Your Prep Sports
DES MOINES – The opening day of a state wrestling tournament unlike any other before it is officially in the books.
The championship fields have been cut down to eight and now the real fun begins.
By the time the bright lights of Wells Fargo Arena are dimmed on Friday night the 2021 championship matches will be set.
Before the focus switches to championship Saturday or even Friday evening’s semifinals first come the quarterfinals on Friday morning and afternoon.
Here are five of the best quarterfinal matchups on Friday featuring Your Prep Sports area wrestlers.
Kael Kurtz (City High) vs. Blake Gioimo (Cedar Rapids Prairie)
One of only two quarterfinal matchups between unbeaten wrestlers in the entire tournament is the first ever meeting between two of the top young lightweights in the state.
Both wrestlers make quick work of their opponents in the 106-pound opening round on Thursday.
Fifth-ranked Kurtz (13-0) pinned Luke Stover of Dallas Center-Grimes in 1:22 in his state meet debut while third-ranked Gioimo needed just 21 seconds to pin Ottumwa freshman Jasmine Luedtke.
While Kurtz has hit the ground running in his first taste of varsity action Gioimo has made great strides as a sophomore after going 21-18 including an 0-2 mark at the state tournament last season as a freshman.
Grant O’Dell (West High) vs. Carter Fecht (Waverly-Shell Rock)
One of the best quarterfinal matchups in Class 3A comes at 126 pounds and is a rematch of a regular season match between a pair of top-three ranked wrestlers.
Third-ranked O’Dell (13-0) won the regular season match 3-1 in sudden victory over Fecht on January 23 in Waverly.
Already a two-time medalist with eight and sixth-place finish the past two seasons O’Dell moved into the quarterfinals with a 17-1 tech fall over Noah Madison of Johnston on Thursday.
Fecht (28-6) backed up a 3-2 win over fourth-ranked Adler Kramer in the district final with a 6-3 win over Kramer in the opening round on Thursday giving him three wins over the Dubuque Hempstead senior since January.
Graham Gambrall (West High) vs. Abass Kemokai (Linn-Mar)
Gambrall had planned to chase a fourth consecutive Mississippi Valley Conference title this season but the annual conference tournament was cancelled.
Friday’s quarterfinal matchup between MVC foes would have been the likely 152-pound final had the MVC meet gone on this season and can produce the defacto champ with the winner earning a semifinal trip.
The defending 145-pound state champion, Gambrall (9-2) moved into the quarters with a pin of Spencer junior Cole Rutter while No. 8 Kemokai (17-2) won a 12-2 decision over Ottumwa’s Zachariah Shoemaker.
Gambrall won both meetings between the two last season at 145 pounds by scores of 9-4 and 13-7.
Gage Marty (Solon) vs. Crew Howard (Clarinda)
Marty survived a brief scare in his opener before dispatching of Tino Tomayo of Charles City 11-6 to reach the quarterfinals for the first time.
A seventh-place finisher at 195 pounds last season, tenth-ranked Marty (33-8) has shown this season he is capable of competing with the best in the 220-pound bracket.
Of the eight losses for Marty this season half have come to second-ranked Kobe Simon of West Liberty all by decisions decided by three or fewer points.
Third-ranked Howard (45-1) is seeking a strong finish to his career after placing fourth in 2A at 220-pounds last season.
Howard is 83-3 over the past two seasons with his lone loss this season coming to Class 3A top-ranked 285-pounder Gabriel Greenlee of Ames.
An 8-1 opening-round decision over Korver Hupke of Independence was just the third win for Howard this season to last all six minutes.
Aidan Udell (Regina) vs. Blake McAlister (South Central Calhoun)
One of the more enticing quarterfinal matchups in all of 1A is at 170 pounds where fourth-ranked Udell and No. 4 McAlister lock horns.
Udell (22-4) moved into the quarterfinals for the first time in his second trip to the state meet with a 5-4 win over ninth-ranked Bowen Munger of Starmont in his opener.
McAlister (40-2) is a three-time qualifier seeking a second consecutive state medal after placing sixth at 160 pounds last season and enters riding a 14-match winning streak.
McAlister pinned Lane Kenney of Akron-Westfield in 90 seconds in the opening round.