KEARNEY, Nebraska — On Saturday, the Cloud County Community College wrestling team competed in its final event before the Thanksgiving break with a trip to the University of Nebraska-Kearney Holiday Inn Open.
Cloud County received a handful of strong performances at a tournament that featured nearly 500 wrestlers between NCAA Division I, NCAA Division II, NAIA and NJCAA teams, making for deep and talented brackets at all 10 weight classes.
"As a team, I thought we performed a lot better and bought in to the tough matches," said Cloud County head coach, Cody Cole. "What we were looking for coming off those three duals against NCAA Division II schools was to see our guys develop the mentality of going after people. This was a huge and difficult open for our kids to wrestle in going into Thanksgiving."
Sophomore heavyweight Benny Hernandez led the T-Birds with a sixth-place finish, going 3-1 on the day before being forced to sit out the consolation semi-final and fifth-place match due to injury forfeits.
The No. 4 ranked 285-pounder at the NJCAA level suffered the injury in his 7-1 decision loss to Western State's Logan Church in the championship semi-finals. With the amount of matched Hernandez and the T-Birds have wrestled the past week, Cole said the T-Birds decided to err on the side of caution.
"He went out and performed really well," Cole said. "I think he might have been able to push through (the injury), but he's been in a lot of tough matches the last week and half and we thought it was better to give him some rest there after he tweaked his knee."
Cloud County also received strong showings from freshman Quentin Jiner at 157 pounds as he finished 3-2 on the day, including wins over NCAA Division II opponents Austin Morgan (15-2 major) out of Central Missouri and Ryan Fidal (3-1 decision) out of Colorado School of Mines.
"He fought really hard and has improved a lot on his feet in the last few weeks," Cole said. "He's bought in and changed his style to fit what we're trying to do here. He's improved immensely so far as a collegiate wrestler."
Freshman 133-pounder Dakota Miller wrestled for the first time since Nov. 8 after suffering a rib injury in the dual against Colorado Mesa University, finishing the tournament 3-2 and advancing to the fourth round of the consolation bracket.
Sophomore Cameron Young also returned to the lineup for the T-Birds, wrestling in his first action of 2018 and posting a 2-2 afternoon.
Cloud County will be off until Dec. 2 when it travels out to Fort Hays State University for the Bob Smith Open.
The T-Birds will focus the next two weeks on rest and recovery before jumping into the heart of their schedule.
"We'll use this time to get some guys healthy and get stronger in the weight room," Cole said. "We'll also continue to work on and clean up some of our techniques. Our full lineup should be back ready for the Bob Smith Open."
Notes: Cloud County graduate Ryan Delforge, currently wrestling for Ottawa University, finished second overall in the amateur 157-pound bracket