MOUNT PLEASANT – If the high school wrestling season is a marathon, West High senior John Milani joined the race around the 15-mile mark.
On Saturday, Milani sprinted toward the finish.
Milani won the 170-pound title and helped West High claim the team title at the Class 3A, District 4 meet at Mount Pleasant High School.
Milani joined senior Tanner Rohweder as district champions, and West High qualified six wrestlers for this week’s state meet while winning the team title with 185.5 points.
Ranked third at 170 pounds, Milani went 3-0 on the day, including an 8-5 win over No. 7 Cody Jones of Oskaloosa.
“It definitely means a lot to win this meet,” Milani said. “I came in here confident and knowing what I had to do, and I went out and did that.”
A knee injury caused Milani to start his senior season more than a month late, but he showed no ill effect Saturday.
“I feel fresher now than I would have if I wrestled the whole season,” Milani said. “I’m still a little banged up, but it definitely made me a lot more hungry to get back to this point.”
Milani used a first-period pin in the opening round and a 17-2 tech fall in the semifinals to reach the finals. He improved to 24-1 with the win over Jones.
“I think he’s there,” West High coach Mark Reiland said. “It’s not so much his conditioning, I think his conditioning is OK. It’s just mat time and he’s just an athlete and he has to be an athlete.”
Milani built a 6-1 lead over Jones with a pair of first-period takedowns and a reversal early in the second.
Jones closed the gap to 6-5 before Milani recorded the final points of the match on a takedown with 1:22 left, pushing the lead back to 8-5.
“I feel like I’ve got everything back,” Milani said. “I’ve finally got my lungs back and I’m getting the feel for being on the mat and being in different positions, but I felt good today.”
Milani will make his third consecutive state tournament appearance when the 3A meet opens Thursday at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
Rohweder (44-3) was dominating on his way to the 120-pound title.
Ranked No. 2 at 120, Rohweder recorded a pair of first-period pins before winning an 11-2 major decision over No. 9 Drew Sams of Oskaloosa in the finals.
“Districts is about going out and doing your job and getting it done quick,” Rohweder said. “Obviously you are trained to not look ahead and take each match at a time, but this is a time where you take care of business because you have bigger goals for next week.”
West High went 2-3 in championship matches as Aaron Stumpf (113), Nate Kelsay (160) and Donovan Doyle (182) all lost in the finals but qualified for state with runner-up finishes.
Senior 285-pounder Blake Moser lost in the semifinals but won back-to-back wrestle back matches, including a 4-3 win over Jackson Kelley of Mount Pleasant, to clinch a state tournament berth.
“It’s hard for some of those kids to respond after losing and obviously it’s not the ideal situation to be in,” Reiland said. “It’s tough to fight through that for some.”
Stumpf (28-14) dropped a 10-2 major decision to No. 10 Brant O’Shea of Keokuk in the 113-pound final. Kelsay (33-24) fell to Spencer Sherwood of Burlington 15-8 in the 160-pound finals.
No. 4 Doyle (41-9) dropped a 10-7 decision to No. 2 Dakota Shaw of Keokuk in the finals at 182.
“I thought coming in we had a shot from three to eight to 10,” Reiland said.
City High failed to qualify a wrestler for the state tournament. The Little Hawks dropped a trio of gut-wrenching second-place matches.
Ali Omar and Nic Jarvis both lost 4-3 decisions in second-place matches to fall one win away from the state tournament. Armani Smith dropped an 11-3 decision at 220.
“It’s tough,” City High coach Cory Connell said. “They have come a long way this year. To finish this way, it’s tough.”
Class 3A, District 4
At Mount Pleasant
Team Scores: 1. West High 185.5; 2. Fort Madison 160; 3. Burlington 150.5; 4. Ottumwa 149; 5. Keokuk 140; 6. Oskaloosa 131; 7. City High 129; 8. Mount Pleasant 71.
State Qualifiers, Area Place Winners
106 – 1. Harlan Steffensmeier (FM); 2. Alec Clark (OTT); 3. Joey Harney (ICH); 4. Alex Aguirre (ICW).
113 – 1. Brant O’Shea (KEO); 2. Aaron Stumpf (ICW); 4. Jacob Powers (ICH).
120 – 1. Taner Rohweder (ICW); 2. Drew Sams (OSK); 5. Lance Borman (ICH).
126 – 1. Skyler DeJong (OSK); 2. Cam Sadeghi (KEO); 4. Nelson Brands (ICW).
132 – 1. Tanner Hocker (FM); 2. Nathan Cary (OTT); 5. Daniel Kelly (ICH).
138 – 1. Chase Seaney (FM); 2. Collin McConnell (OTT); 3. Carter Rohweder (ICW); 4. Colton Chalupa (ICH).
145 – 1. Wyatt Schlotter (OTT); 2. Matthew Derr (FM); 3. Ali Omar (ICH); 5. Ben Bertell (ICW).
152 – 1. Garrett Grimshaw (BUR); 2. Nick Otte (FM); 3. Nic Jarvis (ICH).
160 – 1. Spencer Sherwood (BUR); 2. Nate Kelsay (ICW); 3. Jacob Dykes (ICH).
170 – 1. John Milani (ICW); 2. Cody Jones (OSK); 6. Stephen Whitlow (ICH).
182 – 1. Dakota Shaw (KEO); 2. Donovan Doyle (ICW); 4. Brock Hunger (ICH).
195 – 1. Isaiah Cox (OTT); 2. Kyler Salazar (OSK); 5. Khalloe Jordan (ICW) 6. Sarrive Rukakiza (ICH).
220 – 1. Callan Tomlin (OSK); 2. Broihson Tuner (BUR); 3. Armani Smith (ICH); 4. Mitch Yoerger (ICW).
285 – 1. Ryan Egley (KEO); 2. Blake Moser (ICW).