SUBSCRIBE NOW
$3 for 3 months. Save 90%.
SUBSCRIBE NOW
$3 for 3 months. Save 90%.

Wrestling: Week 1 offers glimpse at the unique season ahead in 2020-21

Cody Goodwin
Des Moines Register

INDIANOLA, Ia. — Blake Fieldhouse here at Indianola Middle School is normally jam-packed on the weekends. It’s a beautiful setup, with enough floor space for eight full wrestling mats, seating for a few hundred and balcony space for a few hundred more.

On Saturday, there were only five mats, and maybe 100 people total in the building — not counting the wrestlers, coaches and other workers, of course. Everybody was masked up. If not, they were kindly reminded to do so.

The Indianola wrestling program held a varsity and junior-varsity tournament this past weekend. Only five teams attended. They ran the varsity matches on two mats and the junior-varsity on three. The competition was done in about five hours.

It wasn’t different, not necessarily, but it was a little weird — and a stark reminder that this is what the season might look like in many parts around the state.

The Indianola wrestling program hosted a five-team wrestling tournament on Saturday, Dec. 5, at the Blake Fieldhouse at Indianola Middle School.

The opening weekend of the high school wrestling season is normally something akin to a statewide celebration. Big tournaments are everywhere. You know the names — Cliff Keen Independence Invitational, the Keith Young Invitational, Sergeant Bluff-Luton Invitational, the Bob Murphy, on and on and on.

Three of those four were still contested, but with fewer teams. Independence didn’t have its tournament, so teams went elsewhere. That’s nice for other tournaments gaining worthy competitors, but that tournament is always a blast, a fierce mix of the state’s top in-state individuals and worthy out-of-state opponents.

Indianola’s December schedule originally included tournaments at Newton, Johnston and the Battle of Waterloo. Instead, Blake Fieldhouse will host tournaments over the next few weeks. Fort Dodge, Centerville, Ballard and North Polk all made the trip this weekend. Waverly-Shell Rock, Don Bosco and others might visit in the weeks ahead.

This is one example of how teams are navigating the early part of the 2020-21 season. It is going to be a unique year, and will require new levels of patience and ingenuity. Some of these practices will go all year. Maybe the second part of the season return to something closer to normal. Maybe it won’t. It’s hard to know.

Indianola and so many others appear up to the task, and Saturday inside Blake Fieldhouse was the first example. It’s going to be a weird, irregular season, but if it ensures the safety of all involved and gives the kids the opportunity to compete, then it’ll be worth it for the next few months.

Ayala-Downey-Lewis round-robin highlights Indianola tournament

One downfall to the lack of big tournaments this season might mean fewer high-profile matches. But there were plenty of notable season-opening performances last week — including a fun three-man round-robin at Indianola.

Fort Dodge’s Drake Ayala, Indianola’s Ryder Downey and Centerville’s Matthew Lewis all wrestled each other at 132 pounds on Saturday, a tremendous way to begin the season. All three are highly-credentialed — Ayala is a two-time state champ and Iowa signee, Downey is a returning state finalist, Lewis is a three-time champ in Class 2A.

Ayala, who will likely drop to 126 pounds for the postseason, went 2-0, beating Downey 12-5 and Lewis 18-7. He scored 15 total takedowns between the two matches. Downey won the other matchup to finish second, scoring a late first-period takedown to top Lewis 2-0.

We don’t often see this much concentrated talent in such a small tournament. All three are Division I-caliber prospects. Kudos to each for testing themselves so early in a season where those kinds of opportunities might be rare outside of the postseason.

Drake Ayala of Fort Dodge defeats Adler Kramer ofDubuque Hempstead during their 3a semifinal round match at Wells Fargo Arena Friday, Feb. 21, 2020.

Busy opening week for Lisbon

Lisbon was among the many teams that delayed the start of its season because of fully virtual learning. The Lions started practice this past week with a full schedule on tap — duals against Williamsburg and Solon on Thursday, then New London’s Jeremy Fulk Classic on Saturday.

And of course, they went through all of it cleanly.

The Lions thumped Williamsburg (57-18) and Solon (68-10), then lapped the field at the Jeremy Fulk Classic, scoring 249.5 points behind eight champs to finish 94 points ahead of second-place Solon — all in the same week their wrestlers certified and gained eligibility.

Not bad.

