Bettendorf’s Drew Sass gets twisted up by Carroll’s Sam Kastle in their class 3A, 138 pound match Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015, during the opening round of the State Wrestling Tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
Two months ago, John Milani hadn’t even participated in a single drill much less a practice or meet.
The West High senior was sidelined with injury, recovering from a meniscus tear during football season.
None of that was apparent Thursday at the state wrestling tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. Milani won his first round match at 170 pounds, posting a victory by decision 7-2 over Johnston’s Nathaniel Standish.
“Went out there anxious to get the first one, just focused on one match at a time,” Milani said. “Wanted to push the pace, but I felt pretty sloppy. Wasn’t setting up my shots real well. But I tried to do my thing and went from there.”
Four of West’s six state qualifiers won their first round bouts to advance to Friday: Aaron Stumpf (113), Tanner Rohweder (120), Milani, and Donovan Doyle (182). Nate Kelsay lost in the first round at 160, but did win in the consolation round. Blake Moser lost both of his matches at 285.
There was a wealth of experience returning to West this season as evidenced by a significant turnout at state this week, but Milani provided a jolt to the club.
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“Definitely really eager to get back in the sport and was kind of able to have a little break between football and wrestling, which was nice,” Milani said. “Once I got back, it was all business. My coaches and my teammates pushed me right away and I’ve gotten better every day. It’s important to go into the room with the right mentality.”
The Trojans might want to plan on getting comfortable with the Des Moines area. Five wrestlers advancing means there’s still a lot to be desired.
Stumpf, Rohweder, Kelsay, Milani, and Doyle are all veterans, with Rohweder, Milani, and Doyle making state appearances in 2014, as well.
“It’s about going out and doing what you do, competing hard, and leaving it all out on the mat because there’s really no tomorrow if you don’t get it done,” West coach Mark Reiland said. “Tomorrow if you look at some of the matchups, we have some tough matchups coming, so we’ve got to be ready to go. It’s the state tournament – it’s going to be tough. We’re not at some rinky-dink tournament. This is what it’s about.”
West was close to having more than six wrestlers at state.
But this is the group that will have an opportunity to fill a recent void in Reiland’s program – plenty of qualifiers, no state champions in the last three seasons.
“We always want more,” Reiland said. “We felt like we had an opportunity to get a couple more here, it would have been nice to get a couple more here, but it is what it is. We’re going to compete with these guys and hopefully we keep all five guys alive tomorrow.
“There’s an expectation when you walk into that room and we want to keep it that way. There’s been a lot of guys before them that have done big things and set the tone for what the program is about, and these guys need to hold that tradition up.”
Reach Matt Cozzi at firstname.lastname@example.org or 319-887-5409, and follow him on Twitter at @matt_cozzi.