Centennial’s lone senior qualifier had the toughest path to a medal at state wrestling, Coach Phil Payne said. It didn’t seem to matter to Gaven Schernikau, who finished as the Class D runner-up at 126 pounds.

“He beat the third, fourth and fifth place kids,” Payne said.

Schernikau opened his tournament with a pin of Jacob Gholson from Maxwell and then won 8-2 over Adam Miller of Elkhorn Valley in the quarterfinals to advance to the Friday night semifinals.

Payne said his semifinal opponent, Samuel Foster of Sutherland, was undefeated entering the match and had been ranked in the top three all season. Schernikau won 6-2 and wrestled a physical match, the coach said.

“We felt good going into the finals,” he said. “Gaven’s routine was good. He was dialed in.”

Schernikau wrestled Shaye Wood of Central Valley, a rematch from the district tournament, in the championship match. Leading 3-2 and scoring back points, Schernikau leaned back too far, and Wood took advantage for the pin.

“That was a tough one,” Payne said. “But Gaven handled himself well. Gaven was so mad when it happened, he didn’t remember shaking hands with the coaches.”

Schernikau finished his career as a four-time state qualifier with 147 wins.

“He worked his tail off,” Payne said. “He had a great career.”

Ryan Payne at 132 pounds and Carson Fehlhafer at 285 pounds both finished fifth for Centennial.

Ryan Payne’s first opponent was actually a distant relation, Coach Payne said. Ryan defeated him 5-3 and wrestled a smart match in the quarterfinals and won 3-1. That put him in the semifinals Friday night.

In the semifinals, Ryan wrestled Ruger Reimers of Palmer, a two-time third-place medalist. Coach Payne said the plan for the match was for Ryan to use his conditioning and keep the pace. Down 1-0, in the last 30 seconds, Ryan picked up the pace, the coach said, and Reimers got the takedown for a 3-0 win.

In the consolation semifinals, Ryan was pinned by Art Escalante of Winside, who presents a tough matchup for the Bronco junior.

“He’s long and likes to throw. That’s not good for Ryan,” Coach Payne said.

Ryan came back to beat Jon Peterka of Sutherland 9-5 for fifth place.

“He keeps improving and leads by example,” Coach Payne said.

Fehlhafer won his opening match over Zacharia Kerwood of Meridian 9-6 but lost by pin to Marcus Cave of Weeping Water. The loss dropped him into the consolation matches where he pinned Brayton Branic of Sandhills/Thedford and beat Hunter Mayfield of Burwell 4-2 in the consolation semifinals.

In the consolation semifinals, Fehlhafer was pinned by Levi Kerner of Arapahoe but then pinned Payton Christiancy of Superior for fifth place.

Fehlhafer finished the season with 37 pins, a school record. The coach said he wrestled 27 state qualifiers during the season.

Coach Payne said conditioning won a handful of matches for the Broncos, who were in better shape than their opponents.

Keenan Kosek was 1-2 for the Broncos, and Tyson Rodewald was 0-2. Coach Payne said he was pleased with how they wrestled in their first trips to the state tournament.

“We peaked at the right time,” he said. “The guys wrestled tough. They did what we asked, and it paid off in the end.”

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