Karsten Van Velsor and Kevin Childs have taken two different, yet somewhat similar routes to the 2013 IHSAA Class 3A State wrestling tournament in Des Moines at the Wells Fargo Arena.
Both Ottumwa wrestlers have had to triumph in the face of adversity to get to state. In their private moments, perhaps Childs and Van Velsor allowed themselves some time to take pleasure in the obstacles they have overcome while approvingly noting the extra hours of practice and sweat it took to overcome those obstacles. Such is the due of anyone who triumphs in the face of great adversity.
Van Velsor, who is ranked seventh in the 138 weight class — although circumstances have forced him to wrestle up a weight at 145 for much of the year — has been the linchpin of the Bulldog wrestling program — a program that that had its best season in a number of years.
Not given to long bouts of talking, Van Velsor prefers to let his actions on the mat do the speaking for him. The senior’s wrestling style is unmerciful and relentless; he never lets up no matter how much he’s ahead or behind his opponent. And, no matter how much they wriggle, squirm and otherwise protest their situation, Van Velsor’s opponents often find their shoulders pinned to the mat.
“He’s wrestling really well,” Ottumwa coach Kevin Cochran previously said. “I feel if he wrestles to his full capabilities he’s as tough as anyone in the state at that weight class.”
Van Velsor qualified for state for the second time in his career by going 3-1 at 138 at the IHSAA Class 3A District tournament in Mount Pleasant last Saturday. Going into the tourney, Van Velsor was the only Ottumwa wrestlers ranked second or higher — he was second — in his weight class. He lived up to his ranking by taking second in the tourney. After he won his first two matches by pin in under two minutes, Van Velsor dropped his next match 12-9 despite mounting a spirited comeback to make the match respectable. Fortunately, the senior Bulldog took second by winning his next match in a 10-3 decision.
Van Velsor already has reached one pinnacle this season when he won his 100th match, now he has an even bigger fish to capture: A state title.
Going into state, he boasts a record of 41 wins and only six losses. He will face Council Bluff Jefferson’s Jason Wallace Thursday. Wallace, who is a sophomore, sports a 38-7 record. Since Van Velsor has the edge on his opponent in terms of overall victories and experience, he should be able to score a victory over his younger opponent.
The senior wrestler finally got to operate at near full strength this season after being both directly and indirectly affected by a right foot injury that limited his abilities during his sophomore year and for much of his junior season. The injury, which occurred the summer before his sophomore year when a car he was a passenger in flipped over, has required a number of surgeries and a couple long stints of inactivity. The injury forced him to wrestle his entire sophomore year in pain and — a surgery-induced period of immobility forced him to wrestle much of his junior year in mediocre condition.
“The first part of the season I wasn’t in shape,” Karsten Van Velsor previously said, “but by the end of the year I was 100 percent.”
A less determined athlete might have opted to throw in the towel out of frustration, but Van Velsor remained steadfast in his determination to improve his skills. This season neither his foot or his conditioning has been a problem and Van Velsor has capitalized on his improved health by racking up victories and recording an abundance of pins.
Childs has been the surprise story of the season for the Bulldogs. The senior, who wrestles in the 285-weight class, deserves ample credit for the complete turnaround he has made this season. After he only managed to win two matches his junior season, Childs has posted a 29-14 record. For those keeping track that’s a 31-match turnaround. Not ten or even twenty, but thirty-one matches!
“He’s a true success story in the sport of wrestling,” Cochran said. “His story is a coach’s dream come true.
To qualify for state, Childs scored a pin in his first match and slipped by his second opponent in a 2-1 decision. Although he was pinned in the finals, he rebounded to pin his next opponent in 5:34.
He will face North Scott’s Cegan Long Thursday. Long goes into the match ranked fifth in the heavyweight division with an imposing 39-4 record. While Childs has a mountainous task in front of him, it would be mistake to write him off. His whole season has been about defying the odds and there’s no reason to believe that pattern can’t continue.
The Class 3A first round and consolidation matches start at 2 p.m. today. The quarterfinals will start at 9 a.m. Friday and the semifinals will take place later on that day at 8:30 p.m. The consolation finals will start at 10 a.m. Saturday and the finals will start at 6 p.m.