DES MOINES — There might not be anybody in the state wrestling field that’s more determined to prove a point than Eric Faught.
The Clear Lake junior has been a state title contender since he stepped on the mat as a freshman, but has come up short for two straight years with a runner-up finish as a freshman, and third-place showing as a sophomore.
“I’ve been told that I’m too good not to win a state title, and I’ve wanted to believe that forever,” Faught said. “Freshman year and sophomore year, I didn’t get it done and I’m running out of options, so it’s now or never.”
His start to the 2018 Class 2A state tournament on Thursday echoed that urgency.
Faught, who is No. 1 at 126 pounds, took his opening-round opponent, sixth-ranked Hunter Pfantz of West Marshall to the mat three times in the first two periods and nearly had him pinned, but blood time halted the match. Faught went on to record two more takedowns in the third to stroll to a 13-2 win by major decision. He’ll be joined in the Friday’s quarterfinals by freshman teammate Sam Nelson.
The aggressiveness shown by Faught is something he’s been working on, but it’s also a message.
“It’s just a point that I’m trying to prove that I’m on a mission this year and I’m not going to let anything stop me, even cheap stuff that kids are trying to pummel me in the face 100 times,” he said. “They can do what they want; I’m just going to wrestle my style. That’s what I’ve been telling myself. If I just wrestle the way, I’m supposed to wrestle, no one should stop me.”
Faught will meet Tipton’s John Crowley in Friday’s quarterfinals.
Nelson, who’s ranked No. 9 at 106 pounds, was equally as dominant in his tournament debut.
He came out of the gate firing, taking his shots when he could, and racking up the points in the process. What resulted was a 15-0 third-period technical fall over Johnathon Erp of Red Oak.
“I started the match off very aggressive, which is a bit different than normal, and that definitely helped,” Nelson said. “It’s a big confidence booster for me, and it’s just getting any nerves left out.”
Getting Nelson acclimated to the scene was a point of emphasis coming in, but Clear Lake coach Mike Lester felt Nelson had already experienced plenty in his career so far to help him.
“The biggest thing I liked about him was how he warmed up,” Lester said. “He didn’t let the nerves and excitement get to him his first time down. We talked about that in Waterloo how that’s a big event, we talked about AAU last year how that helped him out, and that was a huge advantage for him. He seemed settled and worked into it, and then his style took off.”
Nelson advances to Friday’s quarterfinals where he will meet No. 5 Colby Lilegard of Bondurant-Farrar.
The Lions’ lone other qualifier, Kade Hambly, stayed alive in the consolation bracket with a pin in 5:41 vs. Andy Lilegraven of Decorah. Hambly dropped his opener 6-2 against Albia’s Ben Mason.