By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
SOLON – The focus for Solon has been the same all season.
Team time first, then individual achievements, literally.
During the week, the Spartans concentrated on picking up dual wins as a team, then at weekend tournaments the attention turns to collecting individual hardware.
The formula worked so well that Solon has a chance to pick up the state's top team prize and biggest individual honors this week.
Class 2A second ranked Solon will via for the state dual crown on Wednesday and with a 2A-best eight individual qualifiers is among the favorites to win the 2A title at the traditional tournament that opens on Thursday at 6 p.m.
“All season we have really stressed the difference between duals and Saturdays,” Solon coach Blake Williams explained. “Thursday duals are all about the team and Saturday individual tournaments are all about the individual and we let the team part of it take care of itself, it’s no different this week. Wednesday is all about the team and Thursday, Friday, Saturday is all about those eight guys.”
First up for the Spartans is the 2A dual tournament on Wednesday beginning with a quarterfinal matchup against No. 7 Sergeant Bluff-Luton at 9 a.m. at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
Solon is making its second ever appearance at the state dual meet and first since Williams led the Spartans to their state duals debut as head coach in 2001.
“It was a goal that these guys set from day one,” Williams said. “There were a lot of goals, a conference championship, getting to state duals and then obviously trying to win the whole thing and they are going to try their best to do it.”
Solon has been impressive as a dual team all season.
The Spartans punched their ticket to state duals with a pair of lopsided regional wins, highlighted by a 51-18 victory over Mount Vernon in the final.
“We are really gearing for Wednesday,” Solon junior Zach Wegmann said. “We’ve been working with everyone here and it’s all a team aspect, you are one guy out wrestling a match at a time but we are working for a team goal.”
With a lineup full of seniors that have enjoyed highly decorated careers the Spartans took to the team mindset early this season.
That attitude didn’t waver in the postseason even as individuals battled for spots at the state tournament the past two weekends at sectional at district meets.
“State duals is real important to us with all the seniors that we have and we’ve been working hard for it,” Solon junior Christian Haight said. “We knew with the group of talented seniors that we have it was going to be at the top of our list, these seniors mean a lot to us and we want to finish it out for them.”
With the individual state tournament looming on Thursday, nothing has changed for Solon.
It’s team first, followed by individual.
“They are excited about it,” Williams said. “They aren’t worried about wrestling the next three days, they are ready and want to try their hardest to bring home some hardware.”
If Solon can get past Sergeant Bluff-Luton in the quarterfinals things heat up in a hurry with third-ranked Atlantic likely waiting in the semifinals.
A highly-anticipated matchup with top-ranked New Hampton could be for the 2A title.
Atlantic boasts six ranked wrestlers including second-ranked 120 pounder Carter Cox who could face Solon’s top-ranked Bryce West.
Other ranked semifinal matchups could come at 285 pounds between No. 2 John McConkey of Atlantic and No. 4 Tyler Linderbaum and 126 where No. 2 Drew West and No. 7 Chase McLaren could meet.
A title match meeting with New Hampton could feature three matches between ranked wrestlers including a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup between Michael Millage and Drew West at 126.
“We just have to show up and get on a roll,” Haight said. “I don’t think we are going to change anything just basically treat it like a normal tournament.
Class 2A State Dual Tournament
Wednesday, Feb. 15
Quarterfinals, 9 a.m.
No. 1 New Hampton vs. Denver-Tripoli
No. 4 Creston/Orient-Macksburg vs. No. 5 Davenport Assumption
No. 2 Solon vs. No. 7 Sergeant Bluff-Luton
No. 3 Atlantic vs No. 6 Washington
Semifinals, 1 p.m.
New Hampton/Denver-Tripoli winner vs. Creston/Orient-Macksburg/Davenport Assumption winner
Solon/Sergeant Bluff-Luton winner vs. Atlantic/Washington winner