Photo by Norv Coblentz
Your Prep Sports
The stretch run in the high school wrestling season starts Saturday.
District meets across the state on Saturday start a wild seven-day span that ends with 42 individuals standing atop the podium at Wells Fargo Arena as state champions.
Before the discussion turns to state meet brackets and matchups wrestlers around the state must secure a spot at state.
That process concludes on Saturday with eight district meets in all three classes.
Here are five things to watch at district meets on Saturday as area wrestlers attempt to lock up trips to state.
State tournament matches in Class 1A don’t start until next Thursday at 6 p.m. but fans at the District 8 meet in Wilton on Saturday will likely be treated to what could prove to be a state tournament sneak peek.
State title contenders Ryan Schott (43-1) of Regina and Brennan Swafford (47-2) of Mediapolis are on a collision course to meet in the 160-pound championship on Saturday.
Schott is ranked second at 160 pounds and is 19-0 since dropping down from 170 with his only loss a 4-2 decision to 2A third-ranked 170-pounder Tristin Westphal-Edwards of Washington.
Swafford finished runner-up at 152 pounds at state as a junior and is 95-4 over the past two seasons.
Ranked third, Swafford’s only losses this season came against two-time defending 3A champion Nelson Brands of West High and 2A third-ranked Luke Hageman of Dyersville Beckman.
No ‘things to watch’ list on prep wrestling in Iowa would be complete without a Nelson Brands mention.
The two-time West High state champion has established himself as one of the best and most electric wrestlers in the state the past three seasons.
Brands is 157-5 over the past three seasons, including a 49-1 mark this season and hasn’t lost to an in-state foe since his sophomore year.
Ranked No. 1 in Class 3A and 12th nationally at 160 pounds, Brands brings a 26-match winning streak into Class 3A, District 4 on Saturday in Mount Pleasant.
That unbeaten stretch includes an 8-5 decision over Allen Swanson of Oswego to avenge his only loss of the year.
Brands’ prep career is winding down with only Saturday and a three-day run at the state meet remaining.
The next week offers a final chance to see one of the top talents the area has ever produced.
It has been a breakthrough season for head coach Cory Connell in his sixth season leading the City High wrestling program.
City High has already claimed its first Mississippi Valley Conference regular season title and first state dual appearance since 2006 and won its first MVC Super Meet since 2002.
The next step for the Little Hawks is a strong district performance at the Class 3A, District 4 meet in Mount Pleasant.
City High had seven state qualifiers in Connell’s first four seasons combined before sending six to state last year.
The Little Hawks expect to raise that number on Saturday.
City High has six wrestlers ranked in the top nine entering district competition as it attempts to set a new standard for state qualifiers under Connell.
Second-ranked senior 195-pounder Jacob Dykes (36-1) is the lone Little Hawk with a district championship under his belt but that could change on Saturday as the Little Hawks look to add a district team title to it’s season resume.
If Solon was indeed supposed to take a major step back following its first state title last season someone forget to tell the Spartans.
Solon pushed 11 wrestlers through to the Class 2A, District 2 meet at Central DeWitt with a strong sectional performance last weekend and notched a second consecutive state duals appearance with an upset of West Liberty on Tuesday.
Next up for the Spartans is a challenging district slate that has Spartans facing top-ranked wrestlers in semifinals at three different weights.
Solon will be hard pressed to match its eight state qualifiers from its state title team last season but has five ranked wrestlers led by third-ranked Tyler Linderbaum (34-0) at 285 and No. 5 Mike Hoyle (41-7) at 182.
Eighth-ranked Zach Wegmann lands in a loaded 220-pound bracket that includes nationally ranked Boone McDermott (40-1) of Dubuque Wahlert and tenth-ranked Kolby Snodgrass (45-3) of Camanche.
Last season Clear Creek Amana sent one wrestler to state as graduated senior Quinn Murphy was left to hold the flag for CCA at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
The Clippers showed last week at sectionals they have several wrestlers capable of jumping on the state meet boat this season.
Sophomore Sam Stevens, junior Andrew Rohret (35-13) and senior Tanner Cochran all won sectional titles last week to position themselves for solid shots at state tournament berths at the Class 2A, District 3 meet at Fairfield on Saturday.
Stevens (32-14) faces Fairfield sophomore Jonah Cooper (21-16) in his 113-pound semifinal with fifth-ranked Nathaniel Genobana (27-2) of Centerville likely awaiting the winner.
Rohret (35-13) opens with West Liberty senior Justis Dengler (40-15) at 145 pounds. Rohret won a 5-3 decision over Dengler earlier this season.
Cochran (34-11) gets a rematch with West Liberty freshman Kobe Simon (31-17) in a 220-pound semifinal after edging Simon 5-2 in the regular season.