Iowa state wrestling Class 3A: Mason City’s Cullan Schriever goes out on top, wins third state title

Cody Goodwin
The Des Moines Register

So here's a funny story about Mason City senior Cullan Schriever.

When he first started wrestling at age 3, he walked out onto the mat, folded his arms and cried.

Didn’t like the contact. Wasn’t about the aggressiveness. Would’ve rather stayed in the stands and hung out while his twin brother, Colby, went and tackled his opponents.

“I don’t know if he’s cut out for this,” their mother, Jamie, remembers their dad, Ryan, saying one time.

Fast forward to Saturday night inside Wells Fargo Arena, where Schriever was on Mat 3 winning his third individual state title. He defeated Fort Dodge’s Carson Taylor 9-4 to win at 126 pounds. The next time he suits up, he’ll be wrestling for the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Maybe he was cut out for it after all.

Cullan Schriever of Mason City defeated Carson Taylor of Fort Dodge in the 126-pound class 3A championship match during the Iowa high school state wrestling tournament at Wells Fargo Arena Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020.

“It feels good,” Schriever said. “I’d say this is my best one so far. I had to be at my toughest to get this one. It feels good to go out on top, on my terms.”

Schriever had long envisioned this night. It was supposed to be the night he’d win his fourth state title. It was supposed to be the night he’d secure his spot in Iowa high school wrestling history. It was supposed to be the night the crowd would stand to adore his success.

All of that came to a screeching halt in last year’s state semifinals. He had missed most of the year with a broken ankle. Doctors told him to sit for six weeks. He came back in five. Then came Friday of the state tournament, when a dislocated shoulder ended his dream.

“At the time, it felt like everything,” Schriever said. “I don’t know. I went into a dark place right afterward. That was something I had always wanted to do. I still wish I could do it.

“But there’s always more to come.”

More, meaning, this season — and, specifically, this week. Another injury forced him to miss time, but he returned for the postseason wearing a brace on his left shoulder. He stormed to a district title, then outscored his four opponents this week by a combined 61-17.

Even more, this week presented Schriever with an opportunity to prove — to others that he was still among the state’s best wrestler despite not being at full strength, but also to himself — that even though he’s faced adversity, he can still run down any goal he decides to chase.

“It comes with preparation,” Schriever said. “My coach before my match said, ‘Nobody in the state is more prepared than you,’ and I really do believe that."

Saturday night’s final was a microcosm of Schriever’s past year and a hald. Things didn’t go as planned, and obstacles presented themselves in an untimely manner. But he persisted, scoring four takedowns to defeat Taylor — who was a returning state champ, by the way.

Afterward, Schriever recollected himself underneath the arena. His high school career had just ended. It did not go as he had planned, but here he is, on top again. And maybe it was sweat, the beads of water in and around his eyes, but just maybe, those were tears.

Only this time, they were probably tears of joy.

Go-Hawks go back-to-back

Just before noon Friday, Waverly-Shell Rock coach Eric Whitcome and his staff watched from the tunnel as a dream became a reality for the second year in a row.

The Go-Hawks sewed up a second straight Class 3A state championship Saturday morning, an early surprise after another dominant week here in Des Moines. It is also their seventh team title in school history, which ties Crestwood for the seventh-most in state history.

“These guys have had a goal for a long time,” Whitcome said. “After last year, they were immediately like, ‘Hey, we want to go back and do it again.’”

This year’s state title looks almost identical to how Waverly-Shell Rock won it last year. It began with Wednesday’s state duals, where the Go-Hawks lost a thriller to Southeast Polk. They then flipped the page and stormed to an early lead during Thursday’s opening round and just piled on as the week continued.

In the end, the Go-Hawks scored 181 points, far more than second-place Southeast Polk (141). The Rams brought 13 wrestlers this week for the third time in school history. The previous two seasons, 2013 and 2015, they won titles. This week, they stumbled, sending just three wrestlers to the semifinals and one to Saturday night.

Meanwhile, the Go-Hawks soared, bringing 10 wrestlers and putting five in the finals — and four won titles — and another four on the podium. For the week, Waverly-Shell Rock produced an overall record of 33-11 and led the 3A tournament with 13 pins to go with two technical falls and two major decisions. Their 33 total bonus points would’ve finished 17th in the 3A team race.

After a strong Friday night, that ended with the Go-Hawks leading by 43 points, it was almost inevitable that they’d clinch sometime Saturday. Southeast Polk made a strong push, with 10 total medalists and six placing fourth or better, but the Rams simply could not match the Go-Hawks’ firepower. 

When it became mathematically official, Whitcome turned to his assistants and shared high-fives and hugs. Last year, they won for the first time since 2011. It only took a year and six extra days for them to win it again.

Mickey Griffith becomes Lincoln’s first  champ since 2003

It’s been so long since Des Moines Lincoln last had a state wrestling champ that the last guy to do it — Brandon McDonough, in 2003 — did so at a weight that doesn’t even exist anymore (112 pounds).

