Iowa City High’s Ben Kueter wins super match at first Dan Gable Donnybrook tournament
CORALVILLE — Ben Kueter, the wildly-talented junior wrestler at Iowa City High, pulled out his phone earlier this week and penned a message to Gavin Nelson, another high-level wrestler at Simely High School in Minnesota. Kueter had a question.
Are you wrestling 220 pounds this weekend? Kueter asked.
Yes, Nelson replied.
That made Kueter smile. Game on.
That short exchange set the stage for what became the premiere matchup here at the Dan Gable Donnybrook. Kueter and Nelson met in the finals at 220, and Kueter delivered on that opportunity with a thrilling 3-1 overtime victory for first place.
The Donnybrook is a brand new wrestling tournament that has designs on becoming one of the nation’s biggest high school competitions. This year, seven of InterMat’s top-50 teams were in attendance, as well as eight of the top-10 in Iowa’s Class 3A. Each weight class was loaded with some of the best wrestlers in the Midwest.
And that super match was a heck of a way to kickoff the tournament’s inaugural running.
Kueter is currently ranked No. 4 nationally at 220 pounds by MatScouts, and Nelson is ranked No. 3 at 195, but will wrestle 220 this season. Kueter previously won a Junior folkstyle national title and reached the Junior freestyle national finals, and Nelson has won a Cadet freestyle national title and took fifth at the Cadet world championships.
Both of them mowed through their competition this weekend to reach Saturday’s final. Nelson recorded four first-period pins in a combined 3 minutes, 31 seconds. Kueter recorded two pins, two technical falls and outscored those four foes 59-12.
In the final, both guys spent all regulation fighting for angles and opportunities. In overtime, tied 1-1, Nelson hand-fought into an over-under position and went for an inside-trip, but Kueter turned out and dropped into a double-leg near the edge.
Takedown, two points, big win.
The seeds for this specific matchup stretch back to last April. Kueter and Nelson were on a crash-course to meet at the Cadet world team trials in the Wisconsin Dells. But Kueter lost in the semifinals, 4-3 to New Jersey’s PJ Casale. Nelson swept Casale with back-to-back 10-0 technical falls and went on to take fifth in Budapest.
When the Donnybrook began inviting teams for this weekend, Simley, a traditional wrestling power (they entered this weekend ranked No. 18 in InterMat’s Fab 50 rankings), made the list.
That caught Kueter’s attention, leading to the text message earlier this week. Then came Saturday night’s opportunity, then sudden victory, then the counter that sealed the 40th victory of Kueter’s Little Hawk career.
This may not be the last time these two meet, either. Kueter, of course, is committed to the Iowa Hawkeyes, and Nelson is a Minnesota Gopher recruit. Some future Big Ten battles could be on the way — which would delight wrestling fans everywhere.
But Ben Kueter came to Xtream Arena this weekend with one match on his mind, and he seized on that chance on Saturday night. He wore a big smile when he stood atop the podium, and it grew bigger when the announcer came over the loudspeaker.
“And taking first,” he began, “at 220 pounds — your local boy, Ben Kueter, from Iowa City High.”
Go-Hawks battle against nation’s best
The Donnybrook attracted an insane amount of talent this weekend — individually and from a team perspective. Seven of InterMat’s Fab 50 high school teams were at Xtream Arena, including two Iowa schools: Waverly-Shell Rock, at No. 11, and Waukee Northwest, at No. 32.
For the Go-Hawks, the three-time reigning Class 3A state champions, it was a chance to square up against Missouri’s Liberty High School, who entered ranked No. 10 in InterMat’s Fab 50 rankings. The results were promising.
Liberty ultimately scored 419.5 points for first, beating out Waverly-Shell Rock’s second-place total of 372. No. 33 Mt. Carmel (352.5), No. 35 DeKalb (351) and Aurora’s Marmion Academy (269.5) completed the top five.
The Go-Hawks finished with two champs (Ryder Block at 138, Aiden Riggins at 160), two more finalists (McCrae Hagarty at 195, Jake Walker at 285) and three more that took eighth or better at their weights. Liberty’s collective talent was impressive: just one champ (Hunter Taylor at 113), and 10 more wrestlers with top-eight individual finishes.
(It’s worth noting that neither team was at their complete best this weekend, either. Liberty was without Chris Coates, who’s ranked No. 11 nationally at 132, and the Go-Hawks were down a couple regular starters and also lost team points when 113-pounder Zane Behrends was disqualified for flagrant misconduct.)
Still, the Go-Hawks reinforced that they’re not only one of Class 3A’s top teams again, but one of the best programs in the country this season, too. Their results this weekend showed why.
Block went 5-0 and outscored his opponents 53-21, including a 3-2 finals win over Simley’s Chase DeBlaere, who’s ranked No. 25 nationally (Block is ranked No. 14). Riggins went 5-0 with two pins, a technical fall and outscored his opponents 43-9. He broke his hand two months ago and was just cleared to compete again this week.
