There are moments during Cullan Schriever’s wrestling matches when Dusty Rhodes will just watch and smile. The Mason City coach admits that it’s sometimes fun to sit back and enjoy Schriever’s tactical brilliance as he dismantles an opponent.
“I watch him wrestle, and it’s basically like a highlight reel,” Rhodes said. “He’s pretty easy to coach. He does everything as hard as he can do it and as well as he can do it, which is why you’re seeing the results you’re seeing right now.”
Schriever hopes to add more highlight reel-type performances to a season already full of them. The freshman enters this week’s state tournament with a 25-0 mark and is tabbed as the top-ranked 106-pounder in Class 3A by the Predicament.
The results have been impressive. Of his 25 victories, 19 have come by way of major decision (7), technical fall (4) or pin (8). In his 17 matches that didn’t end in a fall, Schriever’s averaged 14.8 points per outing. He also owns six wins over wrestlers listed in the Predicament’s final 3A rankings.
But Schriever’s long expected to be in this position. Every year since he can remember, he said, he’s made the trip to Wells Fargo Arena and watched as countless other wrestlers took home state titles. On the drive home, he would dream of winning his own someday.
Before the season began, Schriever took a piece of paper and a sharpie and wrote “2016-17 Iowa high school state champ.” He then hung it up in the Mason City wrestling room so he could be reminded of his goal every day.
It was a habit he picked up from his club team, Sebolt Wrestling Academy, run by T.J. Sebolt, one of Iowa’s 25 four-time state champions. He’s coached numerous wrestlers that have found success at the prep and collegiate level, such as Iowa’s Cory Clark and Missouri’s Willie Miklus, among others.
Sebolt first met Schriever when he was nine years old and immediately knew he would be special. He remembers Schriever flashing unbelievable quickness and was pliable when it came to learning technique. Even more, he was tough as nails, Sebolt said, which tied it all together.
“I was excited to have him,” Sebolt said. “I knew right away he was going to be good. He had very good technique already. He was quick, an all-around good athlete. He caught on to the technique I teach and the style we wrestle pretty quickly, and he just built on that.”
Under Sebolt, Schriever blossomed into a star. He traveled the country and won big tournaments by bigger margins, but none were more impressive than when he traveled with Iowa’s national team to Fargo, N.D., last summer for the cadet freestyle national championships.
It mattered little that Schriever was just a few months removed from eighth grade and competing against kids as old as 16. He rolled to a national title at 88 pounds, outscoring his competition 51-12 over five matches. He displayed all the skills he learned from wrestling with Sebolt.
“I’m not surprised at all,” Sebolt said. “He’s a very coachable kid. He has tremendous work ethic that’s pretty much unmatched. I think his biggest challenge was growing a little bit to be a true 106-pounder.”
Indeed, Schriever at times looks small compared to his competition — even at high school wrestling’s smallest weight class. He said when the school year began, he weighed about 104 pounds. Nowadays, he hovers around 109.
It’s turned out to be a blessing in disguise. By not having to worry about his weight, Schriever’s put the majority of his focus on his technique — which, combined with his speed, is undoubtedly his strength on the mat.
For evidence, look no further than his showing at districts last weekend. In the finals against Waverly-Shell Rock’s Evan Yant, Schriever put on an arm-drag clinic. He countered Yant’s shots with heavy hips and go-behinds. After scoring twice with those, he switched to a sweep single to go up 6-2.
After an escape in the second period, Schriever again defended a Yant shot and responded by circling around to a double leg for yet another takedown. By the end of the match, Schriever accumulated seven total takedowns in a 15-6 win. Yant is ranked sixth in the state.
“That’s a pretty common score for him — against everybody, really,” Rhodes said. “He’s a student of the sport, and he’s shown that he can learn something from anybody at any time. That’s how he goes about his business.”
Perhaps that’s because Schriever coaches himself. Prior to the finals on Saturday, there was a 15-minute break during which many wrestlers laid on mats one and two to rest. Schriever occupied mat three, drilling with his twin brother Colby, who qualified for state at 120 pounds.
Together, they worked on a slew of different neutral positions and situational mat drills. They packed so much action into those 10 minutes that by the time Schriever wrestled his finals match, beads of sweat rolled down his cheeks.
After he beat Yant, Schriever was critical of his performance. He said he could’ve wrestled more efficiently, and that he got tired before the third period. He wasn’t happy despite another convincing victory. He said he can’t wrestle like that if he expects to win this week.
“I don’t think I wrestled that well, but I’ll make adjustments and be fine for state,” he said. “It’s all in preparation for state, anyways. That’s all I’m focused on now.”
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