Wrestlers warm up before a high school wrestling match between Southeast Polk and Johnston on Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014, at Southeast Polk High School outside Pleasant Hill, Iowa.
The Southeast Polk stable was nearly packed with proven winners long before the Rams arrived Thursday night at the starting gate.
Every point scorer returns from last year’s squad that took Bettendorf to the wire in the Class 3-A championship race – the primary reason Southeast Polk is considered this year’s title favorite.
The top-ranked Rams didn’t need any extra help. But they certainly added quite a bit of it.
On a night when most of their proven winners took care of business in typical fashion, the Rams picked up an extra push Thursday night from a talented set of newcomers during a 49-8 victory against Johnston.
Southeast Polk won 12 of 14 bouts, all four returning state finalists picked up bonus points for the Rams and No. 1 Nolan Hellickson downed No. 2 Henry Pohlmeyer in a battle of Division-I-bound 126-pounders.
And yet the new guys still wrestled the spotlight away for the Rams.
Freshmen Gauge Perrien and Nathan Lendt topped ranked opponents in their varsity debut, Zach Barnes registered a fall in his first bout for the Rams and Gunner Jorgensen beat a state medalist in his return to Southeast Polk’s varsity lineup.
So much for any notion that there might be some easy outs in the Ram lineup.
“It’s the recipe for a championship,” said Barnes, a state medalist last year at Waukee. “We’re solid throughout the lineup, but with Nate and Gauge coming in there as freshmen and being that good, it’s bright for the future, too.”
The Dragons stuck with Southeast Polk early.
Johnston’s Shane Vaughan, a returning state qualifier, knocked off third-ranked Keegan Shaw 3-2 at 138, fending off an attack for most of the third period.
Ninth-ranked Nathaniel Standish pinned returning state medalist Mason Kerr in the third period of a wild 170-pound battle.
It was all Southeast Polk after that.
State champion Ethan Andersen and top-ranked Jake Marnin registered consecutive falls at 220 and heavyweight.
The little guys took care of the rest.
Five days after winning the starting job by beating returning state medalist Adam Brown in Southeast Polk’s wrestle-offs, Perrien racked up four takedowns on his way to a 9-6 win at 106 against No. 7 Zach Price.
Lendt – a seventh-ranked 113-pounder with a state AAU title on his resume – kicked off his varsity career with a 7-2 win against No. 8 Ethan Ksiazek at 113.
“They can obviously deal with a little bit of pressure,” Southeast Polk coach Jason Christenson said. “They’ve probably never had that many people with eyes on just their match. They’ve both wrestled in big tournaments before, but you don’t have that suffocation of our gym and our fans and they had a great fan following, too. The biggest thing to me is they kept composure when things got a little bit tough.”
Barnes decked sixth-ranked Alec Ksiazek with a second-period cradle at 120.
Hellickson used a penalty point in the first period and a takedown late in the second to beat Pohlmeyer 4-2 at 126.
Jorgensen, who started for the Rams two years ago and lost his varsity spot last year, made a triumphant return to the varsity spot, knocking off No. 10 Travis Price 10-6 at 132.
“We’re a good team already,” Lendt said. “Let’s see if we can get better.”
SOUTHEAST POLK 49, JOHNSTON 8
138 – Vaughan (J) dec. Shaw 3-2.
145 – Meyer (SEP) major dec. Hushagen 14-2.
152 – Briar Dittmer (SEP) tech. fall Garcia 18-2.
160 – Brady Buchheit (SEP) dec. Piagentini 4-3
170 – Nathaniel Standish (J) pinned Kerr 4:53
182 –Padovich (SEP) dec. Wilson 3-0.
195 – Mikesell (SEP) major dec. Petrusic 11-3
220 – Andersen (SEP) pinned Nielsen 1:39
Hwt. – Marnin (SEP) pinned Dusen 2:29
106 – Perrien (SEP) dec. Z. Price 9-6
113 – Lendt (SEP) dec. E. Ksiazek 7-2
120 – Barnes (SEP) pinned A. Ksiazek 3:42
126 – Hellickson (SEP) dec. Pohlmeyer 4-2
132 – Jorgensen (SEP) dec. T. Price 10-6
Johnston was docked a team point during the 106-pound match.