Wrestling Mailbag: Recapping the 2022 state tournament and projecting the Iowa women's wrestling lineup
A lot of today's Wrestling Mailbag looks back at the state wrestling tournament, but I had a quick thought on the Iowa women's wrestling recruiting front.
The Hawkeyes picked up two more commitments this week, from Brianna and Emilie Gonzalez, twin lightweights from California. According to USA Wrestling, Brianna is currently ranked No. 1 nationally at 106 pounds and is considered the No. 13 overall women's wrestler in America, while Emilie is ranked No. 15 nationally at 106 pounds.
Brianna won USA Wrestling's National Recruiting Showcase last spring in Coralville, going 4-0 to win at 100 pounds. Emilie took fourth at the same weight, winning five straight matches in the wrestlebacks after a first-round loss. In 2020, Brianna took second at the California state tournament at 101, while Emilie took sixth at 106.
Last spring, Emilie made the finals of the Cadet women's freestyle world team trials at 43 kilograms (95 pounds) while Brianna took third at 46 kilos (101). Last July, they both made the finals at the Junior women's freestyle national championships, winning five matches each to meet each other in the finals at 100 pounds (they didn't wrestle).
Their additions make six total commitments for Clarissa Chun and the Hawkeye women's wrestling program, which spurred my quick thought: Perhaps it's time to take a stab at a projected lineup.
Here's what I came up with:
- 101: Brianna Gonzalez/Emilie Gonzalez
- 109: Emilie Gonzalez/Nyla Valencia
- 116: Nyla Valencia
- 123: ?
- 130: Ella Schmit
- 136: ?
- 143: Reese Larramendy
- 155: ?
- 170: Kylie Welker
- 191: ?
Remember, the Iowa women won't start competing until the 2023-24 season, so a lot can change between now and then — they can grow into different weights and Chun will continue to recruit not only the current senior class, but also the current junior class, and transfers may join the program, too.
So this process will continue to grow and take shape over the next few months and throughout the next year. But with six committed recruits, that is roughly what a starting lineup could look like when the Hawkeyes take the mat less than two years from now.
Pretty exciting, if you ask me.
OK, onto the Wrestling Mailbag. Happy Wrestling Appreciation Day to those of you in Iowa City, Coralville and North Liberty, which is amazing because it also falls on a Tues … err, TWOSday. To the rest of the wrestling world, Happy Jordan Burroughs Day.
Please give me a follow on Twitter and I’ll keep you up to date on all things wrestling in Iowa. Don't forget to tune into the Register's wrestling podcast, In the Room, each week. You can find the latest episodes below.
Thanks for your help here, and for reading.
Indianola's Ryder Downey and winning a state title as a high school senior
I take issue with the "lost in the shuffle" comment here. This isn't a shot at you, Andy, so much as it is me being so absorbed in the wrestling bubble that I am just not surprised by anything these kids do because I see them compete up close all the time.
Sure, Ryder Downey didn't win a title until his senior year, but he finished his career as a four-time state medalist and a two-time finalist with a 181-25 overall record (according to some quick search on Trackwrestling). He took seventh, second, fourth then first. His state tournament losses came to:
- Ankeny's Trever Anderson, a three-time finalist and two-time champ
- Fort Dodge's Lane Cowell, a three-time state medalist and Junior All-American
- Waverly-Shell Rock's Bailey Roybal, a state champ
- Waverly-Shell Rock's Ryder Block, a three-time finalist and now two-time champ
- Linn-Mar's Bryce Parke, a two-time state medalist and Junior All-American
Then he won his title by beating three guys who won a combined six state titles previously. That line will always stick out when we think of Downey's high school career, but dang it if he hasn't been good for a long time.
That's why I wrote that anybody who was surprised that he won hasn't been paying attention. It's how he won — staving off a near-pin, trailing 5-0 in the third period, scoring two tilts in the final minute to force overtime then winning on a rideout — that should be what we marvel at.
