Pender will be one of the favorites to win a team title in Nebraska, when the state championships start Thursday morning in Omaha.
The Pendragons have qualified nine guys for the state tournament. In all of Class D, there are only seven undefeated wrestlers in the state, and Pender has three of them.
Benny Oliver is 37-0 at 126 pounds. Garrett Bowder is also 37-0 at 132 and 182-pounder Ben Burmester is 34-0. Mark Dunn and Jacob Sebade give the Pendragons five returning state champs.
Even with all that talent, Pender will need all the points they can get to top Amherst, who has won the last 3 Class D team titles.
"Amherst is out there. They beat us the last two years," says Pender head coach Dennis Oliver. "Same situation this year. They qualify more kids than us but I still think we have a shot at them. If we take care of our own business, it should take care of itself."
"I feel a lot of pressure, especially when it comes down to state," says Pender senior Benny Oliver. "I can't lose now or else I don't get my state championship. During the year I really don't think about it until it's brought up."
"Some of us have been wrestling together since we were three or four years old," said Pender senior Garrett Bowder. "Three or four of us have been wrestling together since we were kids. So it's amazing to see it all come together like this."
Class A and D wrestling starts at 9:30 Thursday morning. First round matches in B and C start at 4:30. KTIV will be in Omaha for the tournament.
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