Wrestling: 10 noteworthy performances from the 2021 Iowa Junior/16U freestyle state tournaments
Wrestling season never truly stops, at least not for those who are fully invested.
So on Saturday, about three months after the Iowa High School Athletic Association’s state wrestling championships at Wells Fargo Arena, many of the state’s top wrestlers competed again at the Iowa freestyle state tournament at Southeast Polk High School.
During the spring and summer seasons, wrestlers compete against others in the same age divisions — Junior and 16U — rather than by school classification, making for some exciting, high-profile matchups between some of the state’s best wrestlers.
Here are 10 noteworthy performances from the Junior/16U freestyle state tournaments:
Rathjen tops Garvin in star-studded final
The match of the day was the Junior championship bout at 145 pounds between Ankeny’s Caleb Rathjen and Iowa City West’s Hunter Garvin.
They emerged from a stacked bracket that included Don Bosco’s Cael Rahnavardi, Indianola’s Ryder Downey and more. But Rathjen and Garvin have combined for 10 state finals appearances and four titles, making their matchup not only a showcase of two of Iowa’s best high-schoolers — Rathjen is a four-time state finalist and two-time champ; Garvin has three finals appearances and two titles — but two of the best in the country, as well — Garvin is ranked No. 5, nationally, by MatScouts, while Rathjen is ranked No. 7.
The matchup lived up to the billing.
Rathjen won, 6-6 on criteria. He scored a 4-point takedown in the first period, which held up as the deciding scoring sequence, since Garvin’s total was made up of three 2-point scores.
Behind them, Southeast Polk’s Carter Martinson finished third, defeating both Rahnavardi, 12-2, and Downey, 9-8, along the way.
Bosco’s Funk tops two champs at 126
Garrett Funk turned in perhaps the best individual performance of the Junior freestyle tournament. The Don Bosco junior won a state title at 126 pounds, beating Crestwood’s Carter Fousek, 16-12, and Underwood’s Gable Porter, 6-5, along the way.
Funk has long been one of the state’s better lightweights. He’s previously recorded wins over other state champs, including Ankeny’s Trever Anderson this past season and Lisbon’s Brandon Paez the season before.
Now, he can add two more big victories to his hit list. Fousek is a three-time Class 2A state champ, and Porter is a two-time finalist and a 2020 state champ who is considered a top-100 recruit nationally in the 2023 class.
Time to meet West Lyon’s heavyweight
Easton Fleshman has produced a modest wrestling career thus far: three-time state qualifier; a seventh-place finish at 220 pounds in Class 2A this season; 82 total victories.
Wrestling fans around Iowa oughta start getting to know him after Saturday.
Fleshman won the Junior heavyweight title, knocking off Ames senior and two-time state finalist Gabe Greenlee, 9-6, in the semifinals before pinning another Little Cyclone wrestler, Kyler Hall, in the finals.
This could be the start of a big summer for Fleshman, which could ultimately lead into a special senior season. Stay tuned.
Voelker tops Mooberry in a battle of 2A champs
West Delaware’s Wyatt Voelker and Osage’s Spencer Mooberry wrestled each other in greco at the Junior world team trials last week in Coralville. Voelker won, 8-0, on his way to a fourth-place finish, while Mooberry rallied for seventh.
On Saturday, the two Class 2A stars met again, this time in the Junior freestyle finals at 195 pounds. Voelker again emerged victorious, 8-2. Mooberry scored a takedown a minute into the match, but Voelker roared back with four unanswered takedowns.
Rhodes defeats state champ Bohren
Jace Rhodes went 4-0 to win the Junior freestyle title at 132 pounds, outscoring his opponents by a combined 34-7. He notched an 8-4 win over Osage’s Averee Abben, a 2A finalist this season, and a 6-3 win over Bettendorf state champ Dustin Bohren.
Rhodes himself is a past state finalist in Class 3A, and is now a three-time state medalist. Those are notable wins at the start of what could be a big summer for him ahead of his senior season.
More champs, finalists collide
One of the perks of the freestyle and greco seasons is seeing the best wrestlers from all three classes compete against one another — and there were plenty in Saturday’s Junior freestyle competition.
Hempstead’s Chad Bellis, a 3A finalist, defeated Nashua-Plainfield’s Garret Rinken, a 1A state champ, by a 10-0 score to win at 120 pounds. That came after Rinken beat Webster City’s two-time state champ Cam Phetxoumphone, 16-6, in the semifinals.
At 138, Southeast Polk’s Joel Jesuroga beat Underwood’s Stevie Barnes, 7-1. Jesuroga won a 3A state title this past season and Barnes is a two-time 1A state finalist.
At 182, Iowa City West’s Ashton Barker, an Iowa State signee, won a 22-12 thriller over Union three-time state finalist Adam Ahrendsen just to reach the finals. There, Waukee’s Griffin Gammell beat Barker handily, 15-3, to go 3-0 on the day.
Naaktgeboren brothers win state titles
Linn-Mar’s Tate and Kane Naaktgeboren both won freestyle state titles — and did so in impressive fashion.
Tate Naaktgeboren won a Junior title at 170 pounds, defeating New Hampton’s Carson Babcock, 12-2, in the finals. This was a nationally-ranked matchup: in MatScouts’ latest national rankings, Naaktgeboren is ranked No. 16 and Babcock is No. 23.
