Brock Rathbun’s last high school loss for Center Point-Urbana came 97 matches ago in the 2013 state finals.
Josh Portillo moved up a weight in the Clarion-Goldfield-Dows order for the postseason and still ripped through his bracket on his way to a second state championship.
Highland of Riverside’s Drew West, the owner of a 99-1 career prep record, qualified for the Fila Cadet World Championships last July in Slovakia.
The Iowa Eight could’ve been the Iowa 11, or the Iowa 15, or maybe even the Iowa 20 without losing a speck of high-class luster.
See, the problem in Iowa isn’t coming up with enough names to fill out a wrestling list like this. It’s determining who makes the top eight when there’s easily more than a dozen candidates who wouldn’t look out of place in this group.
We set out to identify the absolute best of the best in Iowa high school wrestling. We wanted to point you toward the faces your eyes should follow next February when their names are called to the mats inside Wells Fargo Arena. As well, we wanted to select the prospects most likely to one day contend for All-America honors, NCAA titles and international glory.
Simply, we wanted to identify Iowa’s next big things in wrestling, both for this upcoming season and beyond.
“I know there are kids out there right now who are going to be national champions,” Northern Iowa coach Doug Schwab said. “We’ve got to help develop them and build them (as a state).”
As a whole, Iowa has work to do to catch up to the likes of Illinois, Ohio, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania, states that have been pumping out college-ready wrestlers at a faster rate in recent years and competing for top team honors at USA Wrestling-sanctioned events.
Iowa produced six freestyle Junior Nationals All-Americans this week in Fargo. Illinois, Ohio and Oklahoma doubled that figure.
“The talent level is here for sure,” said Ballard’s Nick Britton, one of the coaches for Team Iowa.
Britton said today’s crop of Iowa preps are exposed to more high-level competition and training than ever before. But that mirrors a national trend of early development.
“I’ve got kids who are coming in who have already wrestled 1,000 matches,” said Schwab, an Osage native who won an NCAA title at Iowa and wrestled in the 2008 Olympics. “I don’t know if I wrestled 1,000 matches in my whole career.”
Is there an NCAA champion or future Olympian in the Iowa Eight? Time will tell, but there’s a lot to like about this bunch.
Ethan Andersen and Gannon Gremmel possess skills and athleticism that most heavyweights don’t. Carter Isley and Marcus Coleman are two of the fastest-rising prospects in the country.
The nation’s most passionate wrestling fans know about Carter Happel’s feats and they’re quickly learning about Alex Thomsen’s immense talents.
Brody Teske and Jack Wagner fell short of their Fargo goals this week, but they’re noted workaholics who will be training again soon, if they aren’t already on a mat right now.