Many high school sports enthusiasts believe it to be the best of the championship events in Nebraska. Getting a chance to take the mat at the NSAA State Wrestling Championships in Omaha is a big honor.
While the Malcolm contingent came home without any hardware, each of the four who competed did claim at least one win on the big stage.
Bricen Wilkie was the only Malcolm grappler to win on day one as the 152-pound junior opened with a third period pin of Brock Jeannoutot from Crofton/Bloomfield.
Day two got off to a rough start as Wilkie lost by major decision to an eventual medalist, Adam Ohnoutka of Bishop Neumann. Wilkie’s tournament came to an end when Eli Parks-Thomsen of Boys Town got a late pin in a match that was tight throughout.
“Bricen made some good strides this season,” Malcolm coach Matt Coufal said. “He got a tough draw in his second match, a kid with 50 wins. I’m glad we’ll have him back for another season.”
Josh Stewart was the only Clipper with multiple wins at state. After wrestling most of his season at 182, he bumped up to 195 for the postseason and drew eventual state champion – Ryan Gabriel of Ord – in his opener.
After suffering a second-period pin, the senior came back through the elimination bracket to pick up consecutive wins with a 5-3 defeat of Dahkota Zlomke of Battle Creek and a 7-3 decision over Tycen Breckner of Doniphan-Trumbull.
Stewart was pinned in the third period of his heartbreak round match by Brody Bogard of Amherst. His career came to a close one win away from a state medal.
“Super proud of Josh and how he finished his career,” Coufal said. “He chose to end his seaon early last year. To have him come back this year and work as hard as he did showed us something about his character. He’s faced some real adversity in his life. He proved himself to be a leader this year. He’ll be missed.”
Like Stewart, it took until the second day of the event for Cody Barton and Zane Zoucha to get their first wins. Barton – who wrestled most of his season at 113 pounds – qualified in the 120-pound bracket.
After getting pinned in the first round, the freshman came back to pin Jamison Duncan of Mitchell early in the second period. In his final match, Barton went the distance in a 5-2 loss to Keaton Kloke of David City.
“Cody had a big learning curve this year moving from junior high to big boy wrestling,” Coufal said. “He really started figuring things out after the Christmas break and had a great second half of the season. We thought bumping up to 120 was his best path to state. He trusted us and went out and battled. I don’t think this will be the last time we see him at state.”
Zane Zoucha finished his career by going 1-2 in his second trip to state. Both of his losses were to eventual medalists. The lone win for the 126-pound senior was a pin against Hunter Kuchta of Cedar Catholic.
“Zane made the decision to get better at wrestling,” Coufal said. “Once he decided he could do more, he got better. Going out with over 100 career wins shows that he put in the work.”
Zoucha led the team in wins this season, finishing with a 29-20 record. Not far behind were the other three qualifiers. Wilkie went 27-14 while Stewart finished 26-16. Barton turned in a 25-19 record in his freshman campaign.