Out of the corner of his eye, Fort Calhoun coach Drew Welchert watched his defending state champion lose on a faraway mat during the quarterfinals round of the NSAA State Wrestling Championships.
Seconds later, on the CHI Health Center mat in front of him, his second-ranked 120-pounder lost a late lead against one of the state's best from Wahoo Neumann.
The disappointed Pioneers were sophomore brothers, Ely and Lance Olberding.
“A lot happened in a short amount of time and it didn't go our way,” Welchert said Friday night. “But we don't have time for it to be heartbreaking.”
There were still Class C tournament matches to wrestle.
“My job is to keep these guys focused and prepared for the next thing,” the coach said.
The Olberdings bounced back with wins shortly after their losses Friday and claimed two medals Saturday. Ely, the defending state champion, took sixth at 113 pounds, while Lance earned fourth at 120.
“Fourth place is a lot better than no medal last year,” the latter said. “But I still have a lot of work to do and come back. Fourth wasn't the goal.”
A target was on the gold, but a 7-6 loss to Aaron Ohnoutka derailed those plans. The Neumann wrestler scored a late two points to win the quarterfinals match he'd trailed.
In response, Olberding notched three wins, including two by pin, to reach a third-place match against Boone Central's Gavin Dozler. The 0-0 match went the distance with the Cardinal ultimately winning by 1-0 ultimate tiebreaker.
“That could of easily been the finals match, but the dice didn't roll our way,” Olberding said. “Gavin's a good wrestler. I had fun in that match, but I didn't get the match I wanted there.”
Still, the Pioneer left the CHI Health Center with his head held high.
“I'm proud of how I did,” he said. “But there's still a lot to do.”
Ely agreed. After winning gold as a freshman and taking sixth as a 113-pound sophomore, the grappler is ready for more.
“I just need to get my mind right before next season,” the two-time medalist said, noting he'd like to get better and stronger. “I've got goals. I still want to be the best in the state.”
Overall, Olberding went 3-3 Friday and Saturday during the state tournament. He defeated Raymond Central's Jacob Schultz by major decision, Oakland-Craig's Ben Loftis by pin and Albion Boone Central's Carson Wood by 7-1 decision.
He also lost matches to Logan View/Scribner-Snyder's Jacob McGee and Cade Lierman of Wahoo Neumann, though. Altogether, the sophomore season motivates Ely for what's next.
“I look forward to next season,” he said. “I'm glad Lance and I both got a medal this year.”
McCoy, Nixon fall short of medals
FCHS senior Trey McCoy started his high school wrestling career at “83 pounds or something,” Welchert said.
Four years later, the grappler finished it at 106 and under the bright lights of the state tournament.
“He's always had to battle hard,” Welchert said. “And, from my perspective, he's a kid I've always known to be ready to compete. He loves that part of it.”
McCoy used improved technique and strength as a 12th-grader to reach the state tourney and finish 1-2 at it.
“It means a lot, I guess,” he said of his 26-second consolation round pin of Yutan's Janson Pilkington.
The 106-pounder was disappointed in his second loss, however, which eliminated him from medal contention. Trevin Edwards of Loomis/Bertrand topped McCoy 5-1 during the second round of the consolation bracket. Edwards improved to 38-2 with the win, while the Pioneer closed out his career with a 31-8 mark.
“He's a hell of a kid,” Welchert said of his lone senior to qualify for state. “And he's worked his tail off.”
FCHS' Grant Nixon, meanwhile, finished 0-2 during his first state tournament trip. The 182-pounder wasn't far from victory in either match, though. He lost to Thomas Vance of Milford 7-4 before a 5-4, nail-biter loss to Taylon Pascoe of Gordon-Rushville in the consolation bracket.
Nixon led Pascoe late, but gave up a takedown and back points in the final seconds, which cost him his spot in the tournament. The Pioneer finished his successful campaign 26-18 overall.
“(Grant) really made some leaps and bounds this year as far as technique and a few other things,” Welchert said, noting the 182-pounder's improvements. “I'm confident he'll be back helping lead the team next year.”
The Pioneers' 2021 medalists — the Olberdings — will, too.