Iowa high school wrestling: Southeast Polk's Nate Jesuroga makes Cadet freestyle world team

Cody Goodwin
Des Moines Register

WISCONSIN DELLS, Wis. — Nate Jesuroga is taking his wrestling talents to the world stage this summer.

Jesuroga, Southeast Polk's star lightweight, won the Cadet freestyle world team trials here at the Woodside Dome on Sunday afternoon. The sophomore went 5-0 to take first at 51 kilograms (112 pounds) and earn a spot on the U.S. Cadet world team.

That means Jesuroga, a 2021 state champ for the Rams, is headed to the 2021 Cadet world championships, set for July 19-25 in Budapest, Hungary.

"I felt like I wrestled really good, actually," Jesuroga said afterward. "Our training prepares us for these tough matches, back-to-back-to-back. I just relied on that and got the job done."

Jesuroga made a small bit of history with his accomplishment on Sunday, and punctuated what ultimately became a strong weekend for Iowa high school wrestling.

Southeast Polk's Nate Jesuroga celebrates after making the 2021 Cadet freestyle world team at 51 kilograms (112 pounds).

He is just the fourth Iowa high school wrestler to make USA Wrestling's Cadet world team since United World Wrestling, the sport's international governing body, reinstated the Cadet world championships in 2011.

The others all made the team back in 2014. Lisbon's Carter Happel made the freestyle team, and both Solon's Drew West and Southeast Polk's Ethan Andersen made the Greco-Roman team.

Jesuroga was named the tournament's most outstanding wrestler after navigating perhaps the toughest path to a world team berth this weekend.

During Saturday's preliminary rounds, he notched a 2-0 win over Minnesota prep Alan Koehler, an All-American in both freestyle and greco back in 2019. Jesuroga then registered a 4-1 win over Pennsylvania's Dalton Perry, who's ranked fifth nationally at 113 pounds by MatScouts (Jesuroga is ranked fourth).

In Sunday's semifinal round, Jesuroga secured arguably the biggest individual win of the tournament, defeating Marc-Anthony McGowan, 6-2. McGowan, the current No. 1-ranked wrestler in the country at 113, won a Cadet world title in 2019. Jesuroga rallied from a 2-0 hole thanks to two step-out points and a late takedown in the second period.

Southeast Polk's Nate Jesuroga (red) wrestles California prep Aden Valencia in the finals of the UWW Cadet freestyle world team trials. Jesuroga beat Valencia, two matches to none, to make the 2021 Cadet world team at 51 kilograms (112 pounds).

In the finals, Jesuroga swept California's Aden Valencia, two matches to zero. Valencia also made the Cadet greco world team this weekend. But Jesuroga won the first match, 5-2, on a takedown with nine seconds left; then won the second, 4-0, scoring points via step-out, shot-clock and another takedown to punch his ticket to Budapest.

In total, Jesuroga outscored his five opponents only 21-5, but everybody he beat was more than capable of not only making the team, but of making some noise at the world championships later this summer, too.

But it was Jesuroga who emerged on top and will get the international opportunity later this summer. And he made his goal crystal clear shortly after his second finals match, too.

"Winning worlds," he said and smiled.

Aiden Riggins, Bradley Hill make finals

Waverly-Shell Rock's Aiden Riggins and Bettendorf's Bradley Hill also reached the best-of-three series on Sunday afternoon. Riggins did so at 71 kilos (156), but lost to Pennsylvania's Levi Haines in three matches. Hill made the finals at 110 kilos (242), but fell to New Jersey's Jim Mullen, two matches to none.

Riggins, a 2021 state champ, opened with four straight wins on Saturday. He began with a 12-2 win over Illinois' Braden Stauffenberg, who made the Cadet greco world team this weekend, then closed with a thrilling 3-2 win over Michigan's Josh Barr, who's ranked 13th nationally, thanks to a takedown with six seconds left.

On Sunday, he pinned Wisconsin's Braedon Scoles to meet Haines, who's ranked fourth nationally at 152, in the finals. Riggins lost match one, 12-2, then won match two, 6-6 on criteria. In the third, Riggins trailed 8-4 after the first period, then Haines scored a takedown and caught Riggins on his back for a pin in the second.

