ALBIA — Even before his senior season at Albia began, Aden Reeves had put himself on the map as one of the top high school wrestlers in the state.
Dave Wenger, who has had the privilege of coaching Reeves throughout his wrestling career at Albia, was excited for what the final year in Monroe County had in store for his star pupil.
"I'd be lying if I said we don't think about it a lot," Wenger said. "On the other hand, we need to really step back and enjoy the ride."
That ride came to a sudden end on Sunday when Reeves made the official announcement that he will be undergoing surgery to repair a knee injury suffered during the final home dual for the Albia wrestling team in 2018. In typical Reeves fashion, the injury was suffered during a winning effort on the mat as the two-time state high school champion and nationally top-ranked 126-pound wrestler was in the process of earning a tech fall victory at 132 pounds.
“Wrestling is wrestling and I've got a lot to be thankful for,” Reeves said. “There's been a lot of ups and downs over the years, but I've had the same mission every time I've stepped on the mat since I was a freshman. It's humbling knowing that I've gotten this far and that I'm in the position to do the things I've been able to do. At some point, you have to take a step back and realize how far you've come.”
Wenger watched Reeves burst on to the scene at Albia, entering his freshman year fresh off winning All-American honors in the USA Wrestling ASICS/Vaughan Cadet and Junior Nationals during the summer of 2015. Reeves has since gone on to become a five-time Fargo All-American, even competing for the national championship in the Junior 120 Freestyle Division this past summer to go along with being a three-time state high school wrestling placewinner.
"Kids like Aden don't come around very often," Wenger said. "I need to remind myself and remind Aden that we need to enjoy every week and soak every little bit of it in while we can. Here in a few years, we can do all the reflecting we want. Right now, we've just enjoyed the process."
Reeves finishes his high school wrestling career with 166 wins in 169 Iowa high school wrestling matches. Reeves had recently earned the No. 1 ranking among 126 pounds wrestlers across the country by InterMat Wrestling and will finish having won his last 100 matches, including all 50 last year on the way to an unbeaten run to a second-straight state high school title and the runner-up for the Class 2A statewide Dan Gable Wrestler of the Year award.
Reeves also pinned Cadet world champion Matt Ramos during the Agony in Ames this past fall and had a week of training with his Albia High School teammates chronicled by the Des Moines Register. While some might see Reeves as a big deal, the senior has been focusing this year on his new role within the Blue Demon wrestling team.
"You kind of take on a new role being a tenured guy and being the guy that the younger guys sort of look up to," Reeves said. "In the end, it's just wrestling. It's just going out to compete and to score points."
Reeves kicked off his final high school wrestling season leading the Blue Demons to the team title at Pekin back in early December, winning the 126-pound title by earning falls in each of his four matches. Al Chapman, head coach of the Panthers, talked about what it meant to host a tournament that included one of the top wrestlers in the country.
"I told my kids during that tournament to watch this guy. Let's pick up on some of the things that Aden does to be so successful," Chapman said. "What you see is some really smooth chain wrestling. You see someone that goes through move after move to take control of a match.
"We've seen Aden here at our tournament each of the past three years. He's been fun to watch throughout his career. We're hoping for the best for him going forward. There are probably a few guys that are happy they don't have to go up against him anymore."
Reeves has gone from finding plenty of support from his home base of Albia to finding the same type of support at almost every tournament and every dual he wrestles at.
"It's really humbling when you head to the mat and you've got little kids and high school kids high-fiving me," Reeves said. "It's pretty cool to be in that position, but you also have to take it for what it's worth. You have to take care of business every day, do your job and do what you're there to do."
Reeves not only thrived at Pekin on the mat as a competitor, but actually filled in during the tournament sitting in the coach's chair to help encourage and instruct teammate Landon Turner, who overcame his own knee injury to win the 145-pound title in the season opener.
"Aden has worked with me for the past four years to make me the wrestler I've become," Turner said. "His best advice to me always has been to keep working through adversity."
Reeves will continue to support his Albia teammates throughout the rest of the season while continuing to recover from his knee injury. The surgery is not expected to impact the future for Reeves beyond Albia, which is scheduled to include a future wrestling in college for the Iowa State Cyclones.
"When you've been around the sport as long as I have, you begin to see things in a different perspective," Reeves said. "You get a different perspective on what you need to be thankful for."
Scott Jackson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.