CENTRAL CITY — If he hasn’t already, Ethan Gabriel showed that he is back.
That was a clear indicator in the 195-pound final for the Ord senior Saturday at the Central City Invite after missing his entire junior season with a torn ACL.
The Class C, No. 1 rated Gabriel pinned Class B, No. 2 Seth Firmanik of Fairbury to earn the Ryan Brandenburg Award as the tournament’s most outstanding wrestler.
Central City took the team title with 187.5 points, 34 better than Ord
Gabriel, who improved to 22-0 on the season, said his knee isn’t bothering him much this season.
“It’s been a little sore at the start of the season but it’s getting better,” Gabriel said. “It’s not giving too many problems right now.”
Ord assistant coach Brian Meyer said he feels Gabriel is getting close to full strength but also knows Gabriel is hungry for a state title. He’s wrestled at 195 his whole career and was second and third at the state meet as a freshman and sophomore, respectively.
“He’s not thinking about the knee too much, right now. It was bothering him to start the year, but he’s just on a mission to finish with a state championship and he’s hungry for it,” he said. “He’s getting close to what he was when he was a sophomore.”
Gabriel went right after Firmanik right away to take a 4-0 lead with a takedown and getting him on his back for two-nearfall points. Gabriel made it 6-0 in the second period on a reversal and eventually put Firmanik on his back for the pin.
He said he was looking forward to the match but treated it just like any other.
“It was just another match,” Gabriel said. “You really can’t over think anything. You just got to go in and do what you can. I felt the first takedown set the tone for the match.”
Gabriel was one of four champions for Ord. Colton Rowse (138), Garrett Kluthe (152) and Kelen Meyer (170) were the other champions for the Chants.
Central City had three champions and eight other medalists to help them take the meet title.
“I’m proud of the effort the kids put together today,” Bison coach Darin Garfield said. “We talk every day about getting better. They showed me today that they are still in that same mindset. We are continuing to grow and hopefully we can peak at the end of the year. We have some big meets ahead of us.”
Dyson Kunz (No. 1 at Class B 126), Tanner Schneiderheinz (No. 5 at 145) and Sam Moore (No. 6 at 160) earned titles for the Bison. Kunz, who recorded his 100th career pin, stuck Minden’s Hunter Heath in 0:51, while Schneiderheinz, who earned his 100th career win at the meet, earned a 11-3 major decision over Pleasanton’s Chase Pawloski and Moore pinned Minden’s Eduardo Gonzalez in 3:56.
Garfield said the three juniors had good days.
“We’re pretty junior heavy and those three kids really set the tone for our practice room,” he said. “They are great leaders for us and they know what it takes to get the job done for us.”
Drew Garfield (second, 106), Cole Kunz (third, 113), Kane VonBonn (second, 138), Bryce Sutton (fourth, 152), Jaramie Elton (fourth, 170), Micah Loy (fourth, 182), Nik Erikson (fourth, 220) and Gunner Bailey (fourth, 285) were the other Bison medalists.
“It was a full team effort today and we had some kids who haven’t medaled for us this year step up and medal for us,” coach Garfield said.
Class B, No. 9 Northwest finished seventh with 81 points.
The Vikings were missing Grady Arends (No. 6 at 113), Collin Quandt (No. 2 at 138) and Grady Griess (No. 1 at 220) because wrestling at the meet would have put them over the participation limit by one. The three wrestled at the Ironman Tournament, which was a two-day tournament.
But Northwest did have Caden Frederiksen (fourth, 120), Brady Isley (third, 132), Owen Friesen (fourth, 145) and Austin Cooley (second, 152) medal.
Northwest coach Brian Sybrandts said he was actually pleased with what he saw.
“I know having those guys makes a big difference but I saw a lot of positives today with a lot of improvement,” Sybrandts said. “We had some kids show some growth today and got some confidence today. Caden won some big matches today and Brady had a great day with his loss coming to Rowse in the semifinals. Austin had a great day and Owen had a tough weight class and he battled well I felt. Hopefully we can continue to grow from this.”