Hill, another 2021 state champ, recorded three straight technical falls to reach the finals, despite being well-undersized at 110 kilos. Mullen, who's ranked No. 1 nationally at heavyweight, won the first match, 18-5, thanks to a trio of big 4-point throws. Hill adjusted well in the second match, but lost 9-7.

A strong weekend for Iowa wrestling

Jesuroga, Riggins and Hill highlighted what became a tremendous weekend for Iowa high school wrestling.

In total, nine Iowa high schoolers finished on the podium during the freestyle competition. Six made the semifinals, which led all other states (Pennsylvania had four in the semifinals and had two preps make the freestyle team).

Here are some highlights from the action:

  • Waverly-Shell Rock finished with four total medalists. In addition to Riggins, Ryder Block (60-kg), McCrae Hagarty (92-kg) and Jake Walker (110-kg) all finished in the top eight. Block took eighth, Hagarty made the semifinals and finished fourth, and Walker made the quarterfinals and took sixth.
  • Block's finish deserves special mention. He lost in the second round on Saturday and suffered a knee injury in the process. He responded by winning five in a row in the wrestlebacks by a combined 49-8 to reach the top eight, all with a limp.
  • Iowa City High's Ben Kueter finished third at 92 kilos. He stormed to the semifinals, where he lost 4-3 to New Jersey prep PJ Casale, who's ranked No. 4 nationally at 220. He rallied with two more wins, including a 6-3 victory over Hagarty for third.
  • Fort Dodge's Dru Ayala took fourth at 45 kilos. Ayala lost in the quarterfinals on Saturday, then won three in a row in the wrestlebacks to reach the top four.
  • Linn-Mar's Tate Naaktgeboren finished sixth at 80 kilos. He also reached the semifinals, notching a big win over Minnesota's Ryder Rogotzke, who made the greco world team this weekend, then slid all the way to sixth.
  • The guys that beat both Naaktgeboren and Hagarty in the semifinals, Oregon's James Rowley and Minnesota's Gavin Nelson, respectively, both ended up making the freestyle world team.
Iowa City High's Ben Kueter competed at the UWW Cadet freestyle world team trials this past weekend in Wisconsin. Kueter reached the semifinals at 92 kilograms (202 pounds).

Gable Porter makes Cadet greco finals

The greco portion of the Cadet world team trials was contested entirely on Friday, and Underwood's Gable Porter put forth a performance that only added to Iowa's strong overall weekend.

Porter reached the finals at 55 kilograms (121 pounds) of the Cadet greco world team trials, finishing behind Alabama's Cory Land. Porter won four matches Friday to even make the finals, but Land swept the series, two matches to none, to earn the world team spot. Land also made the Cadet greco world team in 2019.

Still, Porter, a two-time state finalist and 2020 state champ for Underwood, notched some great wins en route to the finals on Friday. He beat Montana's Teegan Vasquez, a Junior folkstyle national runner-up this year; Nebraska's Kael Lauridsen, a two-time state champ and 15U world bronze medalist in 2019; Illinois' Sean Conway, a two-time state medalist; and Oklahoma's Rhett Peak, out of Broken Arrow High School.

Porter also competed in freestyle, bumping up to 60 kilos. He won his first three matches by technical fall and reached the quarterfinals, but lost there to Missouri's Christopher Coates.

USA Wrestling also hosted its 15U world team trials event alongside the Cadets. Brent Slade, a state medalist for Ames, won twice to make the greco finals at 68 kilos on Friday, but lost to Wisconsin's Aeoden Sinclair, two matches to none. In freestyle, Fort Dodge's Damarion Ross went 3-2 and took seventh at 62 kilos.

Underwood's Gable Porter (red) competed at the UWW Cadet world team trials this past weekend in Wisconsin. Porter made the best-of-three finals in the Greco-Roman competition at 55 kilograms (121 pounds), and reached the quarterfinals in the freestyle competition at 60 kilos (132).

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