DES MOINES —
Two things are certain in the month of February.
One, Punxsutawney Phil Sowerby will attempt to see his shadow.
Two, the Iowa State Wrestling Tournament will deliver its share of great stories and dramatic moments.
But while the forecasting abilities of Pennsylvania’s most famous groundhog won’t always be spot on, Iowa’s most famous high school athletic event always delivers.
Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont made sure of that right away on Wednesday as the Rockets blasted to the finals in the Class 1A State Duals.
Third-ranked E-B-F took two dramatic dual victories in the quarterfinals and semifinals before falling to top-ranked Alburnett, 60-21 in the finals. The Rockets held five of their wrestlers who are competing today out of Wednesday’s dual finals match against Alburnett.
The fantastic story of this EBF wrestling season is far from over. In fact, things are just getting started for the Rockets, who will have seven grapplers to the mat this morning as the opening individual rounds gets under way with the Class 1A session at 9 a.m.
Five ranked wrestlers will hit the mat today for the Rockets, four of whom are making return trips to state. Sophomore Blake Marolf is the lone returning EBF grappler to make it to the podium last year after finishing third at 113 pounds to cap a 50-win freshman season.
“It gives me a lot more motivation going into state this year,” Marolf said. “I’m a lot more confident in my abilities.”
Marolf, who carried a 39-1 overall record and a number-three ranking heading into Wednesday, draws Belmond-Klemme senior Reed Little today in his 132-pound opener. Other interesting matches today involving the Rockets includes a battle of top-10 152-pound seniors as EBF’s Jason Crosby takes on Griswold’s Tanner Potter, eighth-ranked junior Dillon Pigsley opening 182-pound action against 10th-ranked North Linn senior Taylor Michael, ninth-ranked junior Tucker Black facing seventh-ranked 50-win Woodbury Central senior Jake Mize at 145.
Fifth-ranked EBF sophomore Jeren Glosser will also look to duplicate Wednesday’s effort. Glosser opens action at 120 against Emmetsburg’s Jake Miller, one day after pinning the E-Hawk sophomore in 70 seconds.
“You just have to go out there and get the job done,” Glosser said. “The idea is to go out there and dominate every match.”
Moravia will have one of the first 16 wrestlers on the mat for the state meet this morning as 35-6 freshman Briar Cochran takes on English Valley sophomore Sheldon Ealy on Mat 6 at 9 a.m. in a 106-pound opener.
Cochran and senior heavyweight teammate Dylan Conley will represent a renewed Mohawk wrestling program this week at state. After upsetting previously unbeaten Colfax-Mingo sophomore Jimmy Abell, Cochran is excited to give his best representation at state.
“What we say all the time in the wrestling room is favorites never shock the world,” Cochran said. “Winning that district final was my chance to make a statement and propel myself on to state.”
“We want to get this program back to where it was 20 years ago,” Mohawk head coach Dennis Whitlow added. “We’ve got guys from Moravia that take pride in the program. Hopefully, our younger wrestlers see this and keep adding to our success.”
Despite losing three times in postseason matches, Tri-County/Montezuma’s top-ranked junior Tyler Foubert will compete in his third straight state tournament. The Trojans’ 160-pounder will have one of the top opening matches of the day as Foubert battles third-ranked Don Bosco junior Jack Hogan.
In prime time, six Albia wrestlers highlight a South Central-heavy field of area 2A state qualifiers. Head coach Dave Wenger joins a proud assistant coach and uncle in former state champ Nick Pickrell, who will watch three nephews represent the Blue Demons.
State runner-up Shadow Leshen begins his quest to join Uncle Nick as an Albia state wrestling champ tonight as the 120-pound fourth-ranked junior opens against Benton sophomore Dylan Beaver. Second-ranked 160-pound brother Brett, meanwhile, looks to shake off his first loss this season as the 49-1 junior faces seventh-ranked Osage senior Colin Baker. Younger brother Bryce, fifth ranked at 126, begins his first state tournament against ninth-ranked Independence senior Caleb Studebaker.
Five ranked Albia wrestlers will compete tonight overall, including fifth-ranked junior Griffin Osing’s 152-pound battle with top-ranked defending state champion senior Nick Georgean of Davenport Assumption. In his only state tournament appearance, Zach Davis looks to cap an emotional ride to Des Moines as the Blue Demon heavyweight faces eighth-ranked Carlisle senior Ben Burnett.
“We have a great opportunity as a team to score some big points with six guys competing,” Wenger said. “We really need to focus on our first round matches, and then we will move forward from there. It is setting up to be a very exciting week for our program and our community.”
Centerville sends a trio of grapplers to Des Moines tonight, highlighted by returning qualifier Riley Denny. The fourth-ranked Big Red senior beings his quest for a 195-pound title against ninth-ranked Harlan junior Cale Stork in a top-ten battle of 40-win competitors.
Chariton will also have three wrestlers in action for 2A crowns, including 10th-ranked freshman Carter Isley fresh off beating out two rated rivals for a district title on Saturday in Knoxville. Charger junior teammates Tanner Poush and Tyler Nance will look to match their young teammate’s success as Poush faces defending 126-pound state champ and top-ranked 132-pound Sergeant Bluff-Luton senior Colton McCrystal while Nance takes on second-ranked Spirit Lake junior Zach Skopec at 138.
Fairfield returns two of last year’s state qualifiers as seventh-ranked 170-pound Trojan senior Seth Davisson faces Perry senior Schylar Knoll while 10th-ranked district champion senior Jacob Mineart faces Greene County senior Aaron Beaman at 220 pounds. Davis County’s lone state qualifier, junior Kody Smith, takes on third-ranked Charles City sophomore Johnny Etherington as the first area 2A grappler on the mat at 113 pounds.
“It’s not just us. Our whole area has improved,” EBF head wrestling coach Brett Little said. “Ottumwa’s improved, Albia had a great season and Centerville’s coming on. It really speaks well to the talent or wrestlers we have here in southern Iowa.”
The Class 3A opening round will follow 1A this afternoon starting at 2 p.m. Four Oskaloosa wrestlers hit the mat as three first-time qualifiers join senior Dane Jones, who begins his quest to top his fourth-place finish at 195-pounds as the fourth-ranked grappler battles Cedar Rapids Prairie senior Casey Becker in his opening match.