Speaking has never been a problem for Tanner Rohweder.
“I could talk to a brick wall,” Rohweder said with a chuckle.
Wrestling has come almost as easily for the West High senior.
He brings a 141-24 career record into the Class 3A state tournament that opens Thursday at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
He is a four-time state qualifier and already has three state medals.
But, it was listening rather than talking that helped shaped Rohweder’s already sterling prep wrestling career.
STATE WRESTLING : Brackets
While at the Cadet National tournament in Florida following his freshman season, Rohweder had a conversation with West High coach Mark Reiland.
The way Rohweder recalls it, the conversation was fairly one-sided.
Reiland talked and Rohweder listened.
“He told me what he thought and that whole summer I put my trust in him and I just listened,” Rohweder said. “He straight up told me, ‘you can be a whole lot better than what you are right now.’ I just said, ‘I don’t want to settle I want to be the best.’ “
Since that moment Rohweder has made a steady climb toward becoming the best.
He went 24-7 and finished fourth at the state meet at 113 last year in his first season at West High after earning back-to-back fifth-place finishes at 106 pounds at West Des Moines Dowling Catholic.
This season, Rohweder has turned that steady climb into a rapid ascent.
He is 44-3 and ranked second at 120 pounds entering Thursday’s state-tournament opener against No. 7 Alec Ksiazek (35-10) of Johnston.
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“Hands down, he’s not even the same wrestler,” Reiland said when questioned on Rohweder’s improvement. “I think he’s better on his feet, he’s better underneath, he’s better on top, I think in all phases of it he’s better than he has been.”
Rohweder hasn’t just improved his record this season, he’s been dominant while doing so.
Nearly half of his 44 wins have failed to go the distance, including 19 wins by fall.
“I’m just holding myself to higher standards,” Rohweder said. “Last year I’d win a match by, say, six points and I’d be happy I won the match. This year I expect more from myself. It’s a whole new mentality.”
Rohweder enters the state meet with a lone blemish on his record against Iowa competition.
Two of his three defeats came to Illinois wrestlers by identical 1-0 scores.
The other defeat for Rohweder was a 4-0 decision to top-ranked Jacob Schwarm of Bettendorf in the finals of the Ed Winger Invitational on Jan. 24.
With a win Thursday in the opening round, Rohweder could get another shot at Schwarm (44-2) in the quarterfinals.
“He’s had a really good year, a really solid year, he’s had some good wins,” Reiland said. “Obviously we have to get over the hump with Schwarm, but there are obviously going to be other matches besides him so we just have to be ready.”
For Rohweder, who awaits in the quarterfinals or at any point beyond is of no real concern.
“It’s pretty much been tunnel vision, this year has just been a whole new level of focus,” Rohweder explained. “He (Schwarm) is a tough competitor, a tough kid but I’m only thinking about one thing.”
Reiland believes Rohweder has “just scratched the surface” of his potential as a wrestler.
Rohweder plans to wrestle in college, though he’s not sure where.
For now that decision can wait.
“I’ve still got one thing in mind and that’s Saturday night,” Rohweder said.
Reach Ryan Murken at 319-339-7369 or firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @rmmurken.
With weight, class, record and first-round opponent
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).