There’s parity, and then there’s what happens every year in Class C wrestling.
Over the course of the last eight seasons, seven schools have left the CenturyLink Center with the Class C team title.
During that same stretch, the other three classes have had a combined six teams take home hardware (two in each).
“There’s a lot of quality teams out there,” O’Neill coach Bryan Corkle said. “There’s probably a little more of a balanced playing field in (Class) C than others. But it ultimately comes down to kids, coaching and environment.”
Corkle’s bunch is ranked No. 1 in the class. Should the Eagles leave the three-day tournament as champions, they’d not only be the eighth winner in nine years, but they’d be taking home a piece of history. The school has never won a state title in any sport.
“That’s what our kids have kind of circled,” Corkle said.
But how does a team get into that mix? Corkle said it starts with a base of guys who have been around wrestling their entire lives. Add in a couple of athletes who aren’t primarily wrestlers, and you start to form a team.
It takes a little good fortune, too.
Just ask Madison coach Ken Loosvelt. His Dragons won the Class C title outright in 2008 and shared it two years later. They’ve also been runners-up three times in the last five years.
Filling out a 14-man varsity lineup is one thing. Doing it with enough wrestlers to compete at the highest level is another, Loosvelt said.
“It’s just so hard with kids and enrollment to keep a constant supply of kids when you have such low numbers,” Loosvelt said. “It really shows how fantastic it is what Amherst is doing in Class D, winning it four years in a row.”
Loosvelt’s team is ranked fifth entering the state tournament, with a pair of top-ranked individuals. The top guys — or “bullets” as Loosvelt calls them — usually aren’t the deciding factors, though.
“It really comes down to depth,” he said. “One of the best rounds of the year is that first round on Saturday morning. It’s a make-or-break round. Every year Class C is won in the loser’s bracket or consolation round.”
Three times in the eight-year stretch of Class C parity has the team title been decided by eight points or fewer. No champion during that period won by more than 30 points.
Many are expecting another race that comes down to the wire, this time between O’Neill and second-ranked David City.
Both teams qualified 10 wrestlers. O’Neill has seven in the final rankings, David City has six.
“We’ve kind of seen this year on the horizon and realized the opportunity was there for about four or five years,” Corkle said. “We won district title in Class B in 2009, and some of the kids on this team were those kids the tournament director was running around, chasing them out of the gym.
“For all the screwing around they did, I think they realized they wanted to do this thing.”
After settling for second in 2013, the Eagles are looking for more. But Corkle knows they’ll have to work for it.
“There’s definitely going to be a race,” he said. “And it’s going to be a fun race, no doubt.”