State wrestling semifinals, 2/17

Syracuse’s Max Hughes (left) wrestles Fort Calhoun’s Jeff Heinz in a Class C  132-pound semifinal Friday at CenturyLink Center Omaha.

FRANCIS GARDLER, JOURNAL STAR

Looking to join the club

One of the more prestigious feats in high school sports is the four-time state champion club in wrestling. There are three wrestlers aiming to join the club this season, including Syracuse's Max Hughes, who has won state titles at three different weight classes. Sidney's Derek Robb has won three Class B titles, including the last two at 152 pounds. Cameron Riggs won three state titles at North Platte St. Patrick's, and he'll aim for No. 4 while wrestling for Maxwell. The NSAA, at a November board meeting, denied Riggs' transfer request, but overturned their original decision, allowing Riggs to compete right away.

New coaches at marquee programs

A couple of successful programs are being led by new coaches. Doug Denson stepped down from Millard South after leading the Patriots to seven state championships, including the past three in Omaha. Nate Olson, who was an assistant under Denson, takes over the Patriots. Jake Smith takes over from Matt Bruggeman at Gretna. Bruggeman guided the Dragons for 21 seasons.

Defending champs remain loaded

Omaha Skutt will again be the team to beat in Class B. The SkyHawks have won the past six state titles, and 23 of the past 25. Skutt, ranked No. 1 by the NSWCA, returns two state champions in Billy Higgins and Caleb Lazure. Kearney, Gretna and Lincoln East are among the favorites in Class A. Valentine has the pieces in place to make a run at a second straight Class C title, and defending state champion Burwell is ranked No. 1 in Class D.

A new look

This is the first season in which wrestlers will be allowed to wear shorts and shirts instead of the one-piece singlets. Nebraska is among several states that are allowing the attire change with the hopes of maintaining or raising interest in the sport among boys and girls. Wrestlers will be allowed to wear compression shorts or shorts designed for wrestling and a form-fitting compression shirt.

Reach the writer at 402-473-2639 or cgrell@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSSportsGrell.

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Sports editor

Clark Grell is sports editor.

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