Vince Thatcher doesn’t like how he feels when he is not in control of a match. So the Crete wrestler has done everything he can to make sure he dictates what happens.
Thatcher has been successful in that endeavor and enters the state wrestling championships with a 37-0 record and rated No. 1 in the Class B 145-pound weight class.
He opens the tournament Thursday at CenturyLink Center Omaha against Nick Targy of Omaha Gross. Classes B and C wrestle at 4:30 p.m., following the 9:30 a.m. start for classes A and D.
“I can say when I get put to my back, I quit breathing. It’s kind of like a panic attack, and I’ll do anything to get off my back,” Thatcher said. “Once I’m off my back, I take about 10 seconds to collect myself and then I’m ready to come back.
“I really don’t like not getting first takedown. That means you have to catch up. First takedown usually controls the match, and that’s what I like to do.”
More often than not, that’s exactly what he does. He has 24 pins this year to tie the school record and several technical falls, according to Crete coach Matt Anderson.
“He has a lot of natural ability, good balance, good quickness and good strength for his size,” Anderson said. “And his technique has gotten a lot better. He can play about any game you want. He can do takedowns, be tough on top or get out from the bottom. He has the ability to do well in any position.”
Anderson said Thatcher also has been in close matches, giving him experience he’ll draw on at state.
“His district final went the distance; he had a really close match with (Jay) Sornson from Nebraska City early in the year, although he came back and beat him easier later on,” Anderson said. “And once, in our second meet, he got put to his back by a Central City kid and had to battle back.”
Thatcher is one of 25 unbeaten wrestlers in the state meet. There are 26 wrestlers who have previously won state championships. Five juniors — JaVaughn Perkins of Omaha North (A160), Brett Velasquez of Bennington (B120), Colton Adams of Scottsbluff (B132), Will Schany of Blair (B182) and Jacob Sebade of Pender (D138) — are seeking their third straight titles to keep alive their chances to join the elite group of four-time winners.
Thatcher’s toughness on the mat is understandable. He played nose guard for Crete’s football team.
“I’m strong for my size, so I’m just about as strong as anyone blocking me,” said Thatcher, whose playing weight was 151. “I’m small and fast and pretty good at timing the snap. I’m always going against guys bigger than me, so I’m used to having to push around bigger guys, and that helps me in wrestling.”
Thatcher finished third last year, losing in the semifinals 3-2 to eventual champion Tyler Nation of Scottsbluff before getting pins in his two consolation matches.
“Coming back from losing in the semis is hard. But I just really wanted to place,” he said. “When I saw the bracket, I said I would bring it to Nation, and I did. I felt I should be on top of the podium with him.”