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If Thursday night was any indication, Lakeview wrestling may yet again be on the verge of history in Schuyler.

The Vikings closed the dual season Thursday at Scotus with two dominant wins over the host Shamrocks and Class C opponent Boone Central/Newman Grove.

They lost just three total matches out of 14 and improved to 16-2 overall. It was an impressive way to close the regular season dual schedule and, essentially, punch their ticket to state duals next weekend.

That in itself will be historic.

Prior to though, Lakeview is in Schuyler on Saturday for the Central Conference Tournament.

Coach Jeff Bargen can't confirm with complete confidence but is fairly certain the Vikings have never won the conference championship.

They also had never won the Schuyler Invite in more than 40 years of attendance, then won 13 medals, sent five wrestlers to title matches and took the top spot in the team standings by 29 points.

Saturday, the Warriors welcome in the Vikings and eight other teams to the mats. Four, including Grand Island Northwest (No. 5), Lakeview (No. 6), Lexington (T-No. 8) and Schuyler (T-No. 8) are in the latest NEwrestle.com rankings.

Those four plus a solid York team are the favorites to raise the team trophy. Northwest claimed it last year.

"We wrestled tough, and that's what you've got to have this time of year," coach Jeff Bargen said after Thursday night's dual. "In the matches we lost, we had our chances. I was really proud of the way we started out against Boone, and we continued to ride that momentum against Scotus.

Lakeview's only two dual losses of the season came at the Nebraska Duals in December 2018 hosted at Central Community College.

Class A No. 4 Columbus defeated LHS 44-19 while Class 2A Iowa school Sioux City Bishop Heelan handed the Vikings their other loss, though that one was due to tiebreaker criteria in a 31-30 final.

Lakeview has won every tournament its been a part of this season, except for at Logan View where the hosts outscored the Vikings by 19.5 points. Lakeview had three champs that afternoon but one fewer finalist than the hosts.

LHS won its home tournament setting a new school record for points and number of finalists on Nov. 30, the Jack Murray Invite hosted by Ashland-Greenwood on Jan. 4, in Schuyler on Jan. 12 and Madison last weekend.

"We're pretty tough (in duals and tournaments) either way you look at it. If they did separate dual rankings, I think we'd be a little higher up. ...I guess most people probably look at us as a real strong dual team. We've been able to have different guys go in at different times and still do pretty well, so we have some depth there," Bargen said.

"It's definitely a good problem to have to try and figure out what you're better at."

Saturday in Schuyler will feature 21 ranked wrestlers in the 14 weight classes. Six weights have two or more in the rankings. Only 120 pounds is without a ranked wrestler.

The two most stacked brackets look to be 152 pounds, where No. 2 Harrison Gocke of York, No. 4 Carson Core of Seward and No. 6 Carter Pursley of Aurora are all in the field.

The very next class, 160, features No. 1 Riley Kopf of Lexington, Lakeview's Zeth Gerkensmeyer - currently No. 2 - and No. 3 Caden Yrkoski of Schuyler.

Other ranked Vikings include No. 5 Gage Perry at 126 in a bracket that includes No. 4 Collin Quandt of Northwest, No. 4 Joel Lemburg at 138 facing a bracket that includes no other ranked foes and No. 2 Jacob Frenzen at 182 in the same scenario.

"Saturday is going to be a tough one. It will be interesting to see how it shakes out because most teams are solid top to bottom," Bargen said. "You can just go down the 10 teams and find quality guys. (Schuyler Athletic Director) Jim Kasik is going to do his best to make everyone realize we have the best wrestling conference, bar none, in the state."

The conference tournament is the beginning of a stretch run that includes state duals the following week, the district meet at Platteview then state in Omaha.

It seemed just like yesterday the Vikings were starting off the season at home with a big night in front of the home crowd. In the midst of all the success since, it's truly been a case of time flies when you're having fun.

"We talk about it all the time, it's going to be done in the blink of an eye," Bargen said. "It really has been a fast season for us.

"We're getting into the postseason now, and we talk about just enjoying the ride, wrestling with confidence and believing in yourself."

Viking Notebook

Among all the blowout wins Thursday night for Lakeview, it was perhaps a loss that was the most memorable and enjoyable for the wrestlers and coaches.

Junior Austin Rollman took on Class C No. 1 Jon Merten of Boone Central/Newman Grove and nearly had the upset early with a takedown and back points.

He led 6-2, eventually lost 13-8, but had his teammates, friends and family jumping to their feet early on and applauding appreciatively afterward.

"He pancaked him from his feet, and I came out of my chair on that one," Bargen said. "It would have been interesting if that one would have been in the middle of the mat and not out on the edge of the circle.

"Austin has improved all year on his positioning and hanging in there in those tough matches, giving himself a chance."

The reaction to Rollman's near pin was partly due to the quality of opponent, but, more likely, a reaction to the hard work and dedication Rollman has shown throughout the season.

He started at heavyweight to fill a spot for Cody Thompson as the senior came down from his football weight to 285.

All the while, he himself was dropping weight in order to fit into the 220-pound class once Thompson was ready. In that time, he cut 25 pounds.

That sort of commitment to the team success has earned Rollman the kind of respect that shows itself when a hard-working guy puts the No. 1 wrestler on his back.

Rollman is 22-11 overall between varsity and junior varsity and has won nine of his last 11.

"It took him a while to get down there. He's been working to maintain that. We have two pretty good 220-pounders with Rollman and (Bradyn) Kucera," Bargen said. "They've been wrestling for that spot. It's good to have two pretty tough guys there."

Nate Tenopir is the sports editor for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at sports@columbustelegram.com

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