OMAHA -- Melvin Hernandez and Seth Styskal are best friends off the mat.
Now, they’re ending their David City careers together as state champions on it.
Fresh off his third consecutive state title, this one at 145 pounds, Hernandez was the first person to greet Styskal with a hug after the 113-pounder won his first.
“We’re both out there to win it and show each other love and support,” Styskal said. “That’s what we do.”
Through the years, the two seniors trained together to get to this point.
“He used to beat me up as a little guy when I first started. He pushed me and I pushed him,” Hernandez said.
The training paid off as they each get to bring a gold medal back to David City with them.
Both Hernandez got out to early leads in their matches. Early takedowns had both leading 2-0. From there, the mindset was simple, don’t let the other guy back in it. Both guys kept attacking right to the end.
“Guys know who I am, they know I’m coming after them,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez, the top-ranked wrestler at 145 pounds, left with a 3-1 victory over No. 3 Chase Olson from Valentine.
Styskal certainly earned his state title after coming into the tournament ranked third at 113 pounds. He avenged his only loss of the season to No. 1 Casey Faulkenberry from Broken Bow in the semifinals, then backed it up with a 3-2 victory over Battle Creek’s Caydon McCracken, who was the No. 2 wrestler in the class.
“I was rated the underdog and proved the rankings don’t matter,” Styskal said. “I came out on top, that’s what matters.”
Styskal, who finished 36-1 this season, stayed on the offensive in third period, even with a lead. He wasn’t about to get defensive and open the door for McCracken.
“I got to attack or it could go into overtime where I’d have to take him down anyway,” he said. “I had to show him what’s up.”
Styskal’s victory also ensured the Scouts a runner-up finish in the team race. Going into that match, David City led Battle Creek 123.5-121.5. With the win, the Scouts locked up the second-place trophy, finishing with 127.5 points.
Valentine pulled away to win the team title, scoring 160.5 points.
Hernandez almost never had a chance to compete for his third title. He tore the meniscus in his left knee prior to the first meet of the season.
He wasn’t going to let that stop him though.
“I was a little devastated, but when I got back in, I had two choices -- I could either sit down, complain and make excuses about why I wouldn’t be on top or I could work harder than I ever have before,” Hernandez said. “I chose to do the second one. I wasn’t going to go down without giving it a shot.”
He came back after Christmas and quickly returned to form, winning every match he wrestled, finishing with a perfect 25-0 record.
“I worked harder than everyone else, there’s no reason I don’t deserve to be on top,” he said.
Hernandez saved his best take down for after his final match, flipping head coach Tahner Thiem onto the mat.
"I asked him and he told me no. I won’t let that stop me," Hernandez said. "I told my team there might be a little surprise if I win. There it is."
For David City, Noah Styskal finished fourth at 126 pounds, Justin White was third at 138 pounds, Dylan Vodicka was sixth at 152 pounds and Matthew Eilers was third at 220 pounds.
Coach Thiem summed up the team's performance.
"I am so proud of Seth and the state tournament Seth wrestled. Seth was on point the whole tournament and probably wrestled the best tournament I have ever seen him wrestle Seth was aggressive from every position and was at the state tournament to take care of business. Seth came into the state tournament as a 3rd rated wrestler and ended up winning it all.
Melvin accomplished his goal of winning three state titles. I told him to not celebrate the way he did after his match with taking me down but he did anyways. I went in for a celebatory hug and before I knew it he was hitting a body lock throw on me. At that point in time I was not going to wrestle with him on the side of the mat and make a fool of myself or him so I went with it.
Without a doubt, Justin White had the most stacked bracket at the state tournament in class C. Justin had a guy going for four state titles in his bracket and a two time state runner up who eventually won the title. I was proud of the way Justin responded after getting beat in the semifinals.
I am really proud of the way Matt Eilers wrestled. Matt started wrestling in eighth grade and has been such a great all around kid for us. Matt got a bad draw going into the state tournament. Had Matt been on the other side of the bracket, I think he ends up in the finals.
Noah lost a tough match to a Broken Bow kid in the quarterfinals of the state tournament. Noah had a goal of being a state champion this year. He showed a lot of heart by battling back through the bracket like he did.
Dylan had an exceptional year as a Freshmen. Dylan was wrestling up this year at 152 and was in a state championship bracket with 14 seniors and 1 sophomore. Dylan is a gamer and really lays it on the line every time he steps on the mat. Dylan has great things coming his way.
Thiem also was impressed by the two wrestlers who didn't win medals."
"At 120 pounds, Clayton Harris had a great state championship tournament. Clayton made it all the way to the heartbreak round and laid it on the line to beat a two-time returning state medalist. He just came up a little bit short. Clayton is such a good kid. I really look for great things to come out of Clayton in the years to come.
At 132 pounds Jacson Valentine made it to the state tournament and had an exceptional year. Jacson was a leading point scorer for us this year on the team. Jacson has improved so much as a wrestler since last year. I look forward to seeing how much Jacson grows from this year to next year."
David City has its work cut out to remain at the top of Class C, but Thiem isn't counting his underclassmen out.
"Obviously losing two state champions and one third place finisher is going to make an impact on our team. I feel confident with our JV guys we have waiting in the wings. There are a lot of teams in class C that are returning almost their entire line up. We are going to worry about us and making each one of our kids better in the offseason."