By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
The wrestling season can sometimes feel like a marathon but the sprint to the finish line begins with district meets in all three classes on Saturday.
By Saturday evening the state tournament field will be set and seven days later 42 state champions will be crowned.
That is how fast the postseason moves in prep wrestling.
Before attention turns to the state meet held February 16-18 at Wells Fargo Arena here is what to keep an eye on as wrestlers via for a coveted state meet berth.
Keeping It Going
It has been an impressive start to the postseason for Solon.
The Spartans pushed 13 wrestlers through to the 2A, District 2 meet at Fairfield with a dominating effort at sectionals last Saturday and qualified for the state dual meet for the first time since 2001 on Tuesday.
Second-ranked Solon will try to continue that success on Saturday.
“It’s really nice going into Saturday because not a lot of teams get to wrestle on Tuesday so that gives us a match or two matches ahead of them,” Solon senior Trevor Nelson said. “It also ramps up our confidence because everyone wrestled well.”
The defending 2A runner-up at 160 pounds, Nelson is ranked fourth and is one of seven ranked wrestlers for Solon.
Sending all seven of those ranked wrestlers to state would put the Spartans in a good spot next week.
Adding a few more qualifiers could be a huge bonus for the Spartans which have established themselves as legit title contenders in 2A.
Continuing the Climb
It has been another season full of improvement for City High under head coach Cory Connell.
City High went from fifth at the Mississippi Valley Conference Super Meet last season to runner-up this year.
Now the Little Hawks are hoping to carry that success into the postseason at the Class 3A, District 5 meet at Mount Pleasant.
After qualifying three wrestlers for the state meet in Connell’s first three seasons combined the Little Hawks sent four wrestlers to state last year and came home with 12 points and a state medal.
City High has the talent to improve on those numbers this season.
The Little Hawks enter district competition with four ranked wrestlers and two returning state qualifiers led by unbeaten 195-pound junior Jacob Dykes (41-0) and senior fifth-ranked 220-pounder Jordain Buckland (26-2).
Junior Joey Harney (38-9) is ranked ninth at 132 and senior Brock Hunger (35-7) is tenth at 182.
If those four ranked wrestlers can qualify the Little Hawks will have matched their qualifiers from last year and have several other wrestlers capable of moving on.
Looking for More
Almost every wrestler starts thinking about a state title this time of year.
Four area wrestlers enter district competition on Saturday thinking about adding to their title counts.
West High junior Nelson Brands, Regina senior Jared Brinkman and Solon seniors Bryce and Drew West all already have a state title to their credit and will be attempt to earn the chance to tack on another on Saturday.
The top-ranked 152-pounder in Class 3A, Brands won the first title of his career last season at 138 pounds.
Brands (48-1) has gone undefeated against Iowa competition this season and has done so in dominating fashion.
Only six of Brands’ 49 matches have gone the distance with 31 ending by fall and 12 by tech fall.
Brinkman (32-1) will attempt to finish his wrestling career with a second consecutive Class 1A title at 285 pounds.
The Regina senior is 73-1 over the past two seasons and is unbeaten against 1A competition during that span.
Bryce West (48-1) is seeking his third consecutive state title after winning 1A titles at 120 pounds the past two seasons.
He is 153-1 over the last three seasons and is top-ranked in 2A at 120 pounds.
Drew West (49-1) is hoping to bookend his career with a title this season at 126 pounds.
He won a 1A state title as a freshman at 106 pounds but has come up short the past two seasons finishing third as a sophomore and runner-up last season.
Ready for Rematches
The postseason almost always means rematches and this season is no exception for several area wrestlers.
There are no strangers in the 138-pound bracket at the 2A, District 2 meet in Fairfield.
Clear Creek Amana senior Quinn Murphy (35-12) faces Washington’s Andrew Waite (33-8) for the third time this season in the semifinals.
Murphy has gone 1-1 against Waite this season and with a win could face ninth-ranked Solon senior Ben Carr for the fourth time in less than a month in the finals.
Carr won the first two meetings 5-4 and 10-8 in sudden victory over Murphy before a third-period pin at sectionals last week.
Carr (36-8) faces his own semifinal rematch against Keokuk junior Matt Wyatt who he pinned earlier this season.
Regina sophomore Nick Milder (34-3) faces a pair of potential rematches in the road to his first state tournament berth.
Milder faces Wilton junior Cameron Reddick (23-13) in the 170-pound semifinals at the 1A, District 8 meet in Wilton.
Reddick knocked Milder out of the postseason with a 5-2 win at the sectional meet last year but Milder has won the only meeting this season, pinning Reddick in the semifinals of the River Valley Conference tournament.
Waiting for Milder could be a rematch with sixth-ranked Bryce Werderman of Lisbon. Werderman won a 5-2 decision over Milder for the sectional title at Lisbon last week.
There are plenty of brackets filled with talent at district meets featuring area teams but a few stand out.
Two of the four-person brackets at 2A, District 2 in Fairfield feature three ranked wrestlers including 106 where top-ranked Grayson Kesterson of Williamsburg, fifth-ranked Jarod Kadel of Columbus and No. 9 Walker Ikerd of Washington.
The 195-pound bracket at Fairfield is equally impressive with three wrestlers in the top nine.
Third-ranked Michael Fritz of Fairfield, Washinton’s sixth-ranked Karlton Skubal, ninth-ranked Josh Holub and rising Solon senior Jackson Walker (16-6) will battle it out for two state tournament spots.
The 160-pound bracket at 3A, District 5 features a couple of top-seven MVC rivals in fourth-ranked Tyger Whitters of Cedar Rapids Prairie and No. 7 Carter Rohweder (42-7) of West High.
Rohweder won the only regular season meeting between the two 8-4 last week.