The City High wrestling program took a step forward last year.
Considering the results of the last several years, the 2014-15 season proved to be a major step forward, actually. The Little Hawks went 14-15 in coach Cory Connell’s third campaign, doubling their win total from the previous year.
And they return multiple letterwinners this winter, creating an excitement level that was perhaps groundless previously.
“We had some good kids, but I felt like we had a lot of building to do,” Connell said of the state of the program when he was hired. “We had a lot of young kids. We didn’t have a lot of upperclassmen. A lot of the kids that were here were doing things wrong within their personal life or school. We wanted to build high character people on and off the mat. We feel we’ve done a lot of that.”
Entering Year No. 4 of Connell’s tenure at City, the Little Hawks boast seven headliners from last season.
Seniors Nic Jarvis (152 pounds), Daniel Kelly (132), Ali Omar (160) and Jacob Powers (113), along with sophomores Lance Bormann (126), Jacob Dykes (170) and Joey Harney (120), make up a formidable core.
Jarvis went 38-8 in 2014-15. As a senior, Connell is the only coach Jarvis wrestled for, witnessing all of the transformation from season-to-season.
“We’ve been building,” Jarvis said. “We started down, and it’s been building up every year. Getting everybody on the same page was a big thing. There were people who thought they could do their own thing. Everybody on the same page and with the same mentality is a big stride.”
Despite the improvement, the rebuild is not complete quite yet.
It’s getting better. It’s not where we want it to be,” Connell said. “We want to be considered the top or one of the top programs in the state year in and year out. We’re not there yet, but we’re a lot closer to there now than we were last year, the year before, or the year before that.”
One of the biggest strides City made was simply putting in more work on the mat.
Not only in practice throughout the season, but also because of programs in the offseason.
“It’s exciting to see this work is starting to pay off, and last year it started to pay off,” Kelly said. “I’m looking forward to seeing how much better we’re going to be this year and what we’re going to accomplish this year.
“The more mat time, the better you’re going to be. That’s exposure to technique but it’s also exposure to philosophy and the ideas that are going to make you successful. Wrestling is a big mental sport and it’s a big technical sport.”
The Little Hawks open the 2015-16 season Thursday with a home meet against Cedar Rapids Kennedy.
What does the future hold?
“We have to start taking that next step,” Connell said. “We need to get in that upper echelon of teams.”
Reach Matt Cozzi at email@example.com or 319-887-5409, and follow him on Twitter @matt_cozzi.