DES MOINES – Consistency goes a long way in building a program, and Lake Mills is right there. Three great years in a row certainly help.
Lake Mills added another chapter Wednesday by taking third place for the second straight year, cementing their status as one of the elite in Class 1A.
“We’ve put this little town back on the map and goes to show that you don’t need to go to a big school to be a good wrestler. Just work hard in the room and show what you can do down at state,” Lake Mills sophomore Tyler Helgeson said.
It’s well-documented that the goal all along for coach Alex Brandenburg when he got to Lake Mills was to turn it into a dual-team powerhouse. And once the Bulldogs had made it to state duals two years ago, the next goal turned to winning more inside Wells Fargo Arena. They’ve started on the path as well, and Wednesday’s performance showed just what went into that.
“It means we’ve been fighting hard all year,” Lake Mills senior Gabe Irons said. “What’s been going on in the room is working and we just have to finish strong this year.”
Irons is one who has been on each of the state-qualifying teams. He’s witnessed first-hand the Bulldogs’ rise.
“It’s awesome and it’s amazing being a part of this team. It’s a family,” he said.
After opening Wednesday with a 36-27 win over Missouri Valley, the Bulldogs had their chance to avenge last year’s semifinals loss against yearly power and top-seeded Don Bosco. The way the dual started had them right where they needed to be.
In the second match of the dual, Cole Bergo ignited Lake Mills and its crowd with a come-from-behind win by fall in 3 minutes, 38 seconds over Thomas Evans. In a dual which was going to come down to the wildcards against a stacked Bosco roster, this was big.
It got even bigger the very next match when Drake Harnish’s third-period fall at 182, and then a major decision by Irons at 195 put Lake Mills up 16-4. Against a Bosco team which rarely gives up back points, this was the best start Lake Mills could’ve asked for.
But Don Bosco was too good at the lower weights as they stormed back to score a 42-22 win.
“We knew we had to get pins and to not get pinned, so it was great that Cole Bergo and Drake Harnish could step up,” Irons said. “But, in the end, things didn’t work out the way we wanted it to.”
The Bulldogs wrapped up the day with a victory over Lisbon in the third-place match, and they brought out the pins to do it. Maybe none were bigger than Alex Martinson's at 126.
Martinson took second-ranked Cobe Siebrecht to his back nearly right away in the first period as he recorded a huge pin in 32 seconds for what could be his best win of the year.
Lake Mills added six more pins in the match as Jack Ramaker, Caiden Jones, Kyle Beery, Drae Love, Harnish and Brett Tyler each got in on the fun.
The Bulldogs finished the dual season with a 36-4 dual record.
After Wednesday’s positive start, the Bulldogs will send out six wrestlers in the traditional tournament, which begins Thursday.
As it has in the past, the state duals tournament provided Lake Mills with a sort of warmup, and they’re just ready to get going.
“The past three years have been really good for the team and coach is really happy that all of us are working hard to get down here and do our best at state,” Helgeson said.