Anyway, you asked about guys who haven't won a title yet that might be able to do it next year, specifically seniors. Here are the first ones that come to mind:
- Jake Walker, Waverly-Shell Rock
- Blake Gioimo, Cedar Rapids Prairie
- Maddux Borcherding-Johnson, Norwalk
- Jackson Dewald, Westwood
Walker, now a two-time finalist, bumped to heavyweight this year because it gave Waverly-Shell Rock the best shot at winning a fourth consecutive team title, and it nearly worked. He's a natural 220-pounder, one of the best in the country. If you don't believe me, watch him this summer. He's going to make some serious noise.
Gioimo, also a two-time finalist, can't seem to beat Waukee/Waukee Northwest, losing his finals matches to Carter Freeman last year, then Koufax Christensen last week. He was the 3-seed last year, but his appearance in the finals was a small surprise. He was not a surprise finalist this year. He's one of the state's underrated lightweight stars. Keep an eye out.
Big Maddux, a three-time state medalist, all at heavyweight, is a football-first guy who happens to be one of the state's better wrestlers. He's finished fourth-third-third, all at 285 pounds in Class 3A, and we aren't talking about that achievement enough. That's nuts. One of Iowa's more under-the-radar wrestlers, perhaps because he is football-first.
Dewald is another freak athlete, a three-time state medalist, all three years at 182 pounds. That's hard to do. He's made the state finals each of the past two years, losing to Don Bosco's Carson Tenold last year and Hudson's Tate Entriken last week. He's a hidden Class 1A powerhouse who could go out on top next season, too.
So far as I know, Downey and Cascade's Aidan Noonan are the only two in state history to beat a three-timer who was going for their fourth title in the state finals. Downey beat Avila, and Noonan beat West Sioux's Adam Allard, 4-2, at 126 in Class 1A back in 2020. (Hat tip to Andy Hamilton for first reporting that Noonan was the first two years ago.)
Pretty wild that all previous wrestlers who were in that position were 0-27 all-time, and now we've seen it twice in three years — both in thrilling, emphatic fashion.
Downey's comeback was exceptional, but you had to figure his best path to victory was going to be scoring from the top position, where he's arguably the best in the state. Sure enough, two tilts in about 40 seconds turned a 5-0 hole into a 5-5 overtime match, and then he rode out Avila to win. The Wells Fargo Arena crowd went ballistic.
Noonan did something similar. In that match, Allard scored a quick takedown and led 2-0 entering the third period. A second stall call made it 2-1, then Noonan cranked a half-nelson for three back points in the final seconds to win, 4-2. I've never heard Wells Fargo Arena louder than when the ref swiped the second time that night.
But that's it. Rare and elite company, for sure, and both of those guys are now rockstars forever.
I think the only other one that came close was in 1993, when Belmond-Klemme's Dan Gabrielson beat Lisbon's Ike Light, 8-5, in the 1A state semifinals at 130 pounds.
Light was a three-timer seeking his fourth, and led Gabrielson 3-0 in the second and 5-2 in the third. Gabrielson escaped to make it 5-3, then took Light feet-to-back late in the third for a takedown and three back points to win it. People who were there that day say that's the loudest they'd ever heard the crowd inside Veteran's Auditorium.
Isn't wrestling the best?
Who would be Iowa's true high school state wrestling champions?
- 106: TJ Koester, Jace Hedeman, Caleb Coffin
- 113: Koufax Christensen, Kade Blume, Eli Becerra
- 120: Carter Freeman, Kale Petersen, Brandon Paez
- 126: Nate Jesuroga, Marcel Lopez, Jaiden Moore
- 132: Gable Porter, Evan Frost, Blaine Frazier
- 138: Ryder Block, Carter Fousek, Cade Siebrecht
- 145: Ryder Downey, Hagen Heistand, Eric Kinkaid
- 152: Hunter Garvin, Gabe Sanders, Wyatt Reisz
- 160: Aiden Riggins, Nick Fox, Max Magayna
- 170: Tate Naaktgeboren, Cade Tenold, Kadin Stutzman
- 182: CJ Walrath, Griffin Gammell, Tate Entriken
- 195: Wyatt Voelker, McCrae Hagarty, Carson Tenold
- 220: Ben Kueter, Barrett Muller, Jared Thiry
- 285: Chet Buss, Easton Fleshman, Ben Reiland
But Cody, you're favoring 3A more than the other two classes!
