Jeff Yoder Photo / iagameday.smugmug.com
By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
It’s February and in wrestling that means one thing, the postseason is here.
The road to the state meet officially begins on Saturday as the postseason begins with sectional tournaments around the state.
At the end of that road is a trip to Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines and a spot in the 2018 state wrestling meet February 15-17.
For Class 1A and 2A wrestlers the first step in that path to the state meet comes on Saturday with a top two finish at sectionals.
Here are five things to watch for on Saturday as area wrestlers start their treks toward state.
Defending state champion Solon is without plenty of firepower from last season’s 2A title team but don’t sleep on the Spartans just yet.
Solon enters the postseason with five-ranked wrestlers and has three more wrestlers with at least 29 wins on the season.
While Solon may not match the 13 district qualifiers it had on its way to the 2A crown last season the Spartans have the balance for another strong sectional showing on Saturday.
Tyler Linderbaum, ranked third at 285, headlines the group of ranked Spartans entering the Class 2A Section 3 meet at Solon.
Junior Mike Hoyle is fifth at 182, sophomore Zeb Gnida is seventh at 120 while Zack Bevans is tenth at 152 and Zach Wegmann is No. 8 at 220.
In addition to the five ranked wrestlers Solon boasts three more wrestlers in Christian Haight (33-14) at 132, Aidan Dall (29-15) at 126 and Jax Flynn (29-13) at 160 with 29 or more wins.
The postseason is full of rematches.
Regina junior Nick Milder (24-2) could face a big one in Class 1A, Sectional 15 at Lisbon.
No. 7 Milder and third-ranked Lisbon senior Bryce Werderman appear poised for a third postseason meeting over the last two seasons.
Werderman (40-5) defeated Milder 5-2 in the sectional final last year and then won a 3-1 decision over Milder in the district final on his way to a sixth-place state finish last season. Milder is riding an 11-match winning streak and is unbeaten against Class 1A competition this season.
Clear Creek Amana closed the regular season with some momentum in the form of one of its best ever performances at the WAMAC Conference meet.
Now the Clippers will try to transfer that into some postseason success at the 2A, Sectional 6 meet at Davenport Assumption.
The Clippers have a trio of 30-win wrestlers capable of making runs at a state tournament spot.
Junior Andrew Rohret (33-13) was a district qualifier last year and shares the team lead for wins with senior 220 pounder Tanner Cochran (33-11).
Sophomore Sam Stevens (31-13) is another Clipper capable of reaching the district meet at Fairfield on February 10.
Before Liberty High can think about its first state qualifier the first-year program needs to secure its first district qualifier.
That challenge starts Saturday at the 2A, Sectional 6 meet.
In its first year of varsity competition Liberty High has several wrestlers capable of extending their seasons for at least one more meet.
At the top of that list are sophomore 138 pounder Kaleb Williams (20-13) and 145-pound freshman Ashton Barker (23-8).
Mike Hoyle has picked the perfect time to be at his best.
The Solon junior pinned back-to-back ranked wrestlers to claim the 182-pound title at the WAMAC conference meet last Saturday.
Hoyle (36-7) will try to turn that hot streak into a second consecutive state tournament appearance.
Last season Hoyle went 1-2 in his first trip to the state meet.
This year Hoyle enters the postseason wrestling as well as 182-pounder around.
He pinned ninth-ranked Dalton Rosenburg of South Tama and Devin Ludwig of Western Dubuque to claim his first WAMAC title.
The performance last Saturday was enough for Hoyle to climb two spots to fifth in the latest 182-pound rankings.