Nichols’ decision sends Bishop Ryan back to state

Every match matters. Every second counts.

That was the theme for the Bishop Ryan wrestling team in the Region 3 championship match against Stanley on Saturday.

Tyler Allers (220 pounds) and Mason Kramer (285) each pinned their respective opponents in the final minute of their matches and Leighton Nichols (120) propelled the Lions to their first region championship since 2003, winning the final match of the tournment to defeat the Blue Jays 35-31.

“It was so great hearing the crowd and everything,” Nichols said. “It kept me going. I did it for my team and everyone. It was great to have the opportunity to wrestle.”

The 13-6 decision clinched a second consecutive appearance at state as well as the No. 1 seed out of the west.

“It’s been a long time since Bishop Ryan has been region champs,” Ryan coach Chase Lee said. “Being at home, having our home crowd here, that was huge. They were cheering the whole time. It was exciting. The kids fed off of it. It was just a great dual.”

The Lions trailed 27-12 more than halfway through the match to the delight of the Velva wrestlers, who needed a Stanley victory to keep their hope of reaching state alive. After Ryan’s Dakota Johnson (195) won his match by a 9-3 decision, Allers brought the crowd to its feet after a much-needed pin with just 40 seconds remaining in the match.

“I knew I had to go out there and get the pin and make it easier for my team,” Allers said. “At first I thought it was going to be hard to get (the pin). It was hard getting him over, but I put everything into it and finally got him over. It really set the momentum.”

Kramer echoed Allers’ performance, pinning Stanley’s Benjamin Collupy with 16 seconds remaining to pull the Lions even with three matches to go.

The teams traded major decisions to keep the score tied headed into the final match. Nichols matched up with Stanley’s Jaden Iverson, two wrestlers who have history with one another.

“I knew it was going to be a close match,” Lee said. “The last time those two wrestlers wrestled last week in New Salem, we ended up getting a pin off him. Dual regionals, it’s a whole different atmosphere.”

Nichols led wire-to-wire, nearly pinning Iverson in the first round. Nichols clung to a 7-4 lead after the second round and sealed Ryan’s appearance at state with six points in the final two minutes.

“Bishop Ryan hasn’t won (regionals) for a while,” Nichols said. “To be able to come here and wrestle for this school, it’s awesome.”

Ryan’s victory eliminated Velva from state contention. Stanley – which sealed a spot at state before the end of the match via Velva’s third-place victory – earned the No. 2 seed out of the west, winning the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Aggies. The Blue Jays defeated Velva 38-36 in the semifinals.

Earlier in the day, the Lions came from behind against Des Lacs-Burlington before winning by a comfortable score of 52-19 to earn a berth in the championship match. Ryan trailed 16-6 after the first four matches, but won eight of the final nine.

The Lions opened the meet with a 48-21 dual victory over Kenmare in which they led wire-to-wire. Aaron Sandy (106) led off the match by pinning Kenmare’s Branden Burtch in the opening minutes. Two Kenmare forfeits at 113 and 120 gave the Lions an 18-0 lead. The Lions won all but two matches against the Honkers via forfeit.