It ended the same way it began.

Dylan Zoucha opened his third appearance at the NSAA State Wrestling Championships against Kelen Meyer of Ord. He ended the tournament, wrestling for third place against Meyer. The senior from Malcolm won both matches by decision, 8-4 the first time and a decisive 12-0 the final time to earn the Class C bronze medal at 170 pounds.

Zoucha entered the event ranked third in the state. In his second match he had to face the No. 2 ranked wrestler in his weight class, Dylan Vodicka of David City. As he had earlier in the season, Vodicka got the best of Zoucha with a 6-2 win. That loss put Zoucha on the long road back to the medal stand.

“We told him that it was up to him how he was going to respond,” Malcolm head coach Matt Coufal said. “Was he going show he was one of the best in the state or was he going to let that loss get to his head?”

Zoucha answered with four straight wins in the consolation bracket and his first visit to the medal stand at state.

“All year long, coaches have told us there are three wrestlers in 170 that stand above the rest,” Coufal said. “Dylan’s two losses the past two weeks were to the other two. He proved he belonged up there near the top.”

The Zoucha family was well represented on the awards stand. Gavin Zoucha earned a fourth-place medal in the 152-pound division. The sophomore opened competition with a second-period pin over Joseph Rodriguez of Johnson County Central. Later that evening, Zoucha earned his way to the semifinals with a 3-0 win against Nolan Eller of Aquinas Catholic.

On day two, No. 2 ranked Zoucha was matched up against No. 3 ranked Conner Kreikemeier of Raymond Central. In a January dual, Zoucha outlasted Kreikemeier. This time, it was the Mustang who got the best of Zoucha as Kreikemeier earned his way to the championship match with a 5-3 win.

“They went overtime the first time around so we knew this one wouldn’t be easy,” Coufal said. “The important thing for Gavin was how he bounced back from that loss. That says something about his mental toughness.”

Zoucha picked up a 2-0 win over Grant Lindsley of Shelby-Rising City to earn a spot in the third-place match where he fell, 10-3, to Garret Kluthe of Ord.

“Kluthe was a tough matchup,” Coufal said. “Because of how he’s built, he’s a different style of wrestler than Gavin and he was able to get low and score some early points and get the win.”

Two other Malcolm grapplers competed on day one of the event. Riley Donahoo made his first appearance at state. The 195-pound sophomore was pinned in his opening match before falling 7-3 in his elimination match.

Sophomore Kale Nordmeyer was back at state for a second time. The 285-pound sophomore was pinned twice.

The Clippers earned 31 team points which placed them 20th out of 55 teams in Class C.

“We’ll miss Dylan,” Coufal said. “He’s been a strong competitor and a great leader these past four years.

“Our sophomore class showed a lot of improvement this year and we’ll look to them to lead our team over the next two years.”

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