Kearney High Bearcats Wrestling

Theatre Dual Puts on a Show for Wrestling Fans

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KEARNEY — High school wrestling duals probably are not as big as they should be, really.
Some of the reasons they maybe could be is they’re more fan- and student-friendly than the large meets because they usually start in the evening, instead of early in the morning. Also, it’s our school vs. your school instead of having several teams, and duals are done in about two hours.

When the Kearney and Lincoln East wrestling teams face off in a dual, though, it is a big deal. For the second year in a row, when Kearney and Lincoln East faced off in a dual, it came in a unique, and exciting setting.

Kearney hosted this year, and did so in its high school theater, and gave the match a name, the “Old West Showdown.” Last year Lincoln East hosted, and also did so in its school theater. This is the first time Kearney wrestled somewhere other than its gym.

Kearney won on Thursday, 34-29, in the dual that featured one match at each of the 14 weight classes.

Kearney made it a big deal, starting with the spotlight introduction of the wrestlers all the way to the end, when the pep band played.

It was a big-time production. At the beginning, an announcer explained what some of the marquee matches would be. Before each match, there was rock and country music, and highlight videos, showing the wrestlers’ credentials.

About 160 students in the Kearney Rowdies student section did their best to give their team a home mat advantage. They were in a section above the stage in the choir loft, where they were right above the athletes. They did a little trash talking, with comments like, “This is wrestling, not track,” and, “You have to stay in the circle.”
While Kearney moved into this school just three years ago, the theater has some classic architecture, with two levels and seats all around. In the big moments of the matches, the roars could be heard outside the theater. Part of the reason for moving the dual out of the gym and into the theaters is try to attract new fans, and it seemed to work, with about 800 fans attending Thursday.

Kearney had all the momentum at the start by winning the first four matches for a 19-0 lead. But the dual got interesting again at the finish when East won three straight matches in the upper weight classes to cut its deficit to 27-23. But Kearney won the final three matches.
“If you’re trying to put on a show, I think that’s as good of a show as you’re going to get,” said Kearney coach Ty Swarm said. “Even the general public probably understands how big some of those matches were. When you got two state champions battling it out at 132 and 138, and then you turn around and you got more state champions at 145 and 152, I don’t think you can get much better of a look from a fan standpoint. Those are matches people wanted to see.”
Another exciting part of duals is the strategy involved, with coaches having athletes move to a different weight class than they normally would to try and help the team win.

“It’s strategy,” said Swarm of the numerous changes the Bearcats made to the roster. “You eliminate points for them. If we don’t bump up against some of their best guys they may be picking up six points where we were able to win, or (in Kearney’s Nick James’) case he got beat by decision, so we only give up three points. At the end of the dual those are really important points.”

Kearney’s Phillip Moomey was one of the wrestlers who changed weight classes, and it worked, as he beat Maxx Mayfield in overtime at 138 pounds.
Moomey said it was a great night.

“You don’t get many chances to wrestle in front of big crowds for wrestling, let alone something like this,” Moomey said. “We got something that’s really special at this school. The Rowdies are awesome, and the fans are awesome.”

Moomey likes the dual format
“Some people don’t like them because you make weight for one match, but at Kearney High the intensity that comes with a dual is crazy,” Moomey said.

It’s probably because of a lack of understanding of the sport, and the quiet moments in the first period of some matches, that wrestling duals probably aren’t as big, Swarm said.
It helps that East and Kearney are two of the top programs in the state, with East winning the state tournament last year, and Kearney the state dual championship.

“Sometimes you need a small venue to energize the crowd and make it feel more intimate for them,” Swarm said. “That’s what this does. You hear the crowd when things are happening, and that brings everything to life.”

By BRENT C. WAGNER – Lincoln Journal Star