Newton High’s Cardinals are filling 12 of 14 weight class slots for Saturday’s Class 3A District 1 wrestling tournament. Newton’s 12 wrestlers are juniors, sophomores and freshmen.
Newton is in a district tournament featuring Class 3A top-ranked Southeast Polk. The Rams have 12 ranked wrestlers on their roster including top-ranked senior Nolan Hellickson (35-0) at 126, junior Ethan Anderson (37-1) at 220 and senior Jake Marnin (24-0) at 285.
Junior Hunter Versteegh is the lone returning state meet qualifier for the Cardinals as they head into district action. Versteegh is 34-5 at 113 pounds and NHS head coach Andy Swedenhjelm said he expected Versteegh to receive the No. 2 seed at that weight. SEP’s Nathan Lendt, a freshman, is ranked No. 2 at 113 with a 35-5 record.
“It’s been his goal all year to get back to the state meet and get on the stand,” Swedenhjelm said of Versteegh. “He tends to perform his best in big situations so I’m looking forward to seeing him have a fun day on Saturday.”
Wrestling action at the Class 3A District 1 tournament begins at noon Saturday at Ankeny Centennial High School. Admission to district tournaments is $6 for all spectators.
Joining Newton, Southeast Polk and Ankeny Centennial in the district tournament are Ankeny, Des Moines Lincoln, Marshalltown, Norwalk and Pella. There are a total of 18 top-10 ranked wrestlers in the tournament.
The top two wrestlers in each weight class qualify for the Iowa High school Athletic Association State Wrestling Tournament, Feb. 19-21, at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
“Overall, I am excited about this upcoming weekend,” Swedenhjelm said. “We have a bunch of kids that will go out and give their all. We have been focusing on controlling what we can control, having a great attitude and effort, and seeing what happens.
“Every year there are kids that are not projected to go to state that go and even place. That is why we wrestle the tournament. Our kids are going in with the mindset of ‘Why not me?’ and I think that no matter what happens on Saturday, our kids will be proud of their effort.”
Junior Bryce Tish finished fourth at districts last year wrestling at 132 pounds. He moved up to 145 pounds this season and put together a 26-12 record. Duncan Lee and Jordan Henning, both juniors, competed in the district tournament a year ago and did not place.
Lee moved up three weight classes to 195 pounds this season and only has three losses since Christmas break. He takes a 29-9 record into the district tournament. Henning wrestled at 182 last year, but is the Cardinals’ 220-pound wrestler and has a 12-14 record.
Tish and Lee are Little Hawkeye Conference champions and Versteegh was second at the conference meet.
“The 145 class will be a major tossup in our district. I think Bryce has the ability and mental toughness to succeed at this level. His goal is to get to state, so Saturday will be a big day for him. I’m confident that he is peaking at the right time for us,” Swedenhjelm said.
“Duncan has wrestled extremely well this season, especially in the second half of the season. He has been able to step up and answer every challenge that has come his way. Jordan is excited to have some fun here at districts. Jordan has been very close to breaking through so far this year. In both of our matches against No. 10 ranked Trystan Minnis of Norwalk he has had him on his back, but been unable to finish,” he said.
Swedenhjelm said Lee will be in every match he is in, which is great around this time of year. He said Henning is the type of kid that can surprise a lot of people at districts and hopefully sneak through.
At 106, the Cardinals have freshman Ross Hull, who has battled back from injuries this season to get a spot on the district team.
Jon Lawton is a sophomore with a 14-16 record going at 120 for Newton. Freshman Reece Thurmond (11-14) will compete at 138.
Sophomore Brady Smith (23-20) goes at 152 for Newton and junior Tristan Langmaid (19-14) wrestled at 160. Junior Harley Walker (10-26) and junior Jacob Smith (12-17) fill the 170 and 182 slots for the Cardinals. Sophomore Caleb Kite will be Newton’s 285-pound entry at the district meet.
Swedenhjelm said much the same about all of these wrestlers — they work hard and have shown improvement throughout the season. He said they all have shown dedication to the program.
“I’m extremely proud of our kids and their work ethic. I’m also excited about the future of all these kids and our program,” Swedenhjelm said.
Contact Jocelyn Sheets at 641-792-3121 ext. 6535 or firstname.lastname@example.org