Well … yeah.
Look, some of these are pretty simple. Ryder Block, for example, beat both Carter Fousek and Cade Siebrecht this season. Same with Aiden Riggins beating both Nick Fox and Max Magayna.
Some of these are a little trickier. Like 126, for example. I don't think people will fuss much about Jesuroga being the 1-seed, but both Lopez and Moore went undefeated. Who gets the 2? Or 195: Hagarty beat Tenold, but Voelker didn't wrestle either of them, so why should he get the nod over Hagarty?
The hardest weights to seed might be 113, 132 and 182 — which, coincidentally, are the three weights I'd most love to see actually unfold in a round-robin format. I'd also want to see a Voelker-Hagarty matchup at 195, a Freeman-Petersen match at 120, plus Buss-Fleshman at 285 and Koester-Hedeman at 106.
Under-the-radar Iowa high school wrestling stories from 2021-22
Here are a few things that came to mind, in no particular order:
– Iowa City High's Ben Kueter is, to no one's surprise, a three-timer in line to win a fourth state title next season. He is also, maybe quietly, 72-0 for his high school career. The last Iowa high school wrestler to go undefeated for his career was Des Moines Roosevelt's John Meeks, who went 168-0 from 2009-12.
– Waukee Northwest was in position to win a team title because it went 8-1 with three pins and a major decision on Friday — 4-0 in the semifinals, 4-1 in the wrestlebacks. Having eight wrestlers in the top six tends to be a really, really good thing.
– Southeast Polk's Harrison Gibson almost didn't wrestle this season. He was on the fence, and actually swam for the Rams for a moment, but ultimately decided to wrestle. All he did was finish fifth as the 7-seed at 182 pounds and scored 12 total team points — including four crucial team points with his pin for fifth-place on Saturday morning (while trailing 9-3!) to help the Rams win the team title by … wait for it … three points.
– Iowa City West's Justin Avila was the only wrestler in the entire tournament to lose in the first round and wrestle all the way back to the third-place match. He did so as a significantly undersized 170-pounder (he weighed in on Saturday around 155) in 3A, and in his four wrestleback matches, he recorded three major decisions and a pin.
– Ralston Rumley's run to the state finals at 220 helped the Maroons finish sixth in the 3A team race. He had previously been a combined 1-4 in his past two trips to the state tournament. This time, he recorded a quarterfinal pin over Valley's Trystin Irvin, an opponent he had lost to twice during the regular season. Rumley ultimately scored 22 of Dowling's 86 team points. (He's only a junior, too.)
– Linn-Mar's Kane Naaktgeboren went 42-2 with 38 pins this season, a new school record. I don't normally pay attention to school records, but when you pass a mark held by, among others, Jay Borschel and Matt McDonough, two NCAA champs for the Hawkeyes, you deserve some kudos.
– Waukee Northwest's Cael Winter got the all-clear to wrestle on Jan. 5 and ended up taking fifth at 220 pounds, a crucial component of the Wolves' runner-up team finish. He lost in round one and won three in a row in the wrestlebacks, including a big bloodround pin over Waverly-Shell Rock's Layne McDonald after falling behind 3-0. That may have been the difference in Northwest contending and Waverly-Shell Rock not winning.
– Speaking of Caels … there were 20 total Caels, Cales, Kaels and Kales that qualified for the state tournament this year. Nine of them finished on the podium. Kale Petersen, from Greene County, was the only one to win, at 120 pounds in Class 2A. Cael Morrow, from Akron-Westfield, made the finals, at 106 pounds in 1A.
