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Lakeview wrestling hasn't had a state champion since 1995. Over the next three days in Omaha, eight Vikings are looking for the opportunity to end that drought and have their name mentioned among the all-time greats in school history.

The current senior class has seen the program go from a relative unknown in the wrestling community to a powerhouse in just four years.

During the 2016 NSAA state championships, the Vikings sent just two wrestlers to state with both wrestlers going 0-2.

The Vikings tripled that number in 2017, sending six. Those six wrestlers went a combined 8-12 and were not able to bring back any hardware.

2018 saw seven wrestlers make state. Zeth Gerkensmeyer placed sixth for the Vikings while Jacob Frenzen was the state runner-up.

Lakeview went a combined 10-14 during last year's state championship.

This season, the Vikings travel to the CHI Health Center hoping to add to an already historic campaign. The Vikings won the Schuyler Invite for the first time in school history, won the Central Conference Tournament for the first time in school history and qualified for state duals for the first time in school history.

Gage Perry will be competing in his fourth state tournament. Joel Lemburg and Gerkensmeyer will make their third trips to Omaha. Boston Barcel, Jacob Frenzen and Cody Thompson will be representing Lakeview for their second time, and Austen Smith makes his first appearance. 

With only two former state champions in the past, Lakeview hopes to see that number grow this year. Both Gerkensmeyer at 160 and Frenzen at 182 are projected to make the state title match according to NEWrestle.com.

Gerkensmeyer, ranked No. 1 in Class B for 160, has gone 43-3 this season. His losses are to David City's Dylan Vodicka,ranked No. 1 in Class C, Luke Martin of Bishop Heelan, Iowa and Avery McMeekin of Columbus High who is ranked No. 3 in Class A. All three losses happen before Dec. 8.

Despite the success, Gerkensmeyer says he felt that he could have done more.

"Depending on how the beginning went I really think I left some stuff hang out there in the beginning," he said. "That's something I'll never forget is how I really just let some things go against Bishop Heelan, Columbus and even my first meet."

Frenzen has gone 38-7 this season and is ranked No. 2 in Class B. Five of the losses have come against ranked wrestlers.

"I'm pretty happy with how I've done," Frenzen said. "I have seven losses, and five of the kids are ranked. I've got around 40 wins. I'm pretty happy, but I'd be a lot happier if I had a gold medal at the end."

Gerkensmeyer and Frenzen both said they've noticed a change in the program and the team's perception since they arrived on the scene four years ago.

Gerkensmeyer wasn't sure everyone was on board a year ago when the team was transitioning into one to watch at the top of the Class B ranks. Now that the Vikings have established themselves as a quality opponent, he's seen more commitment in season and out of season.

Frenzen said he sees it in team recognition. Lakeview has garnered more respect, and more acknowledgement of its ability both within Columbus and the Nebraska wrestling community at large.

"I notice a lot more people know who I am and who Lakeview is," he said.

"Last year we just kind of popped onto the scene. This year we busted that door open. Everyone knows who we are. I don't know if they really want to be at the same tournament as us."

The two state-champion hopefuls have different approaches when it comes to studying brackets.

Gerkensmeyer says he doesn't look ahead at possible future opponents.

"I don't look at anything," he said. "I'm just there to wrestle the way I do. If I fail I always learn from it, but I always hate myself after it because I know I should have had it in the beginning. As I look at it, I'm no different than the rest of the guys up there."

Frenzen, on the other hand, prefers to study his opponents and look for weaknesses.

"I look at my bracket," he said. "I like to know whom I'm wrestling and what they're doing. I strategize to know what I can do to counter that or how I can beat them."

While Lakeview is trending positively, Gerkensemeyer seemed frustrated that it took this long for the Vikings to achieve success. Now that they've arrived, he wants to keep it that way.

"It's kind of disappointing (to only have two state champions)," he said. "I think of this program as something that could have been greater than what it was in the past years. I'm just looking to make sure we set the bar, and this is the bar."

Frenzen also mentioned that he appreciates the support from friends, family and Viking alumni.

"I remember last year I had guys that had wrestled in the finals for Lakeview texting me and calling me and wishing me the best of luck," he said.

"Even if I wouldn't make it to that state championship, I know I have a lot of guys in my corner cheering me on no matter what."

Gerkensemeyer has separated himself from the pack. He has defeated the No. 2 and No. 3 ranked wrestlers in his weight class twice each.

Frenzen has faced No. 1 Eli Jansen of Omaha Skutt Catholic during the district championships where he lost 6-1.

"My goal is to win a state championship," Frenzen said. "It's a tall, lofty goal, but how I've been wrestling this year, it's very doable. I want guys not to just be learning who I am. I want guys to remember who I am.

"(I need to) wrestle more solid. (Jansen) is a great wrestler himself. That's why he's ranked No. 1 ahead of me. I've got to wrestle more solid and not let him take me down as many times as he did, counter some of the stuff he did and get my butt off the bottom."

Peter Huguenin is a sports reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at sports@columbustelegram.com

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