A few performances highlighted Lisbon’s tournament win. At 120 pounds, Brandon Paez, a returning state champ, scored a 6-4 decision in the finals over Burlington-Notre Dame’s Blaine Frazier, a two-time state medalist. At 145, in perhaps a state final preview, Robert Avila Jr., a two-time state champ, edged New London’s Dominic Lopez, 4-2, on a third-period takedown.

Robert Avila Jr. of Lisbon wrestles Randy Jimenez of SE Warren during their 1a quarterfinal round match at Wells Fargo Arena Friday, Feb. 21, 2020.

Don Bosco wins Keith Young

Lisbon might have some work to do to hang with Don Bosco, the two-time defending Class 1A state team champs. The Dons won a truncated Keith Young Invitational over the weekend, scoring 234 points to defeat second-place Norwalk by 57.5 points.

Two Don Bosco wrestlers actually met in the finals at 170 pounds, which is kind of funny. Cade Tenold, a returning state finalist, defeated Cael Frost, a three-time state medalist, 3-1. The Dons had five champs, including Cael Rahnavardi, a recent Northern Iowa signee who also picked up his 100th career win this past week. He recorded three pins to win at 145 pounds.

Also at the Keith Young: Mason City’s Jace Rhodes beat Norwalk’s Grant Harbour in the finals at 132 pounds in a battle of returning state medalists. Harbour led 3-0 on a first-period takedown and a second-period escape, but Rhodes threw him to his back on the edge and secured the pin in the second period to win.

Don Bosco-Gilbertville's Cael Rahnavardi wrestles Mount Ayr's Jaydon Knight at 145 during the opening round of the Class 1A Iowa high school state wrestling tournament on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.

Sergeant Bluff-Luton, Underwood shine at SBL Invite

The Sergeant Bluff-Luton Invitational had a trio of heavy-hitters in the host Warriors, 1A power Underwood and Nebraska’s nationally-ranked Millard South, who ultimately ran away with the team title. Sergeant Bluff-Luton and Underwood took second and third, respectively.

Underwood has a mean run of lightweights from 113-132 in Gable Porter, Blake Allen, Stevie Barnes and Westin Allen.

Porter, a returning state champ, pinned his way to first at 113. Westin Allen won at 132. Blake Allen reached the finals at 120, losing only to Oregon State signee Caleb Coyle from Millard South. Barnes didn’t wrestle this weekend, but he’s a past state finalist, a Greco All-American and will fill in at 126 when he does compete.

Sergeant Bluff-Luton, which opened the season ranked third in IAWrestle’s Class 2A team rankings, had four finalists: Ty Koedam (126), Isaac Bryan (145), Jack Gaukel (152) and Garrett McHugh (170). The Warriors had three others finish in the top four, too. This is a team to watch.

Akron-Westfield freshman Ian Blowe looked impressive at 195, finishing first with two pins and two decisions by a combined three points. That’s a big weight for a freshman to come in and compete at, but he’s 6-1 so far.

Sioux Center finished fourth and has some talent in the heavier weights. The bulk of their points came from Zachery Rozeboom and Ethan Hooyer, who both won at 182 and 285, respectively, as well as finalist Isaac Roskam (220) and fourth-place finisher Ty Hulshof (195). Keep an eye on that team.

Nashua-Plainfield's Garret Rinken wrestles Gable Porter of Underwood during their 1A state championship semi-final round match at Wells Fargo Arena on Friday, Feb. 21, 2020, in Des Moines.

West Delaware looks salty again

West Delaware, the two-time defending Class 2A state duals champs, looked impressive in winning its own Bob Murphy Invitational. The Hawks had nine champs and three more finalists and scored 284.5 points, finishing 96.5 points ahead of second-place Western Dubuque.

The Hawks won every weight from 160 on up: Jadyn Peyton (160), Jared Voss (170), Cael Meyer (182), Wyatt Voelker (195), Christian Nunley (220) and Carson Petlon (285). Those six combined to score 141.5 team points — or roughly half of West Delaware’s final total.

Saturday’s performance capped an impressive week for West Delaware, which began with a 55-18 win over Waverly-Shell Rock, the two-time defending Class 3A state champs and two-time 3A state duals runners-up. The Go-Hawks were down a couple of key wrestlers, but it may not have mattered, since West Delaware won 11 of 14 weights with 7 pins.

Also: Waverly-Shell Rock is going to be a contender again this year. Despite missing both Ryder Block, a returning state champ, and Aiden Riggins, a returning state finalist, the Go-Hawks bounced back from that Thursday loss to West Delaware to truck the field at the Dallas Center-Grimes dual tournament, going 5-0 and winning by an average of 41 points per dual.

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