When the wrestlers from Malcolm boarded the bus Dec. 21 for the short trip north to Wahoo, they figured it would be a tough day. It was.
The young team finished ninth in a meet that featured quality competition from all four classes in Nebraska high school wrestling.The Clippers earned 59 points as a team with three grapplers coming home with medals.
Dylan Zoucha finished with a silver medal. After picking up quick wins over wrestlers from Pius X and Archbishop Bergan, the 170-pound senior faced a Class B state medalist in his championship bout. Zoucha went toe-to-toe with Evan Canoyer of Waverly in a match that came down to the final seconds before Canoyer got a late takedown to win 5-3.
“170 was a loaded weight class,” Malcolm head coach Matt Coufal said. “Dylan beat some solid wrestlers on his way to the championship match.
“The young man from Waverly is one of the best in the state and Dylan was right there. It’s the kind of match he’ll learn from and get better.”
Zoucha’s younger brother came home with a bronze medal. Gavin Zoucha stumbled late in his 152-pound semifinal match against Wahoo’s Peyten Walling. The sophomore got pinned with just 32 seconds left in the match.
“Gavin was frustrated with himself because he had his sights set on wrestling the number one guy in the class (Nolan Eller of Aquinas),” Coufal said. “That might have been the problem. He was thinking about the next match.
“Even with that happening, Gavin is so far ahead of where he was a year ago. When his head is in the game, he’s really tough to beat.”
The pleasant surprise of the day came when Caleb Courter picked up a silver medal. The 182-pound sophomore began his second year of wrestling a month ago.
“When you consider that a lot of kids start club wrestling in kindergarten or first grade, the fact that Caleb is doing this well after picking up the sport just last year, it’s pretty amazing,” Coufal said. “But he loves wrestling. If he could wrestle year round, he totally would.”
Courter earned his way to the title match with a pair of pins over wrestlers from Bishop Neumann and Archbishop Bergan. Cole Haberman of Omaha Westside pinned Courter in the second period of the gold medal match.
“That’s a Class A state qualifier wrestling a second year guy,” Coufal said. “With his work ethic, Caleb has a bright future ahead of him.”
The night before the trip to Wahoo, the Clippers hosted a dual against Crete. Malcolm dominated the night and won the dual 52-12. Zane Zoucha (120), Courter (195), Riley Donahoo (220) and Kale Nordmeyer (285) each earned pins in the dual.
The Clippers head into the Christmas break ranked in the top 10 in Class C. They return to the mat Jan. 2 when they host a quadrangular with Lincoln Christian, Lincoln Lutheran and Johnson County Central.
“We knew this would be an interesting year,” Coufal said. “We have a few good, veteran guys that have high expectations.
“But we also have so many newbies that are just learning the sport. I’m looking forward to seeing how everyone progresses after Christmas.”