Start with what you know: Millard South is the favorite to win the Class A team title.
From there, prepare for anything.
A wide-open field behind the defending champions leaves it unclear who will challenge for the Patriots’ throne. But don’t mistake that for a shortage of contenders at the three-day state tournament, which begins Thursday at the CenturyLink Center.
“After Millard South, there are about five teams that are pretty equally matched,” Columbus coach Adam Keiswetter said. “It’s going to be a fun state tournament.”
Besides the Patriots, who won their Class A-record 22nd straight tournament last weekend at districts, Keiswetter’s second-ranked Discoverers are without a doubt the team with the most momentum.
Columbus has won four tournaments in a row: one in Iowa, another in Norfolk and conference and district crowns.
A week ago the Discoverers had four district winners. A week before that they walked away with eight champions at the Greater Nebraska Athletic Conference tournament.
“Finally got everybody healthy and at the right weights,” Keiswetter said. “We’ve been on fire here lately.”
Of Columbus’ 11 state qualifiers, seven are ranked. Only Millard South has more ranked wrestlers with nine.
The Discoverers won’t be the only challengers, though.
Millard West and Kearney, ranked third and fourth, respectively, each went toe-to-toe with Millard South at districts, meaning they won’t have to contend with the Patriots until later rounds.
Kearney coach Ty Swarm said it will take a few upsets and a team’s best effort to outdo Millard South.
“They’re going to put some points on the board, and everyone knows that,” Swarm said.
Swarm’s team finished second to Millard South at districts, matching the Patriots with 12 qualifiers. Millard West finished third, sending 11 through to state.
“Obviously, anyone that looked at that district knew it was going to be a tough one,” Swarm said. “To go out and wrestle the way we did, we felt pretty good about that.”
He’s hoping that carries over to Thursday and beyond. Kearney has finished outside the top three in the team race the last two seasons, after top-three showings six of the previous seven years.
“We’ve just got to wrestle,” Swarm said. “You’ve got to beat kids you’re supposed to beat at the state tournament. We see a couple of state champs with some of our better guys in the first round. Ultimately there’s some really good matchups.”
Both the Kearney coach and the Columbus coach said Thursday’s opening rounds could help swing the team race.
“Even in the quarterfinals,” Keiswetter said, “there will be some matches with huge title implications.”
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