Time to shine; six grapplers to represent Winn. Co. at state

By Becky Walz,

Winneshiek County will have six matmen representing northeast Iowa this week at the state wrestling tournament in Des Moines.

Four other grapplers from the county also took the mats Saturday in district competition but failed to advance to the next round.

The state tournament runs Thursday through Saturday, Feb. 18-20. (see page 24 for the complete state schedule).

How to qualify

Wrestlers at all district sites, regardless of class, needed to finish in the top two of their weight bracket to advance to state. There are eight district sites per class, making 16 grapplers at each weight in each class who will advance to state.

The first step to state — the sectional meet — was Saturday, Feb. 6. Decorah, hosting the Class 2A Sectional 11 meet, sent six grapplers to the district meet in New Hampton Saturday. South Winn competed at Lake Mills for the sectional meet and had four advance to districts Saturday at Clarksville.

At districts, wrestle backs are utilized to determine the true second-place finisher. If the finals loser and the consolation finals winner (second and third place) didn’t face each other in the first round, they wrestled for true second place and the final spot at state.

Headed to Des Moines

Four Decorah wrestlers and two Warriors will take the mats in Des Moines later this week in the quest for a state title.

Representing the Vikings will be Brady Stille (132 pounds), Austin Wilkins (138), Jackson Rolfs (145) and Keenan Tyler (182), while Ethan Maldonado (126) and Damon Meyer (220) will take the mats for South Winn.

J. Rolfs had been nearly perfect on the season at 145 pounds, losing just two times. Ranked fifth, the senior pinned his way to the state meet, first turning Tucker Hejlik of Iowa Falls-Alden in 1:26 in the semifinals, then throwing Roland-Story’s ninth-ranked Christian Eslick in 3:12 to be crowned the district champion.

In the first round Thursday, J. Rolfs (28-2) will face Sam West (37-8) of Notre Dame/W.B./Danville.

Claiming the 182-pound district title was Tyler. The first step on his inaugural berth to Des Moines, the junior defeated CJ Hisler of Webster City in a 10-5 decision. The finals pitted Tyler against Kale Rodgers of North Fayette Valley. The Viking was the aggressor, coming away with a 12-4 major decision victory.

Tyler (23-5) will do battle with No. 6 Keegan Bradley (31-2) of Spirit Lake Park in the first round at state.

Austin Wilkins earned his second career berth to state. Wrestling at 138 pounds, the junior defeated Mason Kent of Iowa Falls-Alden by a 7-3 decision to move into the finals versus No. 4 Chase Thomas of Crestwood. Wilkins couldn’t get his offense moving during the match, ending the day by a 7-0, yet qualifying for state as the district runner up and takes a 23-12 record to state.

At state, Wilkins (23-12) will first battle with No. 5 Reed Abbas (32-2) of Clarion-Goldfield-Dows.

Stille (132) needed a wrestle back 9-0 major decision win over Cole Butikofer of Crestwood to punch his ticket to state. The sophomore lost his first match of the day to Chase Rattenborg of Webster City by fall in 1:58. He came back with a 13-1 major decision over No. 7 Jakyb Kapp of Hampton-Dumont. He earned the wrestle back when Rattenborg defeated Butikofer in the finals. 

In his first trip to Wells Fargo Arena, Stille (20-11) will begin his title quest versus No. 4 Logan Arp of South Tama Thursday.

Returning to Des Moines for the third time in his career is South Winn’s Ethan Maldonado at 126 pounds. The semifinals pitted the junior against No. 9 Trey Lashbrook of AGWSR, winning the match by a 7-6 decision. In the finals, Maldonado faced Central Springs second-ranked Clayton McDonough, falling by 16-0 tech fall.

Maldonado (35-9) will face Cade Siebrecht (31-4) of Lisbon in the first round in Des Moines.

Meyer was looking for his second bid to state. The fourth-ranked senior stepped onto the mat first with Max Beminio of Belmond-Klemme to earn a 14-2 major decision to head into the finals. There, he faced No. 8 Sage Hulshizer of Saint Ansgar and earned a hard-fought 7-6 decision to punch his ticket to state.

South Winn’s Meyer (18-2) will open the tournament versus Underwood’s Chris Gardner (35-8), who is ranked ninth.

“I am very proud of how our guys prepared this week and how they wrestled on Saturday. It is always tough to see some of our guys not achieve their goals, but it doesn’t take away from the great seasons they put together. Ethan and Damon will wrestle on Thursday in Des Moines,” said South Winn Coach Jacob Elsbernd.

Sad conclusion

Four other wrestlers from Winneshiek County ended their seasons at districts including Decorah’s Kollin Henry (106) and Lane Rolfs (126), as well as South Winn’s Logan Hageman (170) and Tony Greve (195). 

At 106 pounds, Decorah’s Kollin Henry ended his season at district’s Saturday. In the semifinals, the freshman faced fourth-ranked Kade Blume of Roland-Story, getting rolled to his back in 3:54. Looking to make his way to a wrestle back, Henry went up against No. 6 Nathaniel Bigalk of Crestwood, getting turned in 5:25. He ends the season with a 22-14 record.

Viking Lane Rolfs started his day in a battle with Dike-New Hartford’s Dylan Ohrt in the 126-pound quarterfinals, getting edged in a 3-2 decision. After winning his match for third versus Reece Sadler of Webster City, the Vikings sophomore was unable to secure a wrestle back as No. 1 Carter Fousek of Crestwood had pinned Ohrt in 26 seconds. L. Rolfs ended his season with a 19-16 record.

Two Warriors also saw their dreams of running out of the tunnel in Des Moines come to a conclusion.

At 170 pounds, junior Logan Hageman was looking to qualify for the first time. “He faced No. 2 Lane Swenson of South Hamilton in the semifinals, falling in 3:54. Hageman then faced Cole Negen of North Butler-Clarksville, throwing his opponent in 2:42 and unable to receive a wrestle back.

Tony Greve, a junior was aiming for his first shot at state. First up was No. 4 Trevor Thompson of South Hamilton, who knocked Greve out of the finals by a 4-1 decision. The Warrior grappler put Newman’s Holden Hensley on his back in 1:41 in the third-place match; however, was unable to get a wrestle back for second place.

How state works

The state wrestling tournament begins Thursday, Feb. 18, at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines and runs through Saturday, Feb. 20. The first round for Class 1A is Thursday at 9 a.m.

Wrestlers need to win once Thursday to advance. If a grappler loses in the first round, he falls into the consolation bracket. If he wins the first match Thursday, he advances to the quarterfinals Friday, Feb. 19. Two losses Thursday eliminates the grappler from the tournament.

Two wins in the first two days guarantees a grappler will medal (finish in the top eight of the weight class).

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