– Waverly-Shell Rock's McCrae Hagarty doesn't get enough love as one of the state's best wrestlers. Over the past year and some change, he's won two state titles (over guys who have both been to the state finals twice and won titles themselves), gone 81-1 overall with 53 pins, finished third at both the 16U men's freestyle and Greco-Roman national championships, and took fourth at the Cadet men's freestyle world team trials. He's pound-for-pound one of the best Iowa has — and he's only getting better, too.
Comparing state duals results to the traditional state wrestling tournament
It's the largest discrepancy I've ever seen.
The first one that came to mind was actually Williamsburg back in 2020. Took second at state duals in 2A, then scored just 35 points and finished 16th in the traditional tournament. Pretty big gap.
Independence's was bigger — second at state duals, with two pretty close wins: 40-30 over Winterset in the first round, then a come-from-behind 37-31 win over Osage in the semifinals; then just three points scored at the traditional tournament. Tough sport.
I'm sure there are stories like that. Some coaches and teams go all-in on wanting to win the duals title. Some punt it in favor of the traditional tournament. It all depends on who you ask.
But this is part of what makes wrestling fun, right?
Independence, as a dual team, was fantastic, a group of gritty wrestlers who could win at more weights than not, and it was enough to beat a team that finished in the top 20 of the traditional tournament, and another that nearly won the traditional tournament. It was not enough to knock off West Delaware, who was made in the same mold but had more traditional tournament success, taking third behind Notre Dame-West Burlington and Osage.
But then Notre Dame-West Burlington is an example of it working the other way. The Nikes went 1-2 on Wednesday and finished seventh at state duals, then stormed to their first traditional team title in school history using mostly the same kids. That's a pretty big jump in finishes from one state competition to the next.
You can view who is the "best team" in a few different ways. Do you view it through dual success? Or do you view it through the traditional lens, as a compilation of individual success?
In that sense, Independence is an interesting thought exercise. The Mustangs made a run to make the state duals finals, but they only had three qualifiers for the traditional tournament, and they went a combined 1-6.
Sometimes a great team looks like Waverly-Shell Rock, where it has nine state medalists and three individual champs and that translates to a dual title and third in a traditional setting. Sometimes it looks like Independence, where it takes second at duals and scores just three points in a traditional setting. Sometimes it's Underwood, who punted on the dual postseason and took fourth in the 1A traditional tournament.
To answer my own question from earlier, yes, this is part of what makes wrestling fun.
(Also, continued good vibes, thoughts and prayers for Isaiah Weber, who went down with a rib injury on Thursday after wrestling really well on Wednesday. Hope he's doing better and makes a full recovery.)
No celebratory sound, but I did smile. It's fun to rattle off a good sentence.
This is the writing nerd in me talking, but there are times when my view of a story is directly correlated to how I feel about the process of putting it together. Sometimes, the story's great but I feel blah because my process was stressful. Sometimes, the story isn't nearly as exciting, but I feel great because the writing just flowed.
That name gimmick I do every year before the state tournament has been a fun release, and it's become a way to highlight more kids that we may not always write about during the week. I try to find a few fun ways to mention as many names as I can. That one caught my attention starting with Brian South, and it worked out well.
Not a lot!
I was up around 6:30 a.m. every day to eat breakfast and get ready. I got to Wells Fargo Arena around 7:30-8 a.m. Wrestling started at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, then 10 a.m. on Saturday. The wrestling and post-match writing went until about 9 p.m. Wednesday, 10 p.m. Thursday, and 11 p.m. Friday. I left around midnight on Saturday.
Those are long hours, and it takes a lot out of me as the week goes, but the awesome moments provided by the wrestlers and the coaches keep my energy levels high and keep me going. It's a blast-and-a-half every year. I lose any sense or concept of time while I'm at that tournament, but it's always worth it when we get to Saturday night.
This week, I'm thankful for the Chick-Fil-A and strawberry smoothies that were both made available at Wells Fargo Arena last week. That's my go-to meal every year before the state duals finals and Saturday night's championship matches. Consistency is key.
Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.