It also happens to be the same year Mickey Griffith was born.

On Saturday night, Griffith, a Lincoln sophomore, completed his tremendous run through the 170-pound bracket to win a Class 3A state title. He defeated Linn-Mar’s Ryan Plummer 9-2 to become the eighth state champ in Lincoln’s history and their first in 17 years.

“It means a lot to me,” he said afterward. “For the last one to be 17 years ago is crazy.”

Griffith was one of four Des Moines city school wrestlers to earn a medal this week. The others: Lincoln’s Leo Blawou, eighth at 138; East’s Brock Espalin, third at 132; and North-Hoover’s Aime Mukiza, eighth at 113 and North-Hoover’s first state medalist since 2017, when Shadrach Zarwie took seventh at 126.

But it was Griffith who was the star on Saturday night, becoming the first Des Moines city school wrestler to win state since John Meeks won his fourth for Des Moines Roosevelt in 2012.

And how do you celebrate a historic state title?

“Probably gonna go home and hopefully get some ice cream or something,” Griffith said through a smile. “I’ve been wanting that all week.”

Block takes nationally-ranked final at 106

The first of Waverly-Shell Rock’s four individual titles came in the first match of the night — and perhaps one of the more intriguing matchups of the entire tournament.

At 106 pounds, Ryder Block kicked off the Go-Hawks’ celebration on Saturday night by defeating Linn-Mar’s Brandon O’Brien 4-0 for his first state title. A reversal in the second period and a takedown in the third helped Block wrap up a 44-0 campaign.

Many inside the arena tuned into that particular match, if only because both wrestlers are among the nation’s best, too.

The Open Mat has both guys ranked in the top-10 in the country at 106 — Block at No. 9, O’Brien in 10th. Block is included in a number of different national polls. O’Brien is a reigning Junior folkstyle and Greco-Roman national champ.

Iowa is often known around the country for its elite-level wrestling, but even then, it’s not often that two of them hit with a state title on the line. What’s more, O’Brien had to win another nationally-ranked matchup — over Southeast Polk’s Nate Jesuroga, who’s ranked No. 11 nationally by The Open Mat — before facing Block on Saturday night.

Block proved that he was the best of them this week. On Wednesday, he beat Jesuroga 7-6 in a thrilling individual matchup in the state duals final. Then he didn’t allow a single point through the traditional tournament on his way to winning his first title.

And he’s only a freshman.

City’s Kueter takes All-freshman final at 160

The other two freshmen in tonight’s Class 3A state finals were set to face each other. Iowa City High’s Ben Kueter defeated Linn-Mar’s Tate Naaktgeboren 4-3 to win at 160 pounds.

The match itself was phenomenal. Naaktgeboren scored a takedown late in the first period for a 2-0 lead, then Kueter leveled the match with a reversal midway through the second. Naaktgeboren led 3-2 on an escape in the third, then Kueter connected on the match-winning takedown with 25 seconds left and rode out to win.

Kueter was one four freshmen across all classes to win a state title on Saturday night. And while he got the better of Naaktgeboren this time, there’s no question that, on a night when a talented 2020 class competed inside Wells Fargo Arena for the last time, these two proved that they are future Iowa high school wrestling stars.

Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.

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Final Class 3A Team Scores

  1. Waverly-Shell Rock, 181
  2. Southeast Polk, 141
  3. Fort Dodge, 122.5
  4. Iowa City West, 99.5
  5. Linn-Marr, 92

Finals Results

  • 106: Ryder Block (WSR) dec. Brandon O'Brien (LM), 4-0
  • 113: Bailey Roybal (WSR) dec. Ryder Downey (IND), 5-0
  • 120: Drake Ayala (FD) over Austin Kegley (CRP) by fall, :45
  • 126: Cullan Schriever (MC) dec. Carson Taylor (FD), 9-4
  • 132: Hunter Garvin (ICW) dec. Aiden Riggins (WSR), 8-1
  • 138: Caleb Rathjen (ANK) maj. dec. Dreyzon Phillips (FD), 17-6
  • 145: Graham Gambrall (ICW) dec. Sam Kallem (ANK), 10-5
  • 152: Evan Yant (WSR) dec. Caleb Corbin (VWD), 3-2
  • 160: Ben Kueter (ICH) dec. Tate Naaktgeboren (LM), 4-3
  • 170: Mickey Griffith (DML) dec. Ryan Plummer (LM), 9-2
  • 182: Will Hoeft (ICW) dec. Tanner Harvey (BOO), 5-4
  • 195: Gabe Christenson (SEP) dec. Ashton Stoner-DeGroot (CRP), 12-7
  • 220: Brayden Wolf (WSR) dec. Gage Linahon (NEW), 8-6
  • 285: Griffin Liddle (BET) dec. Gabriel Greenlee (AMES), 7-2