DES MOINES —
The bond of brothers Shadow, Bryce and Brett Leshen is definitely close. The success they’ve shared together this season on the wrestling mat has only made that bond stronger.
It was fitting, then, that Shadow and Bryce continued their runs for state titles on the mats at Wells Fargo Arena, together, battling the best wrestlers in Class 2A at the same time.
And every once in while, finding time to check in on each other during the battles.
“When I had a blood timeout in my quarterfinal match, I wanted to look over to see how Bryce was doing,” Shadow said.
“There was a blood timeout in my match,” Bryce added. “I definitely wanted to see how Shadow was doing. It looked like he was doing pretty well.”
The btothers got to share center stage during the late-night 2A semifinal session Friday in Des Moines, wrestling on mats right next to each other in front of their family and friends.
Unfortunately, only one of the brothers could advance to Saturday night’s championship session. That would be Shadow Leshen, who returned to the 120-pound finals by earning a hard-fought 3-1 win over North Fayette’s top-ranked senior Leighton Gaul.
“I knew what to expect this year. I know the crowd. I know how big the arena is,” Shadow said. “Guys that are here for the first time don’t know just how big things are out there. They’ve heard about it, but they’ve never experienced it. Sometimes it can startle you when they react to a move. You just have to know had to feed off of it.”
The victory over Paul gives Leshen a second chance to earn the title that he lost last year to Union’s Max Thomsen. Ironically, it was Thomsen that wrestled right next Shadow on Friday night against Bryce, ending another Leshen’s hopes for a first-ever state title with a 10-2 major decision in the semifinal round.
“I love my brother. I love both my brothers. I wish we were all going into (tonight) wrestling for state titles,” Shadow said.
Albia went into the day with five quarterfinal qualifiers and three grapplers in the semifinals. Beside the Leshen brothers, fifth-ranked Griffin Osing built off Thursday’s upset of defending state champ Nick Georgean of Davenport Assumption by earning a 3-1 win over Sergeant-Bluff Luton’s Bret Tomoson.
The magic ran out, however, for the fifth-ranked 152-pound junior. Osing fell in the semifinals to Logan Thomsen, older brother of Max.
“I can’t say enough about the effort all our guys have made,” Albia head wrestling coach Dave Wenger said. “We’d like to have gotten as many guys into the finals as we could, but we’re excited have Shadow get back there.”
“It’s definitely exhausting keeping up with all these guys.”
Centerville’s Riley Denny will be the second South Central Conference grappler to compete for a title on Saturday night. The Big Reds big 195-pound senior scored a 5-4 decision over sixth-ranked Ballard senior Alex Macki in one of the final matches on the mat.