Wrestlers Claim 20th State Title in 21 Years

Seniors help lead Skutt Catholic to victory at State Tournament


Photo by Donn Kasner

SkyHawks posing with State Championship trophy.

Jack McGonigal, Staff Reporter

Skutt Catholic came into the state tournament being doubted by the media of various newspapers, websites, and blogs. Everyone thought this was one of the weaker teams in the program’s history. They were predicted to finish second, behind the Hastings Tigers.

As the tournament began,  six of the nine wrestlers won their opening match. Thursday consisted of two rounds. Friday would be the consolations and semifinals. Skutt Catholic would have five wrestlers into the semis Friday night, and four would make their way through the consolation bracket. Skutt Catholic trailed early to Grand Island Northwest after round one.

As Friday rolled around, the SkyHawks trailed Northwest by only a point and a half. Freshman 106 pounder Nate Rubino,  Sophomore 120 pounder Joey Orsi, Senior 195 pound Ben Altman and senior 145 pounder Stone Mendez picked up early victories to advance themselves to round two of the consolation bracket. Stone Mendez, Nate Rubino, and Joey Orsi would win their round two matches and get the opportunity to wrestle Friday night to seek that 3rd place honor that was still up for grabs.

The semifinals were underway, and Skutt Catholic didn’t get off to the most ideal start as three wrestlers fell, but the momentum drifted in a positive direction when Stone Mendez won his match to put himself in place to compete for the bronze medal. Sophomore 126 pounder Nick Stoltenberg and Junior 160 pounder Alex VanDyke took care of business to set up a championship match the following day. Senior 170 pounder Billy Higgins was victorious in his contest, only to be thinking he’d see Hastings wrestler Damien Pape, who was 51-0 suffers a loss in the last second; the mindset didn’t change for Higgins. “Nothing changed I just had to keep grinding out matches,” Higgins said.

Eli Jansen was the 185 pound Sophomore for Skutt Catholic who won his match to advance to the first state championship match of his career.

Then Championship Saturday arrived. The intensity was high, the crowd was fired up, and four wrestlers would compete in the biggest matches of their lifetimes. Prior to finals, Stone Mendez won his 3rd place match to bring home the bronze medal.

The finals would start at the 145 pound weight class meaning VanDyke was 3rd, Higgins was 4th and Jansen was 5th. Stoltenberg would wrestle 3rd to last due to the starting place.

VanDyke would win his match by decision. VanDyke earned his first state championship.

Higgins pinned his opponent in the first period earning Higgins 2nd consecutive individual state championship. “If I could describe my four years of wrestling in a SkyHawk uniform in one word it would be magical.” Higgins continued.

Nick Stoltenberg’s match created much controversy within the crowd. Stoltenberg could not control a series of nosebleeds. The medical staff would have to assist Nick very frequently, and it was starting to irk the Sidney High School fans and everyone cheering for Sidney. After his nose was done bleeding, Stoltenberg led by two points. He was blamed for stalling and not giving Kaden Vowers a fair shot. Vowers would snag two more points to take the match to overtime. Stoltenberg, nearly giving up two points to Vowers, countered and won the match by one point. This upset the CenturyLink Center crowd immensely.

Eli Jansen would fall in 185 pound final to a wrestler that was 44-1 from Holdrege.

Skutt would finish with 146 points on the tournament, and be crowned their 20th state title in the last 21 years.

Jack McGonigal

Jack joined the Flightline in January of 2018. He is a senior this year, involved in Guardians, Skyhawks For Life and announces various sporting events at Skutt Catholic. Outside of school, he enjoys watching baseball, running and spending time with friends. You can email him at [email protected]