DES MOINES, Ia. — The Solon Spartans came to Des Moines Wednesday as the new kids on the block. It was just their second time reaching the Class 2A state duals as a team, and they’d never medaled as a team at the duals or the state meet.
New kids no longer.
Solon edged New Hampton by a half-point — 96.5 to 96 — to claim its first team title and its second team medal of any kind; it got runner-up to New Hampton at the duals.
“Just awesome,” head coach Blake Williams said. “So happy for the kids and the program and just the community in general. We’ve had a lot of support and a lot of fans throughout the whole year. Wednesday we were down here for state duals and it seemed like we had one of the biggest, if not the biggest, sections.”
The orange and black enjoyed a great meet individually, too. No one more so than Bryce West, the 120-pound mold of the dominant West brothers.
Bryce West, ranked No. 1 in his class, won the state title by handling No. 8 Blake Steege of Denver, 15-5. West became the 83rd kid in Iowa history to win three wrestling state titles and he tied the state record for career wins with 210.
“It’s going one match at a time,” West said. “Wrestling the way I should, go out and score points and build up my lead. So it’s all the same, same feeling. It’s just more satisfying getting my 210th win and tying the career record.
“I gave everything I have (because of) the feeling that it’s my last one. So I just gave it everything I got.”
He finished his senior season 54-1.
Drew West, ranked second at 126 pounds, dropped a thriller, 3-2, to No. 1 Michael Millage of New Hampton in the championship match. West was gaining momentum late in the third, but time ran out on him. He finished his senior season 54-2.
Good day to be an Esmoil
Will Esmoil stood on his tip-toes to snap some photos of his big brother, Bryce Esmoil, speaking with the media after winning the 2A state title at 195 pounds. When Bryce was done, he found Will and the two embraced in what can only be described as a brotherly bear hug.
It was a good day to be an Esmoil.
Bryce capped a 42-2 season by beating Cody Fisher of Woodward-Grander by technical fall, 15-0, to win his first state title; he got third last year. His win also marked the first state title for West Liberty since 2000.
The year Bryce was born.
“I wish that my brother beat me to it, but stuff happens and you’ve got to fight through it,” the junior Comet said. “Fight through adversity.”
Earlier that day, while Will was speaking to reporters, Bryce jogged over and jolted his brother forward with a cracking congratulatory butt-slap. Then he hurried away. A proud big brother letting little bro enjoy his moment.
And he should have been proud. Will Esmoil bounced back from an opening-match loss and rattled off four straight wins to claim third place.
“I came to get top three and that’s what I did,” said Esmoil, who finished 43-6. “It was a first tough loss in the first round, but I had to fight back and finish.
“You just have to come back.”
Esmoil, a freshman ranked third in his weight class, lost in overtime, 4-2, to No. 6 Carter Weeks on Thursday. Then, on Friday, he dominated Colby Wiederholt of Van Meter, 13-2, and pinned Joe Waters of Spirit Lake to advance to Saturday’s consolation semifinal.
There, Weeks awaited him for a first-round rematch. Esmoil pinned him at 5:16.
“Amazing. I don’t know how to describe it,” West Liberty head coach Jeff Wiele said. “Really, all of them, all three of the guys we’ve got out here. But lose first round and crawl all the way back and to beat the guy that beat you? It’s amazing, especially for a freshman.
“Unbelievable tournament. Unbelievable kid. It was just great.”
Esmoil clinched third place with a 5-3 decision over No. 8 Andrew Flora of ADM.
His teammate, top-ranked 152-pounder Joe Kelly, also took third place Saturday. The junior rebounded after a 10-2 loss to No. 2 Isaac Judge of South Tama in the quarterfinals, and he pinned No. 4 John Tuttle of Spirit Lake midway through the second of the consolation final. His final record: 43-3.
“I think I learned a lot from this tournament that’s going to be able to help me out next year to reach the goal that I wanted this year and the year before, since as long as I can remember,” Kelly said. “You’ve just got to wrestle the way you wrestle. Be aggressive. Don’t worry too much about what the other guy’s going to do. Just focus on yourself more.”
All three medalists return next season for the Comets.
Brands already eyeing No. 3
Nelson Brands had an immediate answer. Which state title feels better, the first or the second?
“Oh the second,” the Iowa City West junior replied. “The second’s way better. Now I just need to get that third.”
Brands, ranked No. 1 in 3A at 152 pounds, took down No. 4 Cayd Lara of Fort Dodge with 35 seconds left for an 11-9 win in the state title match.
“Best feeling in the world,” Brands said.
His two titles now match the amount his father, Terry Brands, won in high school.
“I’m myself, but it’s going to feel good to one-up my dad,” he said with a smile.
Brands, who went 54-1 this year, may already have been the best pound-for-pound wrestler at the state meet, and logic says he’s only going to improve next year as he pushes for a third state title.
“It’s obviously a different year for him,” West head coach Mark Reiland said. “Everybody’s chasing him instead of him doing the chasing. He’s got another year left and he’s going to get the same type of chase. He’s going to have to be ready to go and I think he will.
“There’s a lot to be said about how he competed this year. He saw the top guys — saw virtually everybody on the stand … and he threw the best down and just kept knocking them off.”
With his 5-2 win over No. 2 Kyler Schott of North Linn in the 285-pound 1A final, No. 1 Jared Brinkman of the Regina became the first Regal to ever win back-to-back state titles.
“That was my goal from the start,” he said. “My dream was to win one and I was fortunate enough to win two.”
The Northern Iowa football commit secured two wins by pin, and opponents scored just three points against him in his other two wins. He went 38-1 in this, his senior campaign.
Of the 29 wrestlers representing the Iowa City area, 17 finished in the top eight — with four champions and eight top-three finishers.
120: No. 1 Bryce West – 1st; 126: No. 2 Drew West – 2nd; 138: No. 9 Ben Carr – 3rd; 160: No. 4 Trevor Nelson – 6th; 285: No. 4 Tyler Linderbaum – 5th
West Liberty, 2A
106: No. 3 Will Esmoil – 3rd; 152: No. 1 Joe Kelly – 3rd; 195: No. 1 Bryce Esmoil – 1st
Iowa City West, 3A
106: No. 10 Hans vonRamenau – 8th; 120: Alex Aguirre – 8th; 152: Nelson Brands – 1st; 160: No. 7 Carter Rohweder – 5th
City High, 3A
126: Lance Bormann – 8th; 195: No. 5 Jacob Dykes – 5th; 220: No. 5 Jordain Buckland – 4th
285: No. 1 Jared Brinkman – 1st
182: No. 2 Visouth Peterschmidt – 4th