Last year's memories of a brief appearance at the state tournament are still very much alive with Colfax-Mingo's Jimmy Abell and Dylan Albright.
Making their second consecutive trips to Wells Fargo Arena, Abell and Albright have the simple goals of improving on their two-and-out performances last year. Although, simply improving might not be enough on the second go-around.
"It's a great feeling, but hopefully this year I don't go two and out," said Abell, a sophomore 106-pounder. "I'm still hoping for a state title."
It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that the pair is returning to state. Abell, ranked No. 5 at his weight in Class 1A, and the 170-pound Albright reached state with second-place finishes in last weekend’s district meet at Pleasantville. Abell enters state with a nearly-unblemished record of 41-1, while Albright stands at 21-6.
“We went in thinking they both had a pretty good chance to make it back, and as the year went on, we were more in belief of that,” C-M coach Bryan Poulter said. “Any time you go into sectional and district competition, anything can happen, so you’re always glad to get a few people through there.”
Despite their other accolades, such as sectional championships and a Heart of Iowa Conference title for Abell, the experience of losing both of their matches last year still doesn’t sit well with either wrestler. However, both will be quick to tell you that those first-year jitters could’ve had a lot to do with that.
“Any time you get this far into the tournament you’ve got nerves, whether you’ve been there or not,” Albright said. “But it’s a different year with a lot of different people going, so there should be plenty of competition.”
With another year and plenty of wins under their belts, Abell and Albright are expecting better results this year. That seems to be the case historically, although Wells Fargo Arena is hardly the place to expect wins to just show up out of nowhere.
“I think for both of them, and when you follow the state tournament, you’ll see the majority of state placers don’t place until they’ve been there at least once,” Poulter said. “That goes to show how difficult and rigorous state competition is, so for both of them to go back after making it last year is invaluable. They both have things to call on now that they didn’t have prior.”
Abell pinpoints his issues last year to not wrestling enough quality matches. Although he feels this season was a similar situation, at least knowing what to expect at state should help his cause. Wilton freshman Tanner Greenwald (29-12) will give Abell his first challenge at state this year.
“I kind of have that feeling again because I didn’t really have that many tough matches,” Abell said. “But I also kept wrestling the same kids over and over, so I got a few more matches at least.”
For Albright, there is some peace in the chaotic few days he’ll spend at state. The senior has the opportunity to end his high school wrestling career at the highest possible level, and that fact certainly isn’t lost on him. He will square off with Marcus-Meridien-Cleghorn senior Jacob Meehan in the first round, who is sporting a stout 41-1 record.
“It’s a great feeling knowing that I’m a two-time state qualifier,” Albright said. “It’s a major accomplishment for me and everyone in my family, and it’s just a great feeling that I’m going out with that under my belt in high school.”
Abell and Albright’s recent success has sent waves through the Tigerhawk wrestling program. Besides sending four wrestlers to districts this season, Poulter has noticed a change in the team’s demeanor in the past two years.
“Both of them really lead by example, and we have a lot of kids in our room that don’t practice wrestling outside of the season,” Poulter said. “I think we see the examples they bring are starting to rub off. The kids see what the extra work that goes into it can do, in terms of the weight room and extra athletic commitment. We think there will be some other kids that could make it to state in a year or so, largely through the leadership these two have brought to us.”
Both C-M wrestlers will be in action in Thursday’s first session, which starts at 9 a.m.