Bettendorf and Southeast Polk have taken turns ruling the Class 3-A empire throughout the past four seasons. After the Bulldogs claimed the 2012 title and the Rams moved to the top in 2013, Bettendorf regained the crown last year in a race that went down to the closing seconds of the tournament’s final bout.
Iowa’s only representatives in the InterMat Fab 50 — Southeast Polk is ranked eighth nationally, 13 notches ahead of Bettendorf — are constructed differently.
The Rams have strength in numbers with a record-tying 13 qualifiers, matching a mark reached only by Waverly-Shell Rock (2007), Bettendorf (2012) and Southeast Polk (2013).
Ten of Southeast Polk’s 13 qualifiers appeared in the final Predicament rankings, including two at the top: Nolan Hellickson (126) and heavyweight Jake Marnin. Third-ranked Ethan Andersen is also the defending champ at 220.
The Rams started the season with record-setting goals. More specific, they eyed the 225-point plateau reached by Waverly-Shell Rock in 2007 when the Go-Hawks smashed the state tournament scoring record. To get there, Southeast Polk will need to average nearly 18 points per wrestler. For perspective, Hellickson scored 18 points last year when he placed third.
Southeast Polk, however, is no cinch to even win the title. That’s because Bettendorf has four past champions — Jack Wagner (113), Jacob Schwarm (120), Fredy Stroker (145) and Jacob Woodard (152) — along with 2014 finalist Paul Glynn (132) and Dayton Racer (160), a 2013 Minnesota state champion.
Union of LaPorte City collected its third state tournament trophy last year, but the Knights are still trying to wrap their arms around the big prize. This might be their best chance yet.
The core of last year’s third-place squad is back, led by undefeated state champions Max Thomsen (145) and Jacob Holschlag (170). Thomsen is aiming to become the 24th wrestler in state history to win four titles.
The top-ranked Knights enter the tournament with eight qualifiers, including five ranked fifth or better.
The favorite label last year belonged to Mediapolis, but the Bulldogs went 5-4 in the opening round and never totally regained their balance. They still collected seven individual medals and scored 98.5 points, but they finished 18.5 behind Davenport Assumption.
Second-ranked Mediapolis qualified eight wrestlers this year, including defending champion Steven Holloway (195) and second-ranked Cole Erickson (160).
Davenport Assumption’s repeat hopes suffered a blow on the eve of the postseason when second-ranked 152-pounder Tristen Finch suffered a broken leg in practice. The Knights qualified seven wrestlers, including returning medalist Gabe Rangel. The senior placed third last year at 182 before jumping up to heavyweight. He’s coming off wins the last two weekends against No. 1 Logan Linderbaum of Solon.
Unranked Creston/Orient-Macksburg tops the 2-A field with nine qualifiers, but the Panthers will have to pull off some upsets to contend. Top-ranked and returning finalist Chase Shiltz (160) is the squad’s only wrestler ranked in the top six.
There were several points during the final hours of last year’s tournament when Alburnett appeared ready to take an historic step to a place only five other Class 1-A programs have reached.
But the Pirates’ bid to become the sixth repeat champion in 1-A history unraveled in stunning fashion when Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont reeled off four consecutive final-found wins while Alburnett lost its last six matches on the tournament’s final day.
The top-ranked Pirates regained their footing this season and they’re positioned to seize the prize that slipped through their hands last year. Alburnett topped the 1-A field with 10 qualifiers, including two-time state champion Hunter Washburn (132), top-ranked Conner Shulista (145) and returning finalist Bryce Paul (152).
Second-ranked Clarion-Goldfield-Dows is banking on big points from twins Justin and Josh Portillo. Justin, a returning finalist, is 38-1 and ranked No. 1 at 106. Josh, a defending state champ, is ranked No. 1 at 120, but he bumped up to 126 for the postseason. He’s 70-1 during the past two seasons.
Southeast Warren is trying to crack the top three for the first time in school history. Six of the eight Warhawk qualifiers are ranked: Blake Bauer (fourth at 106), Brady Kyler (third at 113), Jake Hunerdosse (eighth at 132), Jacob Hoch (fifth at 160), Ty Schneider (fourth at 195) and Tate Vandyne (fifth at 220). Those six combined for 294 victories in 307 bouts heading into Wednesday’s state duals.