OMAHA – Grand Island Senior High’s Blake Coen and Gage Grinnell were both the more aggressive wrestlers in the semifinal matches.
And it paid off for the Islander wrestlers in the end.
The Islander duo’s aggressiveness Friday at the CenturyLink Center led to a trip to the Class A finals.
Coen, rated No. 4 at 145 pounds, advanced with an 8-7 victory over No. 3 Zac Charity of Millard South, while Grinnell, No. 3 at 285, stuck Lee Harrington of Kearney in 5:08.
That has the No. 7 Islanders sitting in fifth with 85 points. Defending champion and No. 1 Millard South leads the team race with 128.5 points, while Columbus is in second with 103.
"Both kids took a lot more shots than their opponents and it paid off and they both wrestled smart matches," GISH coach Joey Morrison said. "Both kids have trained hard for this moment and it’s great to see kids accomplish their goals. It’s going to be fun to see what they can do tomorrow."
Coen gained the upper hand right away as he scored a takedown with 41 seconds left in the first period.
Charity came back to score two escapes in the next two periods to tie the match up at 2-all.
Coen chose the bottom but Charity decided to let him up to give Coen a 3-2 lead in the third. Coen countered a throw attempt by Charity and put him on back to take a 7-2 lead and held on from there on out.
"I know that kid is real hippy so I knew he was going to take me to my back so I was aware of that," Coen said. "I just tried to stick to my offense and do what I normally do."
Morrison said Coen wrestled a smart match.
"Blake took advantage of some key positions he was in," Morrison said. "He did a great job of staying mentally in the match."
In Grinnell’s match, he led 3-1 in the third period before scoring a takedown, then putting Herrington on his back and getting the pin.
Morrison said Grinnell did a great job of not forcing anything.
"Those guys at heavyweight are big so they are in there fighting so he did a great job of being patient and got his opportunity," Morrison said.
Coen battles No. 1-rated DaShawn Dixon of Hastings, while Grinnell has No. 4-rated Cy Marshall of Columbus.
However, there might not be a match in the 285-pound final. Marshall was slammed onto the mat by top-rated Tristan Wilson of Omaha Creighton Prep in the other semifinal. Marshall could not continue and was helped off the mat. If an opponent gets slammed and can’t continue, he is declared the winner. It was undetermined at the time if Marshall can wrestle in the final.
"We won’t know much more of that until the morning," Morrison said.
Three other Islanders weren’t as fortune in the semfinals. In a battle of the top two rated wrestlers at 126, No. 2-rated Skylar Schmidt dropped a 4-2 decision to top-ranked John Feeney, while Doty, No. 4 at 152, fell to top-ranked Caleb Licking of Norfolk 4-2 and unranked Tim Reis lost to No. 2 Brandon Sorgenfrei of Papillion-LaVista 7-1. The three can still come back and finish as high as third in the consolation matches Saturday morning.
"I thought those other guys wrestled their tails off but just came up short," Morrison said. "I really can’t fault their efforts. Somewhere you wrestle the best you can and can still fall off a little short."
Tyler Longland was the only GISH wrestler that lost Thursday to come back through the consolations and will leave the state tournament with a medal. He won three matches Friday and won his match of consolations 9-4 over Omaha North’s Chris Taylor.
Morrison said there are still plenty of chances for the Islanders to come back and improve in the team standings.
"We just need to keep doing what we’re doing," Morrison said. "We’ll just need to execute some things better and finish on our shots. When you get in position, you have to score the points. The best wrestlers do that and if we can do that, we’re going to have a good day."