Hagarty added two pins and a wild semifinal comeback over Liberty’s Wentric Williams III, scoring a takedown with 20 seconds left for a 4-3 win. Walker scored four bonus-point wins en route to the finals as an undersized heavyweight. Liberty ran away with the team title, but the Go-Hawks went 4-1 against Liberty wrestlers head-to-head.
The scary part? This was just the opening weekend. Waverly-Shell Rock has a knack for saving its absolute best for February. If this performance was impressive, imagine where the Go-Hawks will be 11 weeks from now.
Ankeny's Trever Anderson, IC West's Hunter Garvin among 5 Iowa champs
Ultimately, the Donnybrook had 30 teams — 13 from Iowa, 17 from out-of-state (eight from Illinois, four from Minnesota, three from Missouri, two from Nebraska). The Iowa teams fared well, with three in the top-10 and seven in the top-20.
Individually, Iowa high-schoolers did well, too — five champs, five more finalists, and 12 more that took fourth or better at their weights. Ankeny’s Trever Anderson and Iowa City West’s Hunter Garvin joined Kueter, Block and Riggins on top of the podium.
Anderson went 5-0 to win at 120 pounds, a run that included two pins and two major decisions. In the finals, he beat DeKalb’s Danny Aranda, 13-2, behind five takedowns. He collectively outscored his opponents 54-9 — and this was his first live competition back since last year’s state tournament (he recovered from a gnarly shoulder injury).
Garvin also went 5-0 to win at 152. He recorded three pins and a major decision, then beat Kasson-Mantorville’s Logan Vaughn, 11-5, in the finals, turning a scoreless first period into a rout thanks to five takedowns over the final four minutes. He outscored his opponents 48-14 this weekend.
Other Takeaways and Notes
- Waukee Northwest had two finalists: Koufax Christensen (113) and Carter Freeman (126). Christensen recorded three pins, including one over Marmion’s Jameson Garcia, who’s ranked No. 24 nationally. Freeman beat a pair of in-state foes, Bondurant-Farrar’s Max Riggins and City High’s Kael Kurtz, to reach the finals. Griffin Gammell (third at 182) and Ben Reiland (fifth at 285) also helped the Wolves tie for ninth overall.
- Bettendorf was the second-best Iowa team, taking sixth place with 263.5 points behind six top-8 finishers. Dustin Bohren led the way, taking third at 145 pounds — he beat Waverly-Shell Rock’s Bas Diaz, 3-1, for third — followed by TJ Koester (106), Jayce Luna (126), Tycho Carmichael (132) and Bradley Hill (195), who all took fifth.
- Linn-Mar had Tate Naaktgeboren take second at 170 — during which he beat Columbus Catholic’s Max Magayna, 12-1, in a semifinal battle of returning state champs — and both Kane Naaktgeboren (132) and Luke Gaffney (285) take third. Kane Naaktgeboren went 4-1 with 4 pins. Gaffney added two pins and a 3-2 win over Reiland in the quarterfinals.
- Ankeny’s Jace Anderson added a gritty fifth-place finish at 145 pounds, posting a 4-1 record wherein he recorded a pin and won his other three matches by a combined five points. The Hawks finished in 11th in the team race with 225.5 points, 2.5 points ahead of Linn-Mar.
Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.
2021 Dan Gable Donnybrook
- Liberty (MO), 419.5
- Waverly-Shell Rock, 372
- Mt. Carmel (IL), 352.5
- DeKalb (IL), 351
- Marmion Academy (IL), 269.5
- 106: Seth Mendoza (Mt. Carmel) dec. Brandon Morvari (Simley), 5-3
- 113: Hunter Taylor (Liberty) dec. Koufax Christensen (Waukee NW), 10-3
- 120: Trever Anderson (Ankeny) maj. dec. Danny Aranda (DeKalb), 13-2
- 126: Sergio Lemley (Mt. Carmel) maj. dec. Carter Freeman (Waukee NW), 13-4
- 132: Zach Ourada (Skutt) dec. Carlos Munoz-Flores (Lockport), 4-1
- 138: Ryder Block (Waverly-Shell Rock) dec. Chase DeBlaere (Simley), 3-2
- 145: Tommy Curran (DeKalb) dec. Kyle Dutton (Liberty), 10-7
- 152: Hunter Garvin (Iowa City West) dec. Logan Vaughan (Kasson-Mantorville), 11-5
- 160: Aiden Riggins (Waverly-Shell Rock) dec. David Brooks (Staley), 9-2
- 170: Brayden Thompson (Lockport) dec. Tate Naaktgeboren (Linn-Mar), 3-1 (SV)
- 182: Bennett Berge (Kasson-Mantorville) dec. Bradley Gillum (DeKalb), 9-2
- 195: Kail Wynia (Kasson-Mantorville) dec. McCrae Hagarty (Waverly-Shell Rock), 5-2
- 220: Ben Kueter (Iowa City High) dec. Gavin Nelson (Simley), 3-1 (SV)
- 285: Ryan Boersma (Mt. Carmel) pinned Jake Walker (Waverly-Shell Rock) in 2:29