Team approach led Gerkensmeyer down path to success
Lakeview senior Zeth Gerkensemeyer waited on one knee with his teammates as the career of former Seward assistant wrestling coach Jeramie Schoepf was recounted Saturday at the Central Confernece Tournament in Schuyler.
Schoepf coached 11 years for the Bluejays before a tragic workplace accident took his life in March of 2014. Since then, the conference’s award for Most Outstanding Wrestler has been named in his honor as a memorial.
Just about an hour earlier, Gerkensmeyer won his second Central championship to go with one as a sophomore, defeating the No. 1-ranked wrestler in his weight class with a late takedown and back points.
It was one of four Lakeview gold medals during a perfect championship round in which Lakeview wrestlers went 4-0, as previously reported by The Columbus Telegram.
As a two-time conference champ, and in the midst of one of the best seasons and careers in school history, Gerkensemyer had every right to expect the Most Outstanding Wrestler Award and strut around the Schuyler gym with an extra bounce in his step.
Instead, Gerkensmeyer bashfully shook Schuyler Athletic Director Jim Kasik’s hand and looked anything but prideful in what he had accomplished.
Only when he was hoisted onto his teammates’ shoulders moments later did he finally crack a smile.
After all, it’s there where Gerkensmeyer says he feels most comfortable. Although the personal accolades are certainly enjoyable, they’re nothing compared to the feeling of shared achievement as a group.
“It really doesn’t matter about me and my career,” he said. “When I look around here, I think I kind of made my goal when I started this team. Moving forward with this team, I’ve done something for this team.
“Everything I do is towards them. Everything I live for, work for, even train, is for them. I could care less of what my career means.”
If contributing to the cause is what he values most, there are few on the Lakeview roster who can compare to Gerkensmeyer’s exploits.
After Saturday, he was 37-3 on the year and likely to rise to No. 1 after defeating then Class B 160-pound No. 1 Riley Kopf of Lexington with a late third-period pin.
Gerkensemeyer trailed 3-2 after the first period and 3-5 in the second before tying it with an escape early in the third and putting Kopf to the mat with a five-point move. He was eventually awarded the pin.
At one point early this season, he was 4-3. Since, he’s won 33 straight, including avenging one of those losses to Class C No. 3 Dylan Vodicka.
His other losses are to Class A No. 3 Avery McMeekin and to Luke Martin, the No. 10 ranked 160 wrestler in Iowa Class 2A, similar to Nebraska Class B.
Saturday in Schuyler, his bracket included the top three in the state in Kopf, himself No. 2 and Schuyler’s Caden Yrkoski, No. 3.
Gerkensemeyer owns two decision wins over Yrkoski (8-4 and 7-3). He has won every tournament this season besides his own home, season-opening tournament on Nov. 30
Gerkensemeyer has golds from Logan View, Ashland-Greenwod, Schuyler, Madison and the Central tournament.
He settled for sixth at conference last year at 152 pounds after taking a medical forfeit in his last two matches due to injury.
He went to state, went 3-3 and took sixth with a 4-1 loss in his final match. As a sophomore, Gerkensmeyer won the Central tournament at 152 also with a pin in the final match then qualified to state missing out on a medal with a 2-2 showing.
He was fourth at conference at 160 pounds as a sophomore but came up short of state losing in the quarterfinals of the district tournament.
“It’s been a perfect day,” Gerkensmeyer said about Saturday.
Lakeview won its first conference championship thanks in large part to him and three teammates sweeping matches in the championship round.
“Receiving that award, a lot of emotions were flying,” he added. “I thought someone else around here was going to get it. But in the end, I’m grateful. I’m really thankful for being chosen Most Outstanding Wrestler. But this is just a stepping stone. This isn’t the end, of course.”
Gerkensemeyer and his Lakeview teammates learned Monday they qualified for state duals for the first time in school history.
The Vikings put together a 16-2 regular-season dual record. The only losses came to Class A Columbus and Heelan.
The Vikings have also defeated Class A Norfolk, fellow Class B state duals qualifiers Central City, Grand Island Northwest and Schuyler.
On Saturday, Gerkensmeyer will again be a focal point of Lakeview success. He wouldn’t have it any other way.
Whether it comes to state duals or the state tournament, he’ll put it all on the line for the Vikings. The legacy he wants to leave behind is that of a member of the greatest Lakeview wrestling team ever.
“Our goal this year was to make history,” he said. “Today, we did it.”