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IHSA State Wrestling

Highland's Tanner Farmer celebrates his championship in the 285-pound weight class of the Class 2A IHSA state championship match in the in Assembly Hall at the University of Illinois in Champaign, Ill. on Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013. John Swistak Jr., STLhighschoolsports.com

If Highland’s Tanner Farmer makes a promise, you can be sure he intends to honor it.

Earlier this week, Farmer signed a letter of intent to play football at the University of Nebraska, following up on an oral commitment he made in late June. A first-team Post-Dispatch All-Metro tackle, Farmer had scholarship offers from 16 schools, including Illinois and Missouri, and was contacted by countless programs after he committed to Nebraska.

But he never wavered.

“When I got calls, I told them I wasn’t interested, that I was going to Nebraska, ‘’ the 17-year-old said. “And anything I got in the mail went right into the trash. I knew the minute I visited Nebraska and got the offer last summer that’s where I wanted to be.”

An honor roll student who is planning a career in medicine, Farmer stands 6-foot-4, played football at 315 pounds and likely will shift to guard or center with the Cornhuskers. Rivals.com listed him as the No. 4 guard prospect in the country and No. 82 overall in the Class of 2014. He was a key member of a Highland squad that went from 0-9 in 2011 to finish 11-1 and reach the Class 5A quarterfinals last fall.

But strangely, football might not be Farmer’s best sport. He is also one of the area’s premier wrestlers. He earned All-Metro honors a year ago after becoming the first Bulldog to win a state medal when he finished 39-0 and captured the Class 2A title at 285 pounds. Today, in the Class 2A regional at Mascoutah, he will begin his title defense, coming in at 26-0 with 21 pins and five forfeits. Just one of his matches this season has reached the second period.

“I’d pinned the guy earlier in the season and he spent the first period running from me,’’ Farmer recalled. “I ended up getting the takedown and pin 16 seconds into the second period.’’

“He’s the real deal,’’ Triad coach Russ Witzig said. “He’s incredibly strong, but he’s also quick and he knows how to wrestle. In my mind — and I know not everyone would agree with me — he’s a better wrestler than he is a football player.’’

Highland wrestling coach Terry Ohren, who has trained Farmer since he was 8, tends to agree. But he supports Farmer’s decision.

“Tanner has a full ride to a top-level school,’’ the coach said. “It’s his future; he made his choice and I respect that.’’

Ohren, who competed as a 105-pounder, has provided the hard-working Farmer with a unique set of wrestling skills.

“When he came to kid’s club, I taught him to wrestle as a little guy because that’s all I knew,’’ Ohren admits. “He’s very quick for a big guy and he’s good with his single- and double-leg takedowns. At the same time, he’s worked on and developed his throws.

“With Tanner’s skills and his strength, he’s a tough matchup for anybody he wrestles.’’

Farmer added: “I wrestle and play football similarly. I like to be as aggressive as possible. On the mat, I like to go for the takedown early and then try to control the match from there.’’

Some wondered if Farmer would return to prep wrestling after making the football commitment to Nebraska, but Farmer said that was never an option.

“I owed it to my coaches and to my team to finish what I started,’’ he said. “I love to wrestle and I want to finish strong. My goal is to do whatever I can to bring home another state championship.

“Wrestling has been a big part of my life and I know I’m going to miss it. I feel like I’ve improved a lot as a football player over the last couple of years and I owe a lot of that to wrestling. I’ll put it this way: without wrestling, I know there’s no way that I would’ve ever had an opportunity to play Division I football.’’

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