By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
MOUNT PLEASANT – Cory Connell still remembers exactly how he felt leaving the Mount Pleasant gymnasium two years ago following his third district meet as head coach at City High.
No matter how hard he tries to forget it.
City High lost three wrestle back matches for state tournament berths, had two other wrestlers fall in the semifinals and failed to send a wrestler to the state meet for the second year in a row at the 2015 district meet.
Connell and the Little Hawks departed Mount Pleasant with a much different feeling on Saturday.
City High crowned three district champions and qualified six wrestlers for state on its way to a runner-up team finish at the 3A, District 5 meet.
“What a difference between two years ago and today,” Connell said. “To get six through almost seven through and have a lot of chances for more it’s good. We have come a long way but we still have a long way to go to get where want to be.”
Brock Hunger, Jacob Dykes and Jordain Buckland won district titles in consecutive matches as City High qualified the most wrestlers for the state meet during Connell’s five season as head coach.
The six state qualifiers for City High are one less than the Little Hawks had in the first four years under Connell combined.
“In our room Connell always talks about being great and being the best,” Buckland said. “A couple of years we came here trying to place fifth and this year we were here to win it. It’s just a change of culture.”
City High came up just short a district title, finishing nine points behind team champ Cedar Rapids Prairie.
It was the second time in less than a month that City High finished behind Prairie in a key meet after a runner-up finish at the Mississippi Valley Conference Super Meet last month.
“It was a good day for us with a lot of improvement,” Connell said. “We were nine points behind Prairie, they are a great program but I wanted to beat them.”
The runner-up team finish couldn’t didn’t take the shine off an otherwise sparkling day for City High.
Buckland and Dykes were impressive on Saturday while returning to the state meet for the second straight season.
Fifth-ranked Buckland (28-2) won back-to-back matches by fall to win the 220-pound title.
“This is another step to where we want our program to be,” Buckland said. “We lost a few close matches and I wish we could have those back but we’ve got to roll with the guys that we got to state and do our best.”
Dykes (44-0) remained unbeaten on the season while winning the 195-pound title.
The fourth-ranked junior collected his 100th career win with a first-period pin of West High’s Landon Green in the semifinals and won a 9-1 major decision over Kyler Salazar of Oskaloosa in the title match.
“I think today was big, last year we took four and this year we are taking six so we are always improving,” Dykes said. “Everyone is in a much better mood.”
No. 10 Hunger (37-7) used a takedown and three-point nearfall late in the second period to down ninth-ranked Preston LaGrange of Cedar Rapids Prairie for the 182-pound title.
“Today I only hit two moves for points so I made the most of them,” Hunger said. “You just have to be smart and wait for your chances. I just timed him up and hit the move, you just have to believe that you can hit the move.”
Hunger is one of four first-time state qualifiers joining juniors Joey Harney (132), Lance Bormann (126) and Wilfred Kadohou (152) who all finished second Saturday to secure their first trips to the state tournament.
Bormann dropped to a 2-0 decision to Prairie’s Lucas Harmening in sudden victory in the 126-pound title match but held off Rashaun Braggs of Oskaloosa 7-5 in the wrestle back round to finish second.
Harney and Kadahou both dropped title matches to ranked wrestlers.
Kadahou (23-21) fell to top-ranked Nelson Brands of West High in the 152-pound final and Harney (40-10) lost to sixth-ranked Trenten Wennermark of Prairie in the 132-pound championship.
“It was a great day for us,” Hunger said. “We had some guys do better than we thought they would do, some of the younger guys did well so it’s a big day.”
Class 3A, District 5 Meet
Team scores – 1. Cedar Rapids Prairie 230; 2. City High 221; 3. West High 160; 4. Oskaloosa 139; 5. Fort Madison 99.5; 6. Mount Pleasant 95; 7. Ottumwa 75; 8. Pella 67.5.
(First place matches/State Qualifiers)
106 – 1. Conrad Braswell (CRP) major dec. Hans vonRabenau (ICW) 14-5.
113 – 1. Ryan Steffensmeier (FM) major dec. Nathanael Shoemaker (OTT) 16-3.
120 – 1. Alex Aguirre (ICW) dec. Josh Diehl (OSK) 7-5.
126 – 1. Lucas Harmening (CRP) dec. Lance Bormann (ICH) 2-0 SV-1.
132 – 1. Trenten Wennermark (CRP) dec. Joey Harney (ICH) 6-2.
138 – 1. Harlan Steffensmeier (FM) dec. Casey Hogan (CRP) 7-0.
145 – 1. Drew Sams (OSK) dec. Chase St. John (CRP) 9-5.
152 – 1. Nelson Brands (ICW) pinned Wilfred Kadohou (ICH) 4:29.
160 – 1. Carter Rohweder (ICW) dec. Tyger Whitters (CRP) 9-2.
170 – 1. Jason Beebe (OSK) dec. Joey Mitchell 2-1 UTB
182 – 1. Brock Hunger (ICH) dec. Preston LaGrange (CRP) 5-0.
195 – 1. Jacob Dykes (ICH) major dec. Kyler Salazar (OSK) 9-1.
220 – 1. Jordain Buckland (ICH) pinned Guy Snow (ICW) 2:26.
285 – 1. Keegan Poole (PEL) dec. Callan Tomlin (OSK) 3-1.