Warriors face challenge at Norton

The Marion wrestlers had a chance to see how they matched up with quality large-school opponents at the JR Durham Invitational at Norton Friday and Saturday.

Schools in attendance included the top two ranked teams in Class 6A: Manhattan and Garden City.

Norton ranks first in 3-2-1A; Smith Center ranks third.

“There were quite a few higher-level schools at this tournament (that) really made this tournament excellent competition,” coach Tyler McMichael said. “I was very happy that we had the opportunity to match up with such great schools.”

Tyler Palic (13-4) was Marion’s highest finisher, placing second at 195 pounds. He won his first three matches by fall: over McCook’s Logan Vrbas, Norton’s Carter Leibbrandt and Atwood-Rawlins County’s Will Ginther. Palic lost a 15-6 major decision to Garden City’s Zeke Herrera in the finals. Herrera ranks first in Class 6A.

Two Warriors placed fourth: Jarrett Johnson and Bryce Shults.

Johnson (16-2) went 3-2 at 132 pounds, suffering his first losses of the season to a pair of ranked wrestlers in Class 6A.

After winning matches by fall over Cozad’s Jasper Dinges and Scott City’s Alex Depperschmidt, Johnson lost a 2-0 decision to Garden City’s Kaj Perez, who ranks third, in the semifinals. In the consolation semifinals, Johnson pinned Oberlin-Decatur Community’s Isiah Mason. He then lost by fall to Manhattan’s Bubba Wilson, who ranks fifth, in the third-place match.

Shults (14-4) went 3-2 at 138 pounds. He won his first match by fall over Norton’s Raye Kasson, then won an 11-0 major decision over Oberlin-Decatur Community’s Jeff Juenemann.

In the semifinals, Shults lost by 4-2 decision to Manhattan’s Devin Norris. Shults won a 7-4 decision over Atwood-Rawlins County’s Jaylen Kruep in the consolation semifinals, then lost by fall to Thomas More Prep-Marian’s Tucker Rhoades in the third-place match. Rhoades ranks sixth in Class 3-2-1A.

Jarrett McLinden (9-5) went 2-2 at 285 pounds, pinning his first-round opponent, Juan Interial of Holcomb, then losing by fall to Norton’s Collyn Auker. He won by fall over Cimarron’s Nick Claar, then lost by fall to Smith Center’s Avery Hawkins.

Kolton Brewer (3-5) went 1-2 thanks to a forfeit in his second match at 160 pounds.

Three Warriors went 0-2 on the mat: Ethan Darnall (8-9) at 120 pounds; Brock Mitchell (6-8) at 145; and Charlie Nordquist (11-4) at 182.

As a team, Marion finished eighth of 17 with 59 points behind Manhattan (204), Garden City (2001⁄2), Norton (1261⁄2), Smith Center (112), Scott City (101), McCook, Neb. (82) and Atwood-Rawlins County (70).

“This weekend we learned that there are still several things that we need to work on improving before the end of the year,” McMichael said. “This was a good test with seeing how our guys could do in close match situations, and several of those showed we have to improve.”

With several big matchups, McMichael said the outing provided motivation for the team moving forward.

“This (was) a good opportunity to see where we are in the state and gives us more drive to work towards winning those matchups the next time they come.”

Coming—Marion will wrestle at Halstead this weekend. Matches are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. Saturday.