“It was quite a weekend,” Coach Joe Schluckebier said. “I told the guys they had a chance to do amazing things and to think big.”
The Milford wrestlers thought big and did amazing things. A 31-year title drought came to an end with two state champions, and the team finished sixth in Class C.
Senior Jeaven Scdoris and junior Konner Schluckebier brought home gold medals, and sophomore Eli Vondra placed third. The last time MHS had two state champions in the same year was 1980, Coach Schluckebier said.
Milford’s most recent state champion was Tom Havlat in 1989. Coach Schluckebier said he’s been a big supporter of the program and wanted to see Milford win another gold.
“He wanted it really bad,” Coach Schluckebier said. “Jeaven and Konner were obviously very confident. It couldn’t have ended better. They wrestled like champs and were rewarded for it.”
Konner had a tough first-round matchup against Gage Musser of Hershey. Coach Schluckebier said he was nervous going into the match, but Konner wrestled with confidence and pinned Musser in 2:35. In the quarterfinals, Konner beat Spencer Bridmon of Syracuse 13-1 to set up a rematch with Casey Benavides of Bridgeport. Benavides handed Konner his only loss of the season in the state semifinals last year.
“I imagined all the scenarios,” Coach Schluckebier said. “We took this as an opportunity – we had to meet at some point. Konner came put and put it to him. He got the first takedown and never looked back.”
Konner won the match 10-1 to advance to the championship.
“It was pretty exciting to punch his ticket,” the coach said. “We tried not to get overconfident and just finish the job.”
The championship match was against Gavin Dozler of Boone Central/Newman Grove. Dozler wrestled at the edge of the mat and it took Konner until late in the first period before he got his first takedown. Dozler chose the down position to start the second period.
“Konner is very tough on top,” Coach Schluckebier said.
Konner chose down to start the third, scored an escape and two more takedowns and won 7-1.
Coach Schluckebier said he didn’t know who was more excited about the win – him or Konner.
“We have talked about this since he was a little kid,” he said. “You should think that big. I told our team, ‘state champs look like you guys.’ The kids know I love them regardless.”
Konner finished the season with a 50-1 record, the best in school history. He is the all-time career pin leader with 93 and has won 131 matches. And he’s just a junior.
“He’s worked hard for this,” Coach Schluckebier said.
After the disappointment of last year’s third-place finish, Konner hit the weight room and wrestled more in the off season.
“As a coach, it’s validation that we’re doing the right thing,” Coach Schluckebier said. “We put them in the position to be successful. The system works.”
Normally, Konner is the first of the Milford wrestlers on the mat at a tournament. This year, though, state wrestling organizers put the 145-pound wrestlers on the mat first.
“They flipped the script,” Coach Schluckebier said. “That let Jeaven have first crack at it.”
Scdoris’s 11-4 victory over Jacson Valentine of David City made him the first Milford state wrestling champion in 31 years.
The senior was picked to win, the coach said. He opened with an 11-3 win over Owen Wander of Syracuse and beat Levi Dorsey of Johnson County Central 13-6 in the quarterfinals.
Bracket watchers had Morgan McGinley of Valentine picked as Scdoris’s semifinals opponent, but McGinley lost to Bryce Reed of Cross County/Osceola in the quarterfinals.
“I liked our chances,” Coach Schluckebier said. “Jeaven put it on him – he was not to be denied.”
Scdoris won the match in convincing fashion 20-3 to advance to the championship match.
“Once he gets his offense going, he’s hard to stop,” the coach said.
The finals was a rematch with Southern Nebraska Conference foe Jacson Valentine of David City. Scdoris was already 3-0 against him on the season and had handled him well all three times, Coach Schluckebier said.
“It was all about staying focused and not take him lightly,” he said. “We knew he won big in the semifinals. He came out fired up and ready to go, but Jeaven believed he could get it done.”
Once Scdoris secured the first takedown, however, he controlled the match, winning 11-4.
“It’s important to set the tone,” Coach Schluckebier said. “Once Jeaven was back in his head, it went as we thought.”
Scdoris currently leads the Eagles with 139 career wins and set season and career records for takedowns at 160 and 400, respectively.
Ethan Zegers finished one match away from a medal at 126 pounds.
Zegers finished his career as a four-time state qualifier and at No. 3 on the school’s all-time wins list.
“He beat some of the best in the state,” Coach Schluckebier said. “No one has drawn tougher routes at state. He’s the greatest warrior I’ve ever coached.”
Ethan’s bracket had two returning state champions in it, and neither defended his title, Coach Schluckebier said.
The Milford senior started by pinning Eli Wegrzyn of Lincoln Christian in 3:04. In the quarterfinals, he was pinned by Casey Faulkenberry of Broken Bow in 2:21. Faulkenberry went on to win the state championship.
In the consolation quarterfinals, Ethan beat Drake Belville of Doniphan-Trumbull 4-1 to advance to Friday night’s consolation semifinals. There he lost to Daniel Escandon of Gibbon 8-6 to end his season.
“I can’t say enough about Ethan,” Coach Schluckebier said. “He’s battled through injuries and pain and mental setbacks. He put it all on the line and had an outstanding season. He did all the right things and will reap the rewards for the rest of his life.”
He said Ethan goes about things the right way and has been a real leader in the practice room and at tournaments. He’s the fourth four-time state qualifier in school history and ranks No. 3 on the all-time wins chart for MHS.
“He’s one of the greatest to wear the Milford singlet,” Coach Schluckebier said. “I’ll always be in his corner.”
Sophomore Eli Vondra finished his state tournament in fifth place at 120 pounds. He opened with a 4-2 loss to Dru Mueller of Logan View and didn’t lose again until the consolation semifinals. He beat Ashton Lurz of Valentine 9-2, Chance Cooper of Bridgeport 8-0 and Kaleb Baker of St. Paul 8-3, lost to Hunter Vandenberg of Aquinas 2-0 and beat Carter King of Battle Creek for fifth place.
“He had one heck of a tournament,” Coach Schluckebier said. “He was right there with the best.”
To finish fifth as a sophomore is “a pretty remarkable feat,” the coach said, especially since Vondra missed two months of the season with an injury.
“We train to be mentally tough and physically tough,” Coach Schluckebier said. “I was very happy with how it ended. It’s great for him and for the program.”
Vondra’s performance helped the Eagles to sixth place in the team standings, tying its highest finish ever.
Fellow sophomore Carter Springer was 1-2 at 160 pounds. He beat Francisco Mendez of Norfolk Catholic 12-3 in the first round but lost to Jaxson Jones of Twin River 13-2 and to Samuel Vrana of Bishop Neumann 10-5.
“He wrestled well against a good wrestler in the second round,” Coach Schluckebier said.
Friday’s consolation match could have gone either way, he said. Carter came out flat and couldn’t get his offense going.
“It’s all good experience,” Coach Schluckebier said. “It helps so much. At 160, there’s not a lot of underclassmen.”
After his performance at state, however, “there’s a lot of hope for the future,” the coach said.