Gnida Feeds Off State Tournament Energy in Opening Round Win

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Photo by Jeff Yoder

Ryan Murken

Your Prep Sports

DES MOINES – There is an energy that surrounds the state wrestling tournament that every competitor can feel.

It is what that energy does to you that can make the difference.

As a freshman competing at the state dual meet the state meet energy was too much for Zeb Gnida.

Now a three-time state qualifier and two-time state medalist Gnida feeds off the energy inside Wells Fargo Arena.

“As a freshman when I was here the energy that this place gave me was like fear, I feared it, it was like it took from me,” Gnida said. “Now as a senior it does nothing but help me. I can feed off this energy.”

On Thursday Gnida used the state meet energy and his experience dealing with it to return to the Class 2A quarterfinals for the third consecutive season.

Third-ranked Gnida (45-6) built a 12-0 lead before pinning Johnny Perez of West Lyon in 3:03 in a 152-pound opening round match on Thursday.

“I looked at him right before his match when he was on deck and he was smiling and just couldn’t wait to get out there,” Solon coach Blake Williams said. “That’s the attitude you have to have, go wrestle hard and have fun and what happens, happens.”

Gnida joins defending champion Hayden Taylor and senior Jax Flynn in the quarterfinals as Solon pushed five of its six qualifiers through to day two.

The Spartans sit ninth in the Class 2A team standings with 12 points after the opening session.

“We got five of the six through to day two at the state tournament that’s tough,” Williams said. “You see a lot of good kids getting beat every round. Now we just have to get ready for tomorrow morning because it’s a big day for us.”

Gnida is the veteran in the group of Solon state qualifiers that features three returning medalist.

The senior has wrestled 13 matches at the state meet and raised his career record to 8-5 with his opening round win on Thursday.

Gnida scored a quick takedown and turned Perez four times for near fall points in the opening quarter.

Already with a big lead Gnida started the second period on top and needed a little more than a minute to put Perez on his back.

“I just worked my stuff,” Gnida said. “I knew he didn’t want to be under me, I wanted to get that pin for my team especially in these early rounds I wanted to get some extra points for the team so that’s kind of why I went top just so I could get to that pin faster.”

Gnida has plenty of state meet experience but one thing he has not experienced in his career is a Friday night semifinal.

He will attempt to change that on Friday morning when he faces sixth-ranked Tyler Brown (40-6) of Winterset in the 2A quarterfinals.

“Our coaches do a great job of getting us ready,” Gnida said. “It’s always tough but we are as prepared as we can be in that sense.”

Flynn (46-7) returned to the quarterfinals for the second straight season with an 8-3 win over Kale Rodgers of North Fayette Valley in a 170-pound opener.

Eighth-ranked Flynn will face No. 7 Mason Griffin (22-3) of Emmetsburg in the quarters.

“I feel like if I keep wrestling how I am supposed to I have a good chance to upset some people,” Flynn said. “I like where I’m at.”

A state champion at 126-pounds a year ago, Taylor (49-0) picked up where he left off at state last season with a second-period pin of Jerret Delagardelle of Jesup in his first-round match at 145 pounds.

Taylor will face Iowa Falls senior Cayden Howland (35-4) in the quarterfinals.

“It’s definitely a change of pace being on top,” Taylor said. “I like the underdog more a little bit but that doesn’t really matter but it excites me to have good competition.

Solon pushed two more wrestlers through to Friday as senior Seamus Poynton and sophomore Gage Marty each bounced back from opening round losses with consolation wins.

“These guys know this is it,” Williams said. “Seamus was an example there he was not going to let his season come to an end on this first day. I just want them to enjoy it and you enjoy it a lot more if you give everything you possible can and leave everything on the mat win or lose.”

Class 2A State Meet

At Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines

Team scores (Top 10; area teams) – 1. West Delaware 24; 2. Osage 16; 3. Crestwood 14; 3. Sergeant Bluff-Luton 14; 3. West Liberty 14; 6. Red Oak 13; 6. Union 13; 8. Winterset 12.5; 9. Solon 12; 10. Bondurant-Farrar 11.5

Opening Round (Solon Wrestlers Only)

145 – Hayden Taylor (Solon) pinned Jerret Delagardelle (Jesup) 3:41

152 – Zeb Gnida (Solon) pinned Johnny Perez (West Lyon) 3:03  

160 – Kalen Meyer (Central Lyon) tech. fall Caleb Ebert (Solon) 15-0

170 – Jax Flynn (Solon) dec. Kale Rodgers (North Fayette Valley) 8-3

182 – Cody Hall (Bondurant-Farrar) dec. Seamus Poynton (Solon) 9-4

195 – Dylan Winkel (Central Lyon) pinned Gage Marty (Solon) 3:51

First Round Consolations

160 – Carson Johnson (Gilbert) tech. fall Caleb Ebert (Solon) 19-3

182 – Seamus Poynton (Solon) dec. Dylan Meiners (North Polk) 7-3

195 – Gage Marty (Solon) dec. Jack Sindlinger (Charles City) 9-5

Friday’s Quarterfinal Matches

145 – No. 1 Hayden Taylor (49-0) Soph., Solon vs. Cayden Howland (35-4) Sr., Iowa Falls

152 – No. 3 Zeb Gnida (45-6) Sr., Solon vs. No. 6 Tyler Brown (40-6) Jr., Winterset

170 – No. 8 Jax Flynn (46-7) Sr., Solon vs. No. 7 Mason Griffin (22-3) Sr., Emmetsburg

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