Kane Naaktgeboren won a 16U title at 126 pounds, winning a thriller over Crestwood’s Anders Kittelson, 11-11 on criteria. Kittelson, a 2A state finalist in February, led 9-6 after the first period thanks to a couple of 4-point takedowns. Naaktgeboren rallied with a big 4-pointer of his own on the edge in the final seconds to win it.
Ankeny’s Anderson wins thriller over West Sioux’s Baker
Jace Anderson watched his brother, Trever, win a state title for Ankeny in February. On Saturday, Jace won a title of his own, winning the 16U freestyle crown at 145 pounds.
Anderson defeated West Sioux’s Mikey Baker, 6-5, in the finals. Anderson led 2-1 after a takedown on the edge in the first period, then tacked on a big 4-point takedown in the second to lead 6-1. Baker countered with a 4-point takedown of his own with 20 seconds remaining, but Anderson fended off his final attacks to win.
That was the cap to a strong day for Anderson, who went 4-0 overall. He won his first three matches by a combined 28-0, scoring back-to-back technical falls and then in a pin in the semifinals.
Slade follows strong greco showing with freestyle title
Brent Slade capped an impressive freshman campaign for Ames with a seventh-place finish at 145 pounds in the Class 3A state tournament. He’s been arguably even more impressive in the couple of competitions since.
First, Slade reached the finals of the 15U greco national championships last month. Then, on Saturday, he cruised to a 16U freestyle state title at 160 pounds, going 3-0 and outscoring his opponents 32-1.
Stay tuned on this kid, too. A bright future awaits.
Waverly-Shell Rock duo wins titles
In the same vein, the Waverly-Shell Rock duo of McCrae Hagarty and Jake Walker followed their strong performances at the Cadet world team trials with freestyle state titles here on Saturday.
Hagarty won a 16U crown at 195 pounds, scoring a technical fall and a pin. Walker won right after him at 220, going 3-0 with two pins and a technical fall.
Both of them turned in top-six finishes at the Cadet freestyle world team trials last month — Hagarty took fourth at 92 kilograms (202 pounds), Walker took sixth at 110 kilos (242).
At this rate, they should be considered 16U national title contenders later this summer at Fargo.
Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.
Junior Freestyle Finals Results
- 106: Connor Fiser (Bondurant-Farrar) over Gavin Jensen (Williamsburg), 22-12
- 113: Brody Brisker (Wilton) pinned Carter Anderson (Albia), 2:42
- 120: Chad Bellis (Hempstead) over Garret Rinken (Nashua-Plainfield), 10-0
- 126: Garrett Funk (Don Bosco) over Gable Porter (Underwood), 6-5
- 132: Jace Rhodes (Mason City) over Dustin Bohren (Bettendorf), 6-3
- 138: Joel Jesuroga (Southeast Polk) over Stevie Barnes (Underwood), 7-1
- 145: Caleb Rathjen (Ankeny) over Hunter Garvin (Iowa City West), 6-6
- 152: Jack Gaukel (Sergeant Bluff-Luton) over Carson Martinson (Southeast Polk), 6-5
- 160: Robert Avila Jr. (Lisbon) over Lawson Losee (Riceville), 12-5
- 170: Tate Naaktgeboren (Linn-Mar) over Carson Babcock (New Hampton), 12-2
- 182: Griffin Gammell (Waukee) over Ashton Barker (Iowa City West), 15-3
- 195: Wyatt Voelker (West Delaware) over Spencer Mooberry (Osage), 8-2
- 220: Ben Kueter (Iowa City High) pinned Kalob Runyon (Southeast Polk), 1:58
- 285: Easton Fleshman (West Lyon) pinned Kyler Hall (Ames), 1:13
16U Freestyle Finals Results
- 88: Dallas Canoyer (Moen WC) over Taye Jordan (Atlantic-CAM), 10-0
- 94: Tyler Harper (Norwalk) over Reid Foster (Bondurant-Farrar), 12-1
- 100: Dru Ayala (Fort Dodge) over Ryker Graff (Iron Rams WC), 10-0
- 106: Jake Knight (Sebolt) over Carson Doolittle (Webster City), 10-4
- 113: Carter Freeman (Waukee) over Blake Gioimo (Cedar Rapids Prairie), 11-0
- 120: Kale Petersen (West Fork) over Cale Seaton (Iowa City High), 12-1
- 126: Kane Naaktgeboren (Linn-Mar) over Anders Kittelson (Crestwood), 11-11
- 132: Lucas Bruhl (Ankeny Centennial) over Tanner Arjes (North Butler-Clarksville), 10-0
- 138: Jacob Helgeson (Higher Altitude) pinned Tycho Carmichael (Agoge WC), 3:10
- 145: Jace Anderson (Ankeny) over Mikey Baker (West Sioux), 6-5
- 152: Nick Fox (Osage) over Wyatt Reisz (Logan-Magnolia), 2-0
- 160: Brent Slade (Ames) over Gavin Scheuermann (Greene County), 10-0
- 170: Seth Madden (North Scott) over Theron Castle (WDM Valley), 10-3
- 182: Jarrett Roos (Sheldon-South O’Brien) pinned Joe Lewis (Hempstead), 1:47
- 195: McCrae Hagarty (Waverly-Shell Rock) pinned Ethan Peterson (Charles City), 2:29
- 220: Jake Walker (Waverly-Shell Rock) over Trystin Irvin (WDM Valley), 10-0
- 285: Maddux Borcherding-Johnson (Norwalk) pinned Mac Muller (Osage), 1:39