DES MOINES — On the biggest stage Iowa can present, the best rise to the top. The state wrestling tournament places tremendous pressure on some of the state’s best athletes. For the first time all year, the wrestlers must be concerned with more than their opponents.
The sheer size of Wells Fargo Arena would be enough to scare some, but when that arena is filled with thousands of screaming wrestling fans, that fear multiplies exponentially. The stage challenges these boys both physically and mentally, testing their competetivenes, fortitude and resiliency.
Two boys from the area were able to overcome those challenges and make it through to the next stage. First, there was Lynnville-Sully junior Caden Doll, who is seeded 13th in the 160-pound bracket.
Doll took on sophomore Trevor Pagel from Sumner-Fredericksburg. Doll dominated his opponent for nearly the full six minuted before ultimately earning a technical fall (15-0) to advance to the next round on Friday. He will face 15th seeded Dale Hilleman, a sophomore from West Marshall. Doll will have a tough task ahead of him as Hilleman pinned his opponent just 49 seconds into the second round.
“I thought he went out and was really aggressive. He got a couple takedowns early and stopped the other kid’s moves,” Lynnville-Sully coach Steve Northcutt said. “He worked on the tilt and realized he could tilt him pretty easy. So once he got the takedowns, he was able to tilt him a couple of times and technical falled him.”
The other wrestler representing the Hawks was junior Meliek Meyer. Meyer came out very flat in his first match, often finding himself on the defensive. He fell by pinfall with just 35 seconds reamining, but trailed the whole way as it stood.
“He beat me. That’s never good,” Meyer said afterward. “Worse than that, though, I didn’t wrestle as good as I could have. That’s just what happens when you’re not aggressive enough.”
Meyer went on to the consolation bracket to face freshman Josh Hopkins from East Mills. Despite falling behind early again, Meyer fought back with much more vigor than he showed in his first match. Even though he was able to draw even several times with Hopkins, he succomed to a takedown late in the match and lost the decision 11-9. Meyer’s great season should not be diminished by his poor showing at state, but it’s clear Northcutt wanted to see more out of the junior.
“He just wrestled like he can wrestle at times,” Northcutt said. “It’s like a light switch, and it wasn’t on in that first match. If it’s on, he can wrestle lights out. I thought he had openings. He didn’t play his shots. I can’t really understand what happened.”
On the Colfax-Mingo side of things, sophomore Jimmy Abell (106) was able to advance in the consolation bracket following a narrow loss to freshman Tanner Greenwald of Wilton. Abell had Greenwald down 3-0 early, but Greenwald overpowered Abell for a three-point near fall in the second to tie the match and was able to do the same in the third.
“I don’t want to say we underestimated our opponed, but he was much stronger in the shoulders than we anticipated. He got on top of (Abell) and was able to turn,” C-M coach Bryan Poulter said. “As soon as he got those three back points, it totally changed the complexion of the match. In the third, I think (Abell) didn’t go back to where his strengths are.”
Abell’s second match is one he refused to let slip away. He nearly shut out Southwest Iowa’s Craig Rice, only allowing two points on a reversal. Abell ended up earning a 8-2 decision and advanced to face the loser in Friday’s match between top ranked Ryan Szalat of Fort Dodge St. Edmond and the aforementioned Greenwald.
“This match, I wrestled much more like I usually do,” said Abell. “I just have to keep fighting through. I improved over my finish last year, and I’m just going to keep getting better.”
The other side of the C-M duo was not as fortunate. Senior Dylan Albright (170) was being manhandled by Jacob Meehan of Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn before finally being pinned at the 28 second mark of the second period.
The second match did not go much better for Albright. He lost his consolation match to senior Ryder Clark of West Hancock by a final tally of 13-2. To Albright’s credit, he never stopped fighting in the second match. There were multiple times when he could have easily given in to the pin, but he was resilient and kept fighting. This effort was not lost on Poulter.
“His last match, when he wrested six minutes, he could have checked out early in that first period,” Poulter said. “He fell on his back, but he kept in the match and had some opportunities. He tried to make some things happen. He finished with a six minute match where he put everything out there and wrestled as hard as ever against a great opponent.”