Who wants it?
The race for the Class 2-A state wrestling title is on, and through Thursday’s afternoon’s opening session, it’s as tight as the grips on the Wells Fargo Arena mats.
Last year’s runner-up Mediapolis narrowly leads a pack of contenders including a unified Creston/Orient-Macksburg, lightweight-powered Crestwood of Creso, defending champion Davenport Assumption and top-ranked Union of LaPorte City.
“There’s a lot of people watching and a lot of people speculate, but we can just be focused on the next match because that’s all that matters,” Union’s three-time champion Max Thomsen said.
Thomsen continued his quest for a fourth title with a second-round pin of Gilbert’s Wyatt Rhoads at 145 pounds.
Every top-ranked wrestler, including the Northern Iowa recruit, won in Thursday’s first round and will be counted on for bonus points as the tournament rolls on.
Crestwood’s six qualifiers — all wrestling at 145 and under — racked up 16.5 team points thanks to a pair of major decisions and a first-round consolation pin.
“Our dual team had some holes, but we went in and won our district with six guys,” Crestwood coach Keith Slifka said. “We’re building off that momentum. I’m very proud of them.”
Slifka’s day started with his 106-pound freshman Michael Millage making an immediate impact against Union’s fifth-ranked Jon Hellman. An efficient 14-1 victory sets up a quarterfinal on Friday against top-ranked Gable Sieperda of Central Lyon/George-Little Rock.
“He’s a tough kid and having a freshman like that in your room, and you can start at 106, it excels your whole team,” Slifka said.
Creston qualified nine wrestlers for Thursday’s opening session and sits second behind Mediapolis, despite missing 170-pound senior Tayler Pettit following a medical emergency on the mats of Wednesday’s state duals tournament.
“I can honestly tell you I had no idea how (today) was going to go,” Creston coach Darrell Frain said.
“I wish I could say I had a feel for it, but that was a good round considering the emotions that they’ve been through for the last 24 hours.”
Seven Panthers will continue in Friday’s quarterfinals and second-round consolations, including 138-pound classmate Spencer Wray, who was on the mat when Pettit collapsed.
“We got a message from his brother that the family and Pettit told us just to go out and wrestle, and we all know that’s what he would have wanted us to do,” Wray said. “We just took our minds off of it, had him in our a prayers, and went out and did some work.”
Creston’s Spencer Wray (left) wrestles with Saydel’s Austin Moen in their class 2A, 138 pound match Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015, during the State Wrestling Tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
The session’s upset came at 160 when Mediapolis’ 50-0 senior Cole Erickson had a late 16-3 lead rolled away in a pin by Dubuque Wahlert’s Andrew Turner.
“He got in on a shot and I rolled him through with a neck-wrench,” Turner said.
“(I) never give up, just keep going, don’t stop. You’ve got to keep believing in yourself no matter how far you’re down.”
A No. 4 versus No. 5 matchup in the first round at 170 entertained the nearby section of Thursday’s crowd. Clarinda’s J.J. Clark reversed several precarious positions to pin Garner-Hayfield/Ventura’s Cade Davis when the score was 11-9 in the second round.
“I knew it was going to be a war,” Clark said. “You’ve got to chain wrestle, that’s what it’s all about.”
Friday’s 2-A quarterfinals and second round consolation matches are slated to begin at 9 a.m. Semifinals are scheduled for 7:30 p.m.