Columbus wrestling primed for a big run
There’s a certain feeling that’s readily apparent stepping on the mat in the Columbus High School wrestling room.
With a roster that includes 60 kids and a starting lineup full of experience, the new season has been greeted with some serious expectations. The Discoverers return 12 state qualifiers and 14 wrestlers who can fill every weight class with proven talent and ability.
Take a peek into the wrestling room, talk to the boys, the coaches or some of the program’s biggest fans and you can certainly sense the energy everyone has for the new season. It doesn’t even need to be said. Anyone wearing maroon knows the next few months could be quite the ride.
“I’ve never been on a team this stacked; not even close. In my coaching career, I’ve had a few years where I didn’t even have a returning state qualifier,” coach Adam Keiswetter said Wednesday during practice. “Last year, we were really young, but we were still very close to getting all 14 guys to state.
“It’s exciting to have this much experience coming back. There’s definitely a buzz in the community. I teach at the middle school and I have random teachers coming up all the time asking me about the wrestling team. People in the grocery store see you wearing a wrestling shirt and they want to talk. It’s pretty cool.”
Keiswetter is in his fifth year leading the Discoverer program. Although CHS was a traditionally successful program before he arrived, it would be difficult to argue Columbus hasn’t risen its own lofty expectations over that period.
CHS has been to the state dual tournament each of the past three years, won three straight district titles, a Greater Nebraska Athletic Conference championship, finished third at the traditional state meet in 2016 and produced a three-time individual champ.
Individual medals and spots on the state podium have been a regular occurrence as well. So too has been a constant need to rewrite the record book.
Single season marks for reversals, escapes, falls and wins have all been set sometime over the past three years. Career numbers for takedowns, reversals, escapes, major decisions, falls and wins have also been set since 2015.
The current mark for career wins set by Colton Wolfe with 170, is in serious jeopardy to be passed this year by a couple of wrestlers.
And yet while all of those good things have taken place recently, those teams couldn’t match the level of accomplishments, top to bottom, that the 2018-19 Columbus wrestling team has on its roster.
Take a look down at the youth ranks and you’ll find 150 or more signed up to learn and become the next generation of Discoverers.
Needless to say, everybody is all in.
“It’s like the snowball effect. We’ve just been building and building. Our assistant coach, Brian Brownlow started the youth club several years ago and built that up to what it is now. Guys are buying in,” Keiswetter said. “Columbus is a wrestling town. That’s why I wanted to come here in the first place.”
Names that Columbus fans likely already know, but will become more familiar over the next several months include Carson Zwingman, Anthony DeAnda, Kasten Grape, Clay Cerny, Carter Kucera and Eddie Loredo.
Zwingman and DeAnda were in state title matches last season. Grape (third), Cerny (fifth), Kucera (fifth) and Loredo (sixth) all won state medals.
Tanner Kobza, Thad Baldwin, Cade Fullner, Avery McMeekin, Blayze Standley and Tristan Colford completed the full complement of CHS wrestlers to make it to Omaha.
Alex Korte, Camdyn Iwan and Caine Senger are all returning letter winners.
Kucera and Zwingman could own the school’s career win record by the end of the season if they put together more solid seasons.
“Millard South and Omaha Burke are probably the favorites. We’d probably be in that third spot. We’re definitely a contender this year,” Keiswetter said. “We’re going to have to have guys do what they did last year, like Clay Cerny.
“He had never even been varsity before, then, not only was he was a state qualifier, he was a state medalist. Eddie Loredo, first-year varsity and a state medalist. If we have guys do that again this year, we’ll have a chance.”
So was last year based solely on overachieving? Can Columbus really consider itself a contender if it takes unforeseen improvements to be in position?
No, Keiswetter says. Nothing is a surprise.
“It’s not really when you see all the work done behind the scenes. For me, when a guy wins state, it’s not surprising. You get a sense they could do it,” he said.
“The first day of practice didn’t feel like the first day of practice. It felt like we had been practicing for weeks.”
Columbus last won a state tournament title in 1984. The Discoverers have seven state championship trophies in their case dating back to their first in 1974.
CHS has also produced 35 individual championships among 24 different wrestlers.
“We don’t even talk about winning and losing. We just try to score points and execute the techniques,” Keiswetter said. “All that other stuff just happens. If you’re hitting your single-leg, and executing properly, you score two points. If you defend everything he’s going to do, you prevent him from scoring points.
“Obviously, we want to win a state championship. That’s a goal of mine as a coach. But I just wait until the end of a tournament and see how many points we have.”
Nate Tenopir is the sports editor for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org