Your Prep Sports
SOLON – Teams tend to take on the traits of the athletes that are leading the way.
That has been the case for eighth-ranked Solon and senior leader Jax Flynn which enter the Class 2A state wrestling meet on Thursday without much fanfare.
Solon won the 2A title in 2017, was fifth last season and added runner-up finishes at the state dual meet both seasons.
After missing the state dual meet Solon isn’t on many lists of contenders for a 2A team trophy this weekend despite six qualifier and four ranked wrestlers.
Flying under the radar is perfect for Flynn one of two returning senior medalists for the Spartans along with 152-pounder Zeb Gnida.
“I think Jax and Zeb are in that same boat, they’ve had very similar careers in that they have been so good for us and so tough for us but they’ve always been a little under the radar,” Solon coach Blake Williams said. “I’m sure they are o.k. with that.”
The unassuming Flynn is certainly fine with the lack of attention.
Rankings or projections mean little to the senior 170-pounder.
“Rankings don’t mean anything to me,” Flynn said flatly. “It doesn’t matter.”
It is actually impressive Flynn hasn’t received more hype over the past several seasons. A three-year varsity starter Flynn has 150 career victories to his credit and has been a part of the most success run in Solon history.
Yet his name rarely gets tossed into the conversation of wrestlers that could emerge from a balanced 170-pound field.
That’s fine with Flynn.
“He’s the type of kid that doesn’t let things get to him too much,” Williams said. “He’s pretty even keel, not much expression to him but he’s got a fire in him. When he’s on the mat the competitiveness comes out in him.”
On the radar or under it make no mistake, Flynn is a force on the mat.
He went 46-7 last season, including a 4-3 performance at the state meet on his way to a seventh-place finish at 170 pounds.
The state meet performance was a turning point for Flynn who still laments a 3-0 loss in the quarterfinals and a 7-6 setback in his second consolation match.
“It was a big meet for me and I wrestled good but I feel like I could have done a lot better,” Flynn said. “I lost a lot of close matches by one or two points. I just want to finish what I started.”
Flynn is a three-sport standout who led Solon in tackles from his middle linebacker spot last fall and also starts on the Solon baseball team.
Playing in the state football championship in November gave Flynn a late start to wrestling and two of his seven losses came at the opening tournament of the season.
“My conditioning was terrible,” Flynn said. “Football conditioning is a lot less than wrestling conditioning and that was a big thing.”
Flynn won 13 of his next 14 matches, a stretch that included a win over top-ranked Jared Voss of West Delaware and a pin of 3A No. 8 Tim Nimley of Muscatine.
Over the past several weeks Flynn battled illness but managed to place third at a loaded WAMAC meet with a pin of third-ranked Cole Davis of Independence.
“He was a little slow start with football, he wasn’t in wrestling shape that first tournament and he’s battled some illness the past month,” Williams said. “Now I think he’s getting back to 100 percent at the last time.”
During the postseason Flynn has been impressive going 4-0 with a pair of pins a tech fall and a 13-4 major decision.
Flynn will face Kale Rodgers (32-10) of North Fayette Valley in the opening round on Thursday with a possible rematch with seventh-ranked Mason Griffin of Emmetsburg looming in the quarterfinals.
His bracket this week and he knows it, is going to be very similar to conference,” Williams said. “There are probably eight or nine guys that could probably beat each other on any given day so whoever has the hot weekend is going to come out of that bracket.”
Flynn has seen some of the best in Class 2A with all seven of his losses coming to top-eight ranked wrestlers.
Three of his losses are to fourth-ranked Abe Michel of Maquoketa all decided by one point or in sudden victory.
Few see Flynn as a title contender this weekend which doesn’t stop the Solon senior from setting that as his goal.
“I want to be on top,” Flynn said. “That’s what everyone wants.”
A strong finish would be the perfect sendoff for seniors Gnida and Flynn.
Gnida is ranked third at 152 pounds and seeking a third state medal following a sixth-place finish last season.
Strong weekends from the Flynn, Gnida and ninth-ranked Seamus Poynton at 182 pounds and another title run by standout sophomore Hayden Taylor could have the Spartans chasing a third top-five finish in the past four seasons.
“It’s a numbers game to start and it’s how many you can keep going but getting six down there you never know our ultimate goal maybe is to contend for a team trophy,” Williams said. “We’d have to wrestle really well but I think if we could finish strong it would be great for our seniors.”
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