West Delaware wrestler Wyatt Voelker continues rapid ascent with Junior greco national title

Cody Goodwin
Des Moines Register

Wyatt Voelker left little doubt over the last few days that he’s absolutely one of the best wrestlers in the country.

Voelker, a senior-to-be at West Delaware, earned double All-American honors at the Junior national championships this week in Fargo, N.D. Competing at 195 pounds, he won a greco national title, a terrific encore after taking eighth in the freestyle competition a few days before.

Even more, Voelker was the runner-up at the Junior folkstyle national championships in March, too. So taken altogether, he’s a consensus All-American in all three wrestling disciplines, and reached the championship match in two of them. He was the only one of Iowa’s seven Junior freestyle All-Americans to also wrestle greco. Pretty, pretty good.

All of this gives credence to his national ranking and overall recruiting profile. Entering the week, MatScouts tabbed him at No. 5 nationally at 195 pounds and considered him the No. 53 overall prospect in the 2022 class. College coaches are salivating over his endless potential, and this week revealed why.

West Delaware's Wyatt Voelker won a Junior greco national title on Friday at the FargoDome in Fargo, N.D. Voelker went 6-0 and defeated Florida's Ryan Cody, 7-5, in the finals at 195 pounds.

Voelker wrestled 14 matches over six days, with just one day off in-between. He went 5-3 in freestyle, then 6-0 in greco, where he outscored his opponents 53-7. His finals match, a 7-5 win over Florida's Ryan Cody, was a brawl. He rallied from 3-0 and 5-4 deficits, scoring a takedown on the edge with 51 seconds left to take the lead for good.

Along the way, Voelker matched up against many of the country’s top competitors at his weight.

In freestyle, he beat Indiana’s Gabe Sollars, No. 24 nationally, and Osage’s Spencer Mooberry, an outgoing senior headed to North Dakota State. In Greco, he beat Wisconsin’s John Gunderson and Pennsylvania’s Caden Rogers, top-200 prospects who beat Voelker in freestyle. Revenge wins show mettle, no matter the style.

After Voelker blitzed the field at the Class 2A state championships in February, he talked about his overall growth — how he’s better on his feet, how his pace is meaner, how his conditioning is stronger.

Then he pointed to his temple.

“Most importantly, right here,” Voelker said then. “I believe I’m the best 195-pound kid in the country.”

All these months later, Wyatt Voelker has done nothing but back up that talk — and the scary part is, he’s still getting better, too.

West Delaware's Wyatt Voelker won a Class 2A state championship in February, then also won Junior freestyle and greco state titles in May.

More high school wrestling coverage from the Des Moines Register

Underwood's Gable Porter (red) finished second at 126 pounds at the Junior greco national championships this week in Fargo, N.D.

Underwood wrestlers flex in greco

It’s been almost a year now, but back in October, when wrestling was working its way back from the COVID-19 pandemic, Alex Thomsen won greco gold at the 2020 Senior national championships in Coralville.

Thomsen, of course, is an Underwood graduate, a four-time state champion who’s now at Nebraska — and as it turns out, the current crop of Eagle wrestlers are steadily following his greco lead.

Underwood flexed its collective greco muscles at the Junior national championships this week. Gable Porter, a rising-junior, took second at 126 pounds. Stevie Barnes, a rising-senior, took fifth at 138. Hagen Heistand, who will attend Underwood next year as a senior, reached the quarters at 145 before finishing one win shy of the podium.

Under head coach Joe Stephens, Underwood has long had a strong greco presence.

Earlier this spring, Porter made the finals of the Cadet greco world team trials, losing only to Alabama’s Cory Land, who then made the finals at the world championships this week in Budapest. Porter also went 9-0 at the Junior greco national duals last month. Barnes was a Cadet greco All-American in 2019, taking third at 113 pounds.

What’s more, Nick Hamilton wrestled at Underwood during his first two years of high school before moving to Papillion La-Vista in Nebraska. He was a double Cadet All-American in 2019 and a Class 1A state champ in 2020. He won a Junior greco national title on Friday at 152 pounds, going 7-0 and outscoring his opponents 58-3 this week.

Stephens has long preached to his guys that wrestling is wrestling, whether it’s folkstyle, freestyle, or greco, and to just go compete. It sunk in with Thomsen during his historic high school career, and it’s clearly sinking in with his current team, too.

Northern Iowa, Greco School?

The Northern Iowa wrestling coaches love adding all kinds of tough wrestlers to the program, but the Panthers’ most-recent recruiting class features athletes with pretty successful greco backgrounds.

Consider who’s about to join the program, and their results from the Junior greco national championships this week:

  • Kalob Runyon (he goes by Tank), from Southeast Polk, who went 6-1 and took third at 220 pounds, losing only to New York’s Alex Semenenko, the eventual champ;
  • Cael Rahnavardi, from Don Bosco, who went 5-3 and took sixth at 145, losing only to the guys that took third, fourth and fifth at his weight;
  • Adam Ahrendsen, from Union in LaPorte City, who went 8-2 and took fifth at 182 and previously made the Cadet greco national finals in 2019;
  • Jared Simma, from Kansas, a Junior folkstyle national champ who was also a double All-American this week, taking sixth in both freestyle and greco at 182 (Ahrendsen actually pinned him for fifth);
  • and RJ Weston, from Georgia, who won a Cadet greco national title in 2019 and took third this week at 160 after losing in the first round and then winning 10 straight in the wrestlebacks, where he outscored his opponents by a combined 87-18 (and the guy that beat him, M.J. Gaitan from California, ended up taking first).

That’s five guys with tremendous greco credentials. Here’s hoping they still get to wrestle that style moving forward.

Don Bosco's Cael Rahnavardi became an All-American this week at the Junior greco national championships in Fargo, N.D.

Clarinda’s Howard earns podium finish

After coming up just short in the freestyle competition, Crew Howard earned greco All-American honors this week, taking seventh at 220 pounds with a 7-2 record.

Howard is an outgoing senior from Clarinda headed to Nebraska-Kearney next year. He was just a two-time Class 2A state medalist, then medaled at both the Iowa state freestyle and greco tournaments in May, taking third and second, respectively. This week, he showed that Iowa had some serious depth at 220 pounds this summer.

Earlier this week, Howard won five straight in the wrestlebacks for a shot at All-American status in the Junior freestyle tournament. But against Ohio’s Logan Shepherd, he led 6-2 before losing 12-7, narrowly missing out on the podium. He was one of three Iowa guys in the bloodround at 220, while another, Iowa City High's Ben Kueter, made the finals.

In the greco tournament, Howard again navigated the wrestlebacks, winning five in a row to arrive at the bloodround once more. This time, he was the one who rallied, from down 6-0 to win 17-7 over Ohio’s Mason Cover, securing an All-American finish.

He tacked on a first-period pin over Illinois’s Ghee Rachal in the seventh-place match, ending this chapter of his wrestling career in style.

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