When the last words were written in February and the book closed on another high school wrestling season, the starring characters grabbed their cargo load of accomplishments and moved on to begin another chapter.
Roosevelt’s John Meeks took his unblemished record to Iowa State. Southeast Polk’s Cory Clark lugged his four state championships to Iowa. Thirteen state champions and 18 wrestlers in Class 3-A alone graduated and embarked on careers at the Division I level.
It was a banner year for Iowa high school wrestling, particularly at the 3-A level, where state champion Bettendorf, Southeast Polk and Iowa City West occupied spots in the top 20 of the national rankings for much of the season.
The bumper crop of college recruits and nationally ranked individuals and teams made for a tough encore act.
“I feel like Iowa’s not as tough as it has been in the past,” Creston/Orient-Macksburg senior Jake Marlin said. “We have some really good kids, but they’re all at different weights, they’re not wrestling each other.”
This year it might be Class 2-A’s turn to take the leading role. Marlin and Denver-Tripoli’s Brandon Sorensen are aiming to join Meeks and Clark as four-time state champions. The Iowa recruits, who are expected to compete at 138 and 145 pounds, respectively, have combined to win 295 of their 303 high school bouts.
“I get excited when stories like that are out there,” Davenport Assumption coach Pete Bush said. “I feel like it’s harder and harder each time. … Once you accomplish it, you still have to maintain that edge, desire, work ethic and focus to keep repeating one year after another. Both of those guys have done that.”
Spirit Lake’s Doug Miner is bidding for his third title, and five other champions — Union of LaPorte City’s Max Thomsen, Sergeant Bluff-Luton’s Colton McCrystal, Davenport Assumption’s Nick Georgean, South Tama’s Erik Lux and West Delaware’s Adam Reth — are back in 2-A.
“There’s a lot of kids who are going to want to beat those champions,” West Delaware coach Jeff Voss said. “That, to me, adds a little bit more excitement, knowing there are a lot of kids out there who are going to have targets on their back and people are going to come after them.”
Voss and the Hawks are wearing that target as a team. West Delaware finished third in February in the 2-A team race with 119 points, seven behind champion Denver-Tripoli. All eight point scorers are back for the Hawks, including seven medalists.
Five medalists, including Georgean and state finalists Kyle Springer and Tony DeVriese, return from the Davenport Assumption squad that finished 33-1 in duals, claimed the 2-A dual title and finished second in the traditional tournament.
The Knights experienced a preseason setback when Tony Parks, who placed fifth last year at 160, suffered a knee injury that will force him to miss his senior season. But Bush said he thinks his program’s depth and the addition of a couple freshmen could make this his best team yet.
“I haven’t had a team work as hard in the offseason as these kids have,” he said. “Up and down the lineup with just a few exceptions, right now I feel we’re better at almost each and every weight than we were last year. I think we’re going to surprise some people.”