Last season, a freshman was pushed into an all-or-nothing wrestling match with a state champion to determine the Class B title.
The ninth-grader was pinned and the Bennington Badgers celebrated a one-point title victory against the Blair Bears at the NSAA State Dual Championships.
A year later, coach Erich Warner's Bears earned another runner-up finish Saturday night in Kearney, but only because a sophomore won two all-or-nothing matches during the first and second rounds of dual competition. The now sophomore — and last year's freshman — is Thomas Chikos.
“I let that go last year,” the Blair 195-pounder said, referencing his 2022 loss to Bennington's Luke MacDonald. It showed as he won a pair of dual-deciding matches against Hastings and the Badgers at the Buffalo County Fairgrounds.
“I couldn't let my team down,” Chikos said after a 5-1 win against the Tigers' Conner Wademan. “Went through some adversity, but I made through it. It worked out.”
BHS' three-point dual wins during the first and second rounds set up a Class B final against Omaha Skutt, which the Skyhawks won 39-25.
“There were a couple matches there that got away from us that we thought we could get,” Warner said. “Kudos to Skutt. They're a good team.”
Blair's Hudson Loges and Luke Frost won two of the first three matches before the Skyhawks went on a four-match winning streak from 126 pounds through the 145 weight class. The Bears' Brock Templar and Yoan Camejo halted the skid with back-to-back wins against Skutt's Benidetto Aburumuh and Riley Johnson before the state dual champions again won three in a row to clinch the championship.
“(The Skyhawks) got a lot of kids that that's what they do. They wrestle,” Warner said. “They wrestle year round.”
Chikos and Seagan Packett-Trisdale picked up BHS wins at 220 and 285 pounds to close out the dual, but Skutt won by 14 points overall. Still, Warner was impressed with his team's fortitude as it battled to the finals, starting with the win against Hastings.
“We could have just as easily been wrestling for fifth or sixth instead of having a chance at Bennington and knocking them off,” he said.
So, next, the Class B runner-ups focus on the Class B District 4 Tournament at Prairie View School in Ogallala. It starts Friday and continues through Saturday with individual state tournament berths on the line.
Bears reach finals
Blair first beat Hastings 31-28 and Bennington 33-30 to reach the Class B dual finals, however. Both matchups came down to Chikos, who picked up his clutch wins at 195 and 220 pounds, respectively.
First, the BHS sophomore beat Wademan by decision to break a 30-30 tie during the first round. He earned a lead and leaned on the Hastings wrestler to win, using armbars and chops to do it.
“Weight on his hands,” Chikos said, further describing his strategy.
Before that, though, Blair's Jim Rasmussen, Hudson Loges, Frost, Jesse Loges, Atticus Dick and Templar earned wins against the Tigers. Rasmussen started things with a pin at 220 pounds before Frost's key decision against 113-pounder Tucker Adams resulted in a 15-13 advantage.
Three-straight wins by Jesse Loges, Dick and Templar earned a 28-16 lead with four matches to go, but the Bears needed Chikos to deliver and he did in the finale.
“I think we're feeling pretty good,” the 195-pounder said. “Bennington is going to be a tough dual, but I think we can pull through.”
It didn't look good early.
Despite pins by Packett-Trisdale and Hudson Loges, BHS trailed the Badgers 30-12 with five matches to go. Templar, Camejo, Blaise Baughman, Kaden Sears and Chikos won all five.
“Our team just doing their thing and not giving up big points or big pins, that kept everyone in it,” Baughman said.
Templar beat Braxton Peacher by pin, Camejo earned a 4-2 decision against Dalton Rhoten and Baughman earned a fall in just 1:08.
“Just be the aggressor,” the latter freshman said when asked about his strategy going into the 182-pound matchup with Bennington's Layne Boever.
Sears then topped Blane Boehmer by 11-5 decision, setting up Chikos for another dual-deciding match. The sophomore earned a lead, but gave up what appeared to be the back points Bennington's Jack Jansen needed to advance in the final minute. Instead, with just seconds remaining, the Bear scored a reversal for a 6-5 decision. His second-straight dual-winning victory earned a second-straight dual championship final for Blair, which finished as the runner-up — just as it had in 2022.
NSAA CLASS B STATE DUAL CHAMPIONSHIPS
Saturday at the Buffalo County Fairgrounds, Kearney
Team standings: 1, Omaha Skutt. 2, Blair. 3, Bennington. 4, Cozad. 5, Waverly. 6, Grand Island Northwest. 8 (tie), Schuyler and Hastings.
Blair Dual Results
First Round: BHS 31, Hastings 28
Semifinals: BHS 33, Bennington 30
Finals: Omaha Skutt 39, BHS 25
Blair Wrestlers & Results
(Weight: wrestler, state duals record)
106 pounds: Tannon Bellamy, 0-3
113: Hudson Loges, 3-0
120: Luke Frost, 2-1
126: Keenan Wyman, 0-3
132: Tyson Brown, 0-3
138: Jesse Loges, 1-2
145: Atticus Dick, 1-2
152: Brock Templar, 3-0
160: Yoan Camejo, 2-1
170: Blaise Baughman, 1-2
182: Kaden Sears, 1-2
195: Thomas Chikos, 3-0
220: Jim Rasmussen, 1-1
285: Seagan Packett-Trisdale, 2-1
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