Tristan Wirfs certainly didn’t have to cut down to heavyweight. He could’ve kept building toward his collegiate football future, which begins next year in Iowa City as a member of the Iowa football program.
But the Mount Vernon senior loves wrestling too much to just skip his final season. So shortly after the Mustangs’ season ended after a Class 2A semifinal loss at the UNI-Dome, Wirfs trimmed down 37 pounds — a four-week process, he said —to make the 285-pound weight class.
“It was awful,” Wirfs said. “I went from trying to put on weight and getting as heavy and as strong as you can to dropping almost 40 pounds — I mean, I’m speechless. I just cut down on my portions and worked out a little more.”
On Thursday, Wirfs made easy work of Creston/O-M’s Cody Tanner in the first round of the Class 2A state wrestling championships. He totaled four takedowns en route to a 9-4 decision and faces Gilbert’s Eli Harris in Friday’s quarterfinal.
Wirfs looked noticeably lighter on his feet, using a series of snapdowns for each takedown. He scored one in the first period, two in the second and another in the third, using his power to drive Tanner’s head into the mat and his speed to circle around for two.
“We were doing sprints the other day,” he said, “and I felt like I was flying.”
Despite dropping 37 pounds, Wirfs said he has to be conscious about what he eats so that he doesn’t miss weight. A strict diet has helped him to be more consistent on the mat — Thursday’s victory was his sixth in his last seven matches and pushed him to 18-3 overall.
A win on Friday would push Wirfs into the semifinals, guaranteeing him a top-six finish. After reaching the quarterfinals a year ago, he dropped two consecutive matches and failed to reach the podium. A state medal, he said, would be a nice way to cap his wrestling career.
“The past two years, I didn’t get on the podium, and that really sucks,” Wirfs said. “It’s my last go-around, so I need to make the best of this.”
Solon claims team lead after Day 1
A day after falling short to New Hampton in the Class 2A duals state championship, the Solon wrestling team opened the traditional state tournament with a flurry of bonus point victories.
Eight Spartans entered Thursday with the goal of bringing home their first-ever state team title. Entering Friday, all eight remain alive, helping Solon to 27.5 points, good for first place. Ballard sits in second with 20 points while New Hampton is in third with 19.
“It’s nice to have all eight guys going on Day 2,” Solon coach Blake Williams said. “That was our goal. We have a lot of work to do now.”
Solon opened with five straight bonus-point victories from pins from Bryce West (120), Drew West (126), Graeson Dall (152) and Trevor Nelson (160), who all reached their respective quarterfinal rounds. Ben Carr added a technical fall to advance at 138 pounds.
Even more, the three wrestlers that lost in the first round — Mike Hoyle (170), Zach Wegmann (220) and Tyler Linderbaum (285) — bounced back with a major decision, a pin and a pin, respectively, to stay alive in the wrestlebacks.
“The round started off really well,” Williams said, “but then our heavier guys lost. And I told them, ‘hey, we have to have you guys (on Friday). If we want any chance at bringing home a trophy and doing what you guys want to do, it’s going to come from the backside.’”
Ballard brought eight wrestlers and pushed seven through to Thursday. Of those, five are alive on the front side — Jarrett Miller (132), Skyler Noftsger (132), John Fulk (160), Ben Lee (182) and Colin Anderson (285).
New Hampton only brought six wrestlers but pushed all of them through to the quarterfinals — Michael Millage (126), Keaton Geerts (138) and Noah Hopp (220) all scored pins; Noah Fye scored a major decision at 132; Ryan Gorman (160) and Noah Glaser (170) both secured decisions.
The only weight where any of the three teams go head-to-head in the quarterfinals is 132 pounds, where New Hampton’s Fye gets Ballard’s Miller on Friday. But Williams still preached the same message to his team that he did at the beginning of Thursday’s session.
“Just keep winning,” Williams said. “It’s pretty simple. Down here, it’s all about winning. If we get bonus points along the way, great. But we can’t worry about what other teams are doing. We just have to go out and worry about what we can do.”
Creston’s Shiltz savoring final wrestling experience
Chase Shiltz’s future plans once involved wrestling. The Creston senior made a verbal commitment back in August 2016 to wrestle for North Dakota State University. He talked with The Des Moines Register during the football season about enjoying his last go-around on the gridiron.
In just a few short months, Shiltz’s plans have shifted. This week will be his last donning a singlet of any kind, as the two-time Class 2A state champion switched his commitment to the Northwest Missouri State football program in January.
“That was a really big decision for me — a really hard decision for me,” Shiltz said Thursday. “After thinking through everything, I went on a couple of visits for football, and I decided that football was going to be the best thing for me.”
While football is in Shiltz’s future, wrestling is currently in his present plans. He rolled to a first-period pin on Thursday over Austin Angle of Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont to improve to 53-0 on the season.
Shiltz admitted to some nerves in his first match but said afterwards he’s savoring his final chance to wrestle. He’s currently helped Creston into fourth place as a team in 2A with 17.5 points. After this week ends, he plans on shifting his attention back to football completely.
“After our last football game, I think I had an idea that I wanted to keep playing,” Shiltz said. “I wasn’t ready for it to be over. I figured I could probably give up wrestling easier than I could football.”
Unbeatens remain so after Day 1
Only three wrestlers entered the Class 2A state tournament with spotless records. All three advanced to Friday’s quarterfinal round.
In addition to Shiltz, Clear Lake senior Ryan Leisure and Clarion-Goldfield-Dows sophomore Spencer Trenary both kept their perfect seasons intact. Leisure and Trenary both scored pins to advance at 145 pounds and heavyweight, respectively.
“Just wanted to get that match out of the way quick so I could relax and be ready for the next one,” Leisure said. “This is my last time, so I’m trying to go out with a bang.”
Lots and lots of pins
If it felt like there were a lot of pins in the first round of the Class 2A state tournament, it’s because there was. In 112 first-round bouts, 38 of them ended in a fall, good for 34 percent of all matches. This doesn’t include the consolation round. There were at least two pins at every weight.
Three weights had four first-round pins — 152, 160 and 195 — and another four weights had three — 113, 120, 170 and 220. Solon’s Drew West recorded the fastest pin, securing his in 21 seconds over Harlan’s Lucas Carter at 126 pounds. West Liberty’s Bryce Esmoil took the longest, needing 5:47 to pin Washington’s Karlton Skubal.
There may be more on Friday. There may not be. We’ll see.
Friday’s Class 2A schedule
2:30 p.m. — Quarterfinals and second-round consolations
8:45 p.m. — Semifinals and third-round consolations
Cody Goodwin covers high school sports, college basketball recruiting and Drake athletics for The Des Moines Register. Reach him at (816) 582-0633, email him at email@example.com, or send him a tweet at @codygoodwin.