Another year, another season Perry’s sending multiple wrestlers to the state tournament. Boasting four entries at the district event Saturday at Ballard, the Bluejays walked away with one champion and one runner-up who will compete Thursday at the Wells Fargo Arena.
“Two guys are going home feeling proud, while two others are truly heartbroken,” head coach Mark Weber said. “Seeing the work that all four individuals have put in this season/career. I feel for each of them. All four have been great competitors throughout the season, as well as great leaders in the practice room.”
Cole Nelson (113) - 1st (STATE QUALIFIER)
Thanks to his conference title two weeks ago, the sophomore moved up in the state rankings to No. 8. That came as a slight upset victory, but the polls had it right this time around as he easily rode into the state bracket.
Nelson won both his matchups, first by a quick pin-fall in just over two minutes followed by a 3-0 decision in the title round over Joe Hovick of Roland-Story.
Erick Funez (138) - 2nd (STATE QUALIFIER)
Last year Funez came in fourth place as a 160-pounder at districts. Now he’s on to State.
With a shot to move straight to State coming in as the top seed, Funez wound up on the wrong side of the finals with East Marshall’s Carson Burchland. But that wasn’t enough to hold him back, as he still had the wrestleback in his favor. All he had to do was take down Gilbert’s entry for the second time this season.
Funez met Jake Shedarowhich once before this season at the Jack Mendenhall Invite, and came out with a 5-3 decision. This time came even easier with a 3-0 win to avoid the upset and punch his ticket.
“It feels good to have another group going to state and wrestling at Wells Fargo Arena. It is a great experience and one that Erick and Cole will not forget,” Weber said of his two state qualifiers.
Jacob Nelson (145) - 3rd
There was a beam of confidence that Perry would send two Nelsons forward. But North Polk had to ruin the party as the elder Nelson fell in a nail-biting 8-6 decision to Nicholas Bockenstedt in the championship round.
Before falling in the title match, Nelson duked it out for three periods in the semifinals. He still had one more chance to become the second Nelson to advance, but after a major decision loss in the wrestleback, came up just short.
Season Review: 38-9 overall record, 3rd place conference finish, two invitational titles.
Riece Graham (106) - 3rd
Graham drew the short stick. Despite coming being tagged as the No. 9 wrestler in his class, the junior couldn’t escape the first round as Nevada’s Drew Robinson won by major decision right off the bat.
That didn’t stop Graham from bouncing back. He turned the tables with his own major decision against Woodward-Granger’s Peyton Nixon in the third-place match to split the afternoon to match his third-place finish at last year’s district round in the 113-pound bracket, and overcoming a shoulder injury that set him back earlier in the season.
Season Review: 25-5 overall record, 2nd place conference finish, and two invitational titles.
“Today was a prime example of why someone should wrestle,” Weber said. “The emotional toll that each individual goes through during a wrestling season cannot be replicated in any other high school sport. The feelings and emotions that each guy experienced today will stay with them for a long time. I hope those feelings motivate them to keep improving in all areas of their life, not just wrestling.”