RANDOLPH — It’s not often that the younger brother gets to do the older brother one better – and achieve a milestone in the process.
Drew Loberg’s brother, Dylan, held the all-time wins record in the Randolph High School wrestling room after finishing his career with a state championship in 2015, winning his 149th career match.
Earlier this season, the younger brother eclipsed his older brother’s win total and achieved the rare air of wrestlers in Nebraska who have earned 150 wins, winning his first-round match at the Battle Creek Invitational on Jan. 14.
And now, the senior 160-pounder is looking to join an elite group of wrestlers who have been four-time state finalists, a feat he can accomplish if he qualifies for state and reaches the finals later this month.
As is customary for Loberg, he wasted little time taking care of business on the historic win, dispatching a 45-second pin against Nolan Litchfield of Wakefield in the opening round for win No. 150.
“It just felt good,” Loberg said of the historic win. “My brother had the old record at 149, so being able to break his record was pretty cool. When the ref raised my hand, I looked over at the crowd and they were holding up 150 win signs and they announced it, and it was pretty cool to see.”
Winning on the mat has been something the Loberg family has long been accustomed with. Loberg’s dad, Darin, was a state champion for RHS in 1985 and his uncle, Bill Gubbels, was Randolph’s first state champion in 1977. Cousins Kyle and Casey were two-time champions for the Cardinals and another cousin, Jerad, won it all in 2009. A fourth cousin, Zach, was a two-time champion at North Bend in 2003-2004.
“We have a long line of family members who have won state, so to be able to carry on that tradition last year was pretty awesome,” Loberg said of his 2016 state title, which came after a pair of runner-up finishes in 2014 and 2015.
Loberg has been in the Randolph wrestling program for as long as he can remember. Considering his family history, it seemed only natural that he’d want to hit the mats, and he wrestled his first match before he was in kindergarten.
Randolph wrestling coach Mark Lech said he sets a great example every time he’s on the mat.
“He’s a quiet kid but works very hard,” he said. “Even when he was younger, you never had to worry about him being in shape or making weight. He’s always the first one to be ready and he leads a lot more with his actions than anything else.”
With an opportunity to win a second state title, Lech said Loberg’s approach has changed somewhat as he’s worked more toward being a power wrestler and dominating his opponents from the start.
“He changed from a finesse style to more of a win-or-else attitude and tries to get the pin early or work for the technical fall,” he said. “He’s looked to be pretty untouchable. He is focused and wants to get it done and try to score early.”
About the only thing that has stopped Loberg this season has been a broken thumb, suffered during the finals of the Battle Creek Invitational. He wrestled through the pain and had surgery on the thumb five days later, putting him out of action for the last three weeks of the regular season.
“I jammed it on the kid’s knee the first 10 seconds of the match, and when I looked at it and saw the thumb was crooked, I knew that wasn’t good,” he said. “The surgeon said I’ll be ready for districts, so I’ll just wrap it up and be ready to go.”
His hope is make that fourth trip to the Walk of Champions, the moment before state finals when the 112 wrestlers left in the 896-man field compete for state titles on Saturday afternoon at the Century Link Center in Omaha. Even though he’s been through it three times before, being a part of that pre-match ceremony never gets old.
“I get the chills every time the lights go off and they play ‘We Are The Champions,’” he said. “It’s just really cool.”
Lech said he believes his senior 160-pounder stands a good chance of making that fourth trip to the finals.
“It’s been his goal all year and he’s not happy just to win by points,” he said. “He wants to get the school pin record and go through state and win it again. He’s very motivated and wants to be the guy at 160 this year.”
And not just at 160 – but at family reunions when all the state champions sit down and compare resumes.