Returning champs lead Bearcats into wrestling season

Lee Herrington of Kearney has his arm raised after winning a match at the Nebraska state championship wrestling meet in 2017 (KHGI)

It's been less than two weeks since Kearney fell in a hard-fought game to Omaha North in the Nebraska Class A football state championship.

But some players have already put this defeat in the rear view mirror, wasting no time making the transition to winter sports.

"We condition to go six minutes straight and rest," said head coach Ty Swarm.

"It's a lot more high intensity, about getting things moving. It's a lot more hard work," said Lee Herrington, a 2016 state champion at 285 pounds.

One of them being the Bearcats defensive tackle, who recorded 51 tackles and a memorable pick–six in 2017.

"In football, they're dragging that out for quite some time over four quarters, so there's a different approach to how we have to train those athletes," said Swarm. "Right now we're conditioning them to get back and ready to go six minutes straight. Hopefully for Lee's sake he won't have to do that."

Looking for another championship ribbon, Herrington is anxious to put himself back in grappling condition.

"I've been looking forward to this every time off of football season, stepping onto the wrestling mat is right where I want to be," Herrington says. "There's a difference between football season in shape and wrestling season in shape. I got to train really hard this week to get back into the season and get my weight back down."

For one Kearney Bearcat, the season started less than a month after winning the state title last winter.

Phillip Moomey, who comes in to this season moving up to the 126 pound weight class, competed in 10 events during the off–season, taking home the gold in six of them.

"Don't worry about who it is, just go out there and score as many points as possible," reflected Moomey. "Doesn't matter who your wrestling, or what move you're good at, or what move their good at. Try to keep going at it and try to get better and win by two points instead of one, or three points instead of two. Just try to keep getting as many points as I can and win by as much as I can every match."

"Phillip's put himself on the national scene by just getting out there and competing at national tournaments," said Swarm. "Getting himself into the regional training center and just putting in the time outside of our season, so he can be at that level that he is."

The countdown to the state title has already begun for the Bearcats, who return four of their five placers from the 2017 state meet. The Bearcats have finished second in Class A each of the last two years but hope Herrington, Moomey and crew can put the 'Cats atop the podium this year.

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