Aquinas wrestling has long been a Nebraska high school powerhouse.

With four team championships in 1994, 2001, 2002 and 2004 and 35 individual state championships, there can be a lot to live up to donning a black and gold singlet.

The 2019 Aquinas wrestling team lived up to those expectations, adding yet another memorable season to the archives. 

Joseph Reimers topped individual achievements when he won his third straight state championship and finished the season undefeated for a second straight year when he defeated Luke Fairbanks of Wahoo Neumann 14-2 in the Class C 182-pound championship. 

"It feels great because not a lot of people see the work behind the scenes," he said after winning the gold. "Moments like this let you know it's worth it. This means more to me and my parents than anybody else."

Zach Zitek added a silver medal in the 113-pound weight class, finishing the season with a 26-1 record. 

Cameron Schrad and Hunter Vandenberg added two more medals placing fourth and sixth, respectively. 

As a team, the Monarchs placed fifth at the individual state tournament. 

"Our young guys did really well," said co-head coach Eric Pflum after the state tournament. "That will help us with next year. That's a good deal. To come down here, see some success and win some matches. We have a lot these kids coming back."

Aquinas also finished runner-up at the State Dual Championship defeating cross-town rival David City in the first round and Arlington in the second round before losing to Broken Bow in the championship. 

The win over David City was the first time the Monarch Senior class was able to defeat their rival in a dual in quite some time. 

“This means a lot. We’ve been working hard all year, and this is one of our goals,” co-head coach Eric Pflum said after the state dual championships. “We wanted to bring home one of the trophies home from here." 

The memorable season began Nov. 29 in a dual against Boone Central/Newman Grove. The Monarchs defeated the Cardinals 50-25 then went on to compete in the Wood River invite on Dec. 7 and the North Bend Central Tournament on Dec. 8. 

Aquinas dominated in both tournaments and took home seven gold medals during the two events. Reimers and Zitek taking gold in both tournaments and Schrad, Nolan Eller and Owen Schramm were on top the podium at NBC. 

On Dec. 13, The Aquinas wrestling team was down 15-13 six matches into the dual with Scouts Central Catholic, but came back scoring six pins and one forfeit in the last eight matches to win 55-21.

Two days later, the tournament success continued for Aquinas at the Wahoo Invite with three gold medalists on way to placing first as a team.

Ben Shonka, Zitek and Reimers were all champions. 

On Dec. 21, Aquinas Catholic won a medal at every weight class, put a team member in 11 title matches and ran away with yet another tournament championship in the Bob Arehart tournament in Friend. 

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Zitek, Noah Scott, Creighton Redler, Eller and Reimers all left the tournament with gold around their neck.

In the Wood River Holiday Duals on Dec. 29. Aquinas went 4-1 as a team defeating Amherst, Raymond Central, Hershey and Gibbon with the lone loss coming to Broke Bow. 

The Aquinas wrestling team placed second at its own invitational on Jan. 5 out of 16 teams thanks to championships by Reimers and Tad Naiberk.

On Jan. 10, the Monarchs competed in the Butler County duals - a triangular with David City and East Butler. 

Aquinas lost a close dual that came down to the wire against David City and trounced East Butler 69-12. 

On Jan. 12, Aquinas took a step up in competition going to the Schuyler Invite to face off against some top-tier Class B teams. 

The Monarchs still managed to finish in second place as a team, with Columbus Lakeview taking the team title. 

Reimers added another gold medal to his collection. 

The Aquinas wrestling team won the Centennial Conference Tournament beating out second-place Scotus on Jan. 19. Vandenberg, Schrad, Eller, Ben Kment and Reimers all won gold medals at the conference tournament. 

Aquinas wrestling soared to a first-place finish in the Boone Central Invite beating Omaha Westside out by 26.5 points on Jan. 26.

The Monarchs had two wrestlers win gold - Schrad and Reimers.

This was the last regular-season dual, before the State Dual Championships. 

One week after the State Duals, Aquinas competed in the District Tournament with a spot at state on the line. 

Aquinas finished the tournament atop the team standing and brought home three gold medals with Zitek, Schrad and Reimers all winning their respective brackets. 

In total, the Monarchs qualified 11 wrestlers to the state tournament during districts. 

"It feels good," said co-head coach Eric Pflum after the tournament. "The kids work hard every day in practice, and this was one of their goals to go to state. You tell them to keep chasing their dreams and to keep chasing their goals, and that's what they do."

Vandenberg, Zitek, Schrad, Christopher Nickolite, Redler, Eller, Kment, Reimers, Nolan Schultz, Naiberk and Schramm were the 11 wrestlers who qualified for state.

Peter Huguenin is a sports reporter for The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at DVDsports@lee.net  

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