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Class B: Gering wins first state wrestling championship in 24 years

Class B: Gering wins first state wrestling championship in 24 years

Svoboda, Ashton

Aurora's Caden Svoboda, left, wrestles Gering's Ashton Dane during a Class B 106 pound championship match.

All that glittered wasn’t gold Saturday for Gering.

But that big trophy sure was.

The Class B No. 1 Bulldogs did enough with depth — seven of nine qualifiers left with medals — and left the CHI Health Center with their first team title in 24 years Saturday at the state wrestling tournament.

Gering won the team title despite not having an individual winner, edging runner-up Beatrice by four points.

“I think it’s pretty rare to not have a state champ but win as a team,” Bulldog coach Jarred Berger said.

Both finalists — 106-pounder Ashton Dane and Paul Ruff at 126 — lost decisions Saturday to settle for silver.

It was Ruff’s loss — a 1-0 tiebreaker decision to Scottsbluff’s Paul Garcia — that tempered Berger’s emotions.

Ruff, who is deaf, was called for a controversial third caution in the extra session, giving Garcia the eventual winning point. He wrestled the final 45 seconds of the match not realizing he was behind.

“It feels great for the team, but I’m devastated for Paul,” Berger said. “That’s a tough pill to swallow.”

Dane fell 6-0 to unanimous No. 1 Cade Svoboda of Aurora to begin the finals session. That, combined with the loss by Ruff, left the door open for Beatrice to make a move for the team crown.

The Orangemen had winners in Drew Arnold (132) and Trevor Reinke (138), but neither secured bonus points.

When Waverly’s Evan Canoyer beat Torrance Keehn of Beatrice in the 170-pound final, it sealed the title for Gering.

Berger pointed to the points the Bulldogs racked up on the backside Saturday as the difference, particularly seniors Quinton Chavez and Nate Rocheleau.

Both were returning state champions that lost in the morning’s semifinal round. Chavez finished third at 120 and Rocheleau got fifth at 138.

“I think it speaks to the team,” Berger said. “We had two state champs that got beat and they were devastated, but they came back. I think that speaks to the character.”

After a third-place team finish a year ago, Berger said his group bought into the team-first mentality.

“From where we were three years ago — with only a few qualifiers and nowhere near the Top 10 — to coming back and having a great group of kids and winning it, it feels awesome,” he said.

2021 Nebraska State Wrestling: Day Four

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Nick covers high school soccer, wrestling and other sports for The World-Herald.

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