The best wrestlers in Nebraska prepare for the final match, the lights are off, and they run out of a tunnel through the smoke onto the mat. “It was nerve-wracking. Walking through the tunnel and the spotlights; I got nervous,” Junior Gavyn Brauer said.
Time had run out for Brauer in the third period. He hopped up from the mat and ran over to wrestling coach, John Little, picking him up with excitement. Brauer had just won the state wrestling championship.
North Platte High School took five wrestlers to the Nebraska State Activities Association wrestling competition, and three of them brought back medals on Feb. 22. Brauer placed first, junior Jaylan Ruffin brought back second place and junior Darian Diaz ranked third.
The night before the finals, Brauer got little sleep. “ I was up all night watching films on my opponent and how he wrestled,” he said. “I couldn’t sleep because I was really nervous.”
Brauer had a supportive crowd cheering him on. “It felt really good. I had my cousins come down and my family. I had so much support from those guys, it just meant a lot,” he said
Brauer gives the credit to wrestling coach, Dale Hall, for his gold medal. “I would have never wrestled if coach Hall didn’t make me start in middle school. I never wanted to wrestle,” he said.
Diaz fell short in his semifinal round losing 2-1. He was out for half of the season earlier this year, but he doesn’t think it affected his performance in the semifinals. “I don’t think it affected the outcome of that match. I think the one thing that changed from missing half the season was that he had a little more experience than me for that match,” Diaz said.
The next two matches Diaz wrestled, he was victorious in, which led him to medal third. Diaz has competed in state wrestling every year in high school. “I’ve been there three times, so it’s pretty normal now. I take away every year that no matter the outcome just to have fun and come back next year and do better,” Diaz said.
The atmosphere is what Ruffin will take from state into his senior season. “I like what I wrestled in with all the people yelling and cheering, and there’s a lot of people watching,” he said.
Ruffin lost in the finals by a pin, and he thinks it’s because he changed the way he wrestled. “I wrestled good in all my other matches and in the final match. In the second period, I went away from my game plan, and I should have stuck to my game plan,” Ruffin said.
Ruffin plans to work all year to be better next year at state. “I was definitely sad that I lost, but I just tried thinking maybe I’ll be here next year, strive for that, and work all off-season and come back better next year,” Ruffin said.