City High senior Jordain Buckland has opened the season 10-0 with nine pins.
By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – Entering his fifth season leading the wrestling program at his alma mater Cory Connell had a challenge for his City High team.
“Stop being alright with being good and start being great,” Connell said flatly. “Start being great.”
That demand from Connell struck a nerve with Jordain Buckland. The senior 220-pounder understood his coaches’ request better than most.
In his first season of varsity wrestling last season Buckland definitely fit in that category of good. Buckland went 30-10 and advanced to the state meet, going 0-2 in his first trip to Wells Fargo Arena.
A few weeks into his senior season a more confident, more motivated Buckland is knocking on the door of great.
Buckland has opened the season with 10 straight wins, climbing to seventh in the 220-pound rankings by IAwrestle.
“I’m working toward a state title, nothing else,” Buckland said. “(Last year) showed me I can hang with the best, I can beat the best if I get my work ethic going and train harder. Coach talks to us about being great and that’s what I’m aiming to do.”
Last season was an adjustment for Buckland who moved to City High from Arizona midway through his sophomore year.
Transfer regulations limited him to junior varsity competition as a sophomore and Buckland spent last season getting used to the rigors of varsity wrestling in Iowa.
“It’s different, there is a lot more competition,” Buckland said. “In Arizona, the top guys were good and then there was a big drop off, here it seemed like a lot of guys were good.”
Buckland was among those good wrestlers last year.
Connell believes this season Buckland has what it takes to be great, starting with his mental approach.
“I’ve seen a big change in him mentally this year, last year he would take a back seat to a guy who he thought was good,” Connell said. “This year mentally he is starting to believe that he is the guy. He is starting to believe that he is one of the guys to beat.”
Buckland points towards his first trip to the state meet as the turning point.
He led Dubuque Hempstead’s Alex Freiburger 3-2 in the final minute of the third period before being pinned.
After being 40 seconds from advancing to the second round, Buckland lost his consolation match by second period fall and finished his first state meet experience 0-2.
“It kind of haunts me a lot,” Buckland said. “I try to forget about it and not worry about it too much but it’s always going to be there.”
Buckland views his first state tournament match as a microcosm of his entire junior season.
He wasn’t aggressive enough he says. He didn’t push the pace, he remembers. He was content being good, not great.
“I kind of took a backseat,” Buckland said. “I was winning by a point with 40 seconds left and I wasn’t shooting enough. I got my arms caught and he took me to my back. I definitely should have been more aggressive. It’s the past I just have to learn from it and move on.”
Buckland hasn’t taken a back seat to anyone this season.
He has pinned nine opponents during his 10-0 start to the season.
That includes a first-period pin of then 3A sixth-ranked Cameron Baker of Council Bluffs Thomas Jefferson.
Buckland also owns a win over 2A seventh-ranked Jack Cochrane of Mount Vernon.
“He has the same mindset we are working on with a lot of the kids, we are working to be great,” Connell said. “Getting them out of this mentality that I’m going to win the matches I should and lose the matches I should. I’m going out there to win every single time I step out on the mat and if I don’t win I’m going to make the guy go through heck to beat me. Getting that mindset of I’m going to be great.”