“Only thing I said is, 'Champions, if they don't get what they want, they get the next best thing.' So, that's our goal,” BHS coach Erich Warner said after the early loss. “Our next match we need to win so we can get into that fifth-sixth match. Then, we need to get fifth.”
Blair topped Adams Central in the consolation semifinals, 40-22, but couldn't quite get fifth. Central City earned that designation with a 39-30 victory, which dropped the Bears to 1-2 on the day.
Hastings, meanwhile, won the Class B title from Pierce. BHS' Eastern Midlands Conference rival, Bennington, was third and Gering was fourth.
Luke Frost started Blair's state dual run with his hand raised Saturday morning. Pierce had the 106-pound weight class open, forfeiting the first six points of the teams' dual to the Bears.
From there, the Bluejays won back-to-back matches before Tyler Curtis' 18-7 major decision win at 126 pounds. Brody Karls and Hank Frost followed up that Blair success with their own wins before Pierce won the next four matches. Two of those wins came by pin, while another came by technical fall and gave the Bluejays a 32-17 advantage on the scoreboard.
“You just can't give up bonus points down here if you want to win duals,” Warner said.
Bears Braden Hanson and Dex Larsen earned first-period pins at 182 and 195 pounds, but Pierce's Dylan Kuehler clinched his team's move into the semifinals with a 13-4 major decision at 220.
“We really thought we had a team that could reach the finals,” Warner said after the first-round exit from title contention. “And we do have a team that could reach the finals.”
But, against Adams Central, Blair just wanted to win to reach the fifth-place match and it did.
Curtis, Dylan Berg, Treyton Jones and Hanson earned pins against the Patriots, while Karls, Hank Frost, Larsen, Lance Hume and Brady Soukup went the distance — and in some instances, beyond the three 2-minute periods — to win their matches. The result was an 18-point dual victory that advanced the Bears into a battle against Central City.
The Bison started with back-to-back pins and went onto win by nine, forcing Blair to accept sixth after claiming the title a year ago.
Karls, Hank Frost, Hanson, Larson and Soukup ended the state dual tournament without a loss. Hanson had a team-best three pins in 3:17, while Larson had two in 1:28.
The Bears next compete Friday and Saturday when they host the Class B District 2 Tournament. Friday's action begins at 3 p.m. at BHS.