It may be one of the best traditions in Iowa high school sports, and could be the grandest of all the state tournaments here in this state. How often do you see a major arena sold out for a high school wrestling event?
Here in Iowa, we do it big, so here’s a few things to watch as North Iowa area wrestlers hit the mat at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines:
Returning champs – Cullan Schriever was perfect on the way to a state title last year as a freshman – the first Mason City wrestler to do so. Chance Throndson won Riceville’s first individual state title in 20 years last year as a junior, and he did so with a rare dominating title match, something which isn’t often scene at that level.
Schriever picked up the first loss of his prep career earlier this season at the Cheesehead Invitational in Wisconsin. He’s been perfect ever since, and the top-ranked wrestler at 106 pounds in Class 3A is the favorite to repeat. His first match won’t be easy, though, as he gets No. 3 Grant Harbour of Norwalk.
Throndson comes into the state tournament in not an ideal situation. Although he’s the top-ranked wrestler in at 145 pounds in Class 1A, he took the second seed out of his district after getting upset in his opening match and then winning a wrestleback. Throndson gets No. 10 Ben Smith of Iowa Valley in the first round.
Faught fighting for first state title – Clear Lake junior Eric Faught has twice been painfully close to the thing he’s after most – a state title. He was runner-up as a freshman and had to settle for third place last year. This season, Faught’s been a driven man.
He’s compiled a perfect 49-0 record leading into this week and he’s the top-ranked wreslter at 126 pounds in Class 2A. He’ll get sixth-ranked Hunter Pfantz of West Marshall in the first round.
“Eric Faught, of course, he’s on his mission to get that state title. He’s been working his butt off for that throughout the summer,” Clear Lake coach Mike Lester said.
Bringing a near bus load – Lake Mills and Osage are the two area schools with the most representatives this week. Starting with Lake Mills, they’ll compete in the Class 1A state duals tournament on Wednesday for the third year in a row. The Bulldogs are hoping to improve on third third-place finish from last year. Lake Mills has six wrestlers competing in the traditional tournament – Casey Hanson, Tyler Helgeson, Gabe Irons, Caiden Jones, Jack Ramaker and Elijah Wagner. Jones was a placewinner a year ago.
Osage is well-represented in the traditional tournament as well with six of its own competing – Averee Abben, Joe Jacobs, Spencer Mooberry, Brody Roll, Joe Sullivan and Zach Williams. Jacobs and Williams are the only two with state experience.
“I think we’ve got a chance to get several on the awards stand,” Osage coach Brent Jennings said. “We’ve got some kids with a shot, and I’m just excited to get them down there, get them in the building and see what we can do.”
Beminio is back – One year ago at the state tournament, Belmond-Klemme’s Cameron Beminio was dealt a blow to his hopes of placing at the state tournament when he went down with a knee injury on the second day. The injury took him almost a year to recover from to the point where he can wrestle, and now he’s back at state and has a great shot at a high placement.
He’s 25-2 this season and comes in ranked sixth at 285 in Class 1A.
Opening-round matches to watch – There’s no such things as easy in the state tournament and these opening-round matches define tough, but should be great bouts, all in 1A:
No. 5 (182) Tucker Kroeze of Belmond-Klemme vs. No. 7 (195) Manning Kuboushek of South Winneshiek.
No. 5 (170) Brandon Trees of North Butler-Clarksville vs. No. 3 Bryce Werderman of Lisbon.
No. 6 (106) Brock Dietz of Nashua-Plainfield vs. No. 8 Jose Flores of Sibley-Ocheyedan.
No. 8 (113) Caiden Jones of Lake Mills vs. No. 9 Briar of Logan-Magnolia.