Highland boasts perhaps two of the state’s best wrestlers.
At 113 and 120 pounds, respectively, brothers Drew West and Bryce West have a combined record of 100-0 this season heading into Thursday’s state tournament, dominating Class 1A competition.
Then there’s Zach Kleopfer.
The third member of Highland’s team to qualify for state, which is at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, is 39-7 at 160 pounds this season. The senior drew North Butler’s Caleb Wedeking (44-4) in the first round, which begins at 6 p.m. for Class 1A. The state meet leads off with Class 3A at 9 a.m. and Class 2A at 1:30 p.m.
Kleopfer steadily improved late during the 2013-14 campaign and never looked back.
“Zach has certainly improved a lot since last year,” Highland coach Clint Jones said. “A lot of that has to do with how he approaches offense. When he gets those shots, boy, he is tough. He scores right away. Also what helps him is sometimes on scramble situations he can come out and be dangerous, catch some opponents, and put them right to their back.
“He was doing well last year, but the last three weeks of last year he really stepped up. He continued that this year and elevated it a little bit more.”
In order to continue his surge, Kleopfer wrestled during the off-season in practices with teammates and attended multiple camps. The weight-lifting program for football helped, too. Kleopfer ranked third on the team with 49 tackles last fall along the defensive line.
He also is more adept with his technique when steps onto the mat.
“I have more of a feel for things now,” Kleopfer said. “I can tell when something is going to happen a lot better than I was able to. Just have to get my offense, can’t let the other guy dictate the match. I have to do my own thing.”
A bevy of area wrestlers qualified for state in Class 1A.
Regina’s TJ Schott and Jared Brinkman will be in Des Moines this week, as will Lone Tree’s Alex Yedlik.
But Kleopfer might be the dark horse.
Is he ready for the big stage?
“Absolutely,” Jones said. “He had to wrestle some tough individuals at districts to advance to state. He’s wrestled tough competition all season long. If he wrestles like he’s capable of, good things will happen.”
Reach Matt Cozzi at firstname.lastname@example.org or 319-887-5409, and follow him on Twitter at @matt_cozzi.
STATE WRESTLING TOURNAMENT
Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines
Local state qualifiers
113 – Aaron Stumpf, Jr., (28-14) vs. Trenten Wennermark, Fr., Cedar Rapids Prairie, (25-12); 120 – No. 2 Tanner Rohweder, Sr., (44-3) vs. No. 7 Alec Ksiazek, Jr., Johnston (35-10); 160 – Nate Kelsay, Jr., (33-24) vs. No. 3 Shea Hartzler, Jr., Linn-Mar (41-2); 170 – No. 3 John Milani, Sr., (24-1) vs. No. 10 Nathaniel Standish, Sr., Johnston (26-14); 182 – No. 4 Donovan Doyle, Jr., (41-9) vs. Jacob Zachary, Soph., West Des Moines Dowling (34-15); 285 – Blake Moser, Sr., (23-21) vs. No. 2 Dalton Kuehl, Sr., Cedar Rapids Jefferson (34-7).
Clear Creek Amana
120 – Connor Murphy, Sr., (25-5) vs. Brennan Swafford, Fr., Mediapolis (44-8).
113 – Duncan McCain, Soph., (45-3) vs. Carter Cox, Soph., Atlantic (42-8); 182 – No. 8 Cameron Tolander, Jr., (35-9) vs. No. 2 Joe Teague, Sr., Algona (38-1); 195 – Levi Duwa, Soph., (36-6) vs. No. 4 Izaak Shedenhelm, Jr., Denver-Tripoli (36-1).
126 – No. 4 Louis Gnida, Sr., (39-7) vs. No. 1 Ryan Leisure, Soph., Clear Lake (43-1); 138 – Cole Fritz, Jr., (37-12) vs. No. 2 Colby McIntire, Sr., Central Lyon, (25-3); 145 – No. 6 Kade Steuhm, Sr., (38-4) vs. Adam Benzing, Sr., Waukon (29-9); 152 – Graeson Dall, Soph., (37-15) vs. No. 6 Grant Sherman, Sr., Saydel (46-1); 160 – Trevor Nelson, Soph., (37-7) vs. No. 1 Chase Shiltz, Soph., Creston/O-M (27-0); 285 – No. 1 Logan Linderbaum, Sr., (43-2) vs. No. 8 Ethan Lape, Soph., North Fayette Valley (27-2).
138 – Joe Kelly, Fr., (42-9) vs. No. 5 Preston Dunn, Fr., Sergeant Bluff-Luton (39-3); 195 – No. 8 Bryce Esmoil, Fr., (39-5) vs. Nick Jacobs, Jr., Charles City (26-15).
113 – No. 1 Drew West, Soph., (44-0) vs. Jeremy Schmitz, Soph., Don Bosco, (28-11); 120 – No. 2 Bryce West, Soph., (46-0) vs. Ben Freese, Jr., Nodaway Valley, (35-8); 160 – Zach Kleopfer, Sr., (39-7) vs. No. 3 Caleb Wedeking, Sr., North Butler, (44-4).
145 – Alex Yedlik, Sr., (39-3) vs. Chad Berrey, Sr., West Marshall, (12-6).
106 – No. 6 TJ Schott, Sr., (35-5) vs. George Appleseth, Soph., Panorama, (30-12); 220 – No. 10 Jared Brinkman, Soph., (35-5) vs. No. 7 Dustin Brown, Jr., West Lyon (38-8).
285 – No. 10 Jacob Giese, Sr., (31-7) vs. Bryce Brown, Sr., Sigourney-Keota, (27-9).