By Ryan Murken Your Prep Sports
Wrestling season is here.
With a little more than two months between the season opening dual meets and the opening day of the 2017 state meet on Feb. 16 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines the high school wrestling season goes by fast.
In an attempt to keep up with everything that goes down between now and the state meet here are five things to watch as wrestling season heats up.
Beware of Brands
The sophomore season for Nelson Brands was a statement season.
After failing to qualify for the state tournament as a freshman, Brands went 54-3 last year and tore through the Class 3A 138-pound bracket on his way to a state title.
Brands reached the state finals with a pair of six-point decisions and a first-period pin the semifinals before edging Cedar Rapids Xaviers’ Clint Lembeck 6-5 in the state title match.
The junior opens the season ranked No. 1 at 152 pounds as he seeks a second consecutive state title.
Solon a contender in 2A
Solon was expecting to make marked improvement in year two under head coach Blake Williams this winter.
The addition of state champions Bryce and Drew West to a lineup that was already returning 13 full-time varsity starters has the Spartans thinking about doing a lot more than just improving.
With the addition of the Wests who won a combined three state titles in three seasons at Highland the Spartans now feature a lineup with five returning state qualifiers and enter the season ranked No. 1 in 2A by IAwrestle.
The Spartans have six ranked wrestlers, including three ranked No. 1 in the preseason rankings.
Bryce West, a two-time defending 1A champion is ranked first at 120 pounds after a 55-0 season a season ago while Drew West, a 2014 state champion is No. 1 at 126 following a 52-1 performance last season.
Senior Trevor Nelson (47-4) was the runner-up at 160 pounds last season and enters ranked No. 1 at 160 pounds.
Senior Ben Carr (43-10) was seventh at state last season and enters the year ranked seventh in 2A at 132 pounds while state qualifier Dillon Diltz (32-10) is fifth at 170 pounds.
Senior Graeson Dall (33-10) opens the season ranked ninth at 152 and joins junior heavyweight Tyler Linderbaum (31-21) and sophomore Zach Bevans (34-19) as starters returning following 30-win seasons.
Jared Brinkman completed a perfect junior season by becoming the fourth state champion in Regina program history.
The senior heavyweight will try to duplicate his unblemished 42-0 mark this season as he attempts to become the Regals’ first two-time champ.
Brinkman was impressive last season on his way to his first state title.
He won 25 matches by fall and racked up 73 takedowns in his unbeaten season that was capped with a 2-1 win over Tim Butcher of Manson Northwest Webster in the 285-pound, 1A title match.
A three-time state qualifier who was fifth as a sophomore in 2015, Brinkman enters his senior season with a 107-22 record.
City High’s Rise
The Little Hawks made big strides last season.
One year after failing to send a wrestler to state, City High had four state qualifiers last season.
Two of those qualifiers return this year as the Little Hawks look to continue their ascent in the fifth season under former Little Hawk state champion Cory Connell.
The signs of growth last season for City High were evident.
City High was fifth at the Mississippi Valley Conference supermeet last season after finishing 10th the previous year, scored 12 points at the state meet, its first points at state since 2013 and won its dual against West High for the first time since 2002.
Senior Jordan Buckland (30-10) and junior Jacob Dykes (21-4) headline a list of 10 returning starters for the Little Hawks after both qualifying for the state meet last year.
Junior Joey Harney (34-11) and Lance Bormann (38-14) and sophomore Kyle Hefley (30-17) all return after 30-win seasons.
Second Season Success
Last year West Branch and Clear Creek Amana were both breaking in new coaches.
This season both programs are looking for progress in year two of their new coaches.
Kyle Forness took over the Clear Creek Amana program last season while Chris Paulus reins at West Branch.
Clear Creek Amana opens the season with one ranked wrestler in senior heavyweight Ethan Taylor who is No. 10 in Class 2A while West Branch returns four starters this season.