DES MOINES — Top-rated Gabe Pauley of AHSTW was pinned in the district final this season.
Second-rated Arron Olson of Missouri Valley cried every match he wrestled in kindergarten.
If nothing, the sport is about overcoming adversity, and the Western Iowa Conference standouts ended their high school careers on Saturday as state champions.
Pauley (37-3) won his second straight state title, beating No. 2 Thomas Even of Don Bosco 5-3 in the sudden-victory period at 182 pounds. Olson (50-6) beat seventh-rated Noah Pittman of Don Bosco 5-3 at 285 for his first championship.
Pauley thought he had the winning takedown with 15 seconds left in the third period, but it was ruled out of bounds. But 22 seconds into the sudden-victory period, he exploded for a double-leg to clinch the state title.
“I was in a really deep hole after my first loss and my second loss,” Pauley said. “When I got pinned at districts, I thought I was just going to go 0-2 at state because I was so down on myself. But I just kept my eye on the prize and to go out and get it feels great.”
Olson notched a pair of first-period takedowns to lead 4-1 after one period. He held on for the victory, then went into the crowd to hug as many Missouri Valley friends and family as he could find.
“My family got me to this day,” he said. “My coaches got me to this day. Everybody around me got me to this day. It’s an unbelievable feeling.”
Missouri Valley coach Keefer Jensen said Olson has shown steady improvement in the sport.
“When he came in, I knew he could be a stud,” he said. “It’s been a work in progress. He just made those jumps, year to year. It was districts, it was state, it was eighth place and now it’s a state champ. He’s worked hard. He’s earned it.”
Underwood’s night didn’t go as hoped. At 106, fifth-rated New London freshman Marcel Lopez (44-3) beat No. 1 freshman Stevie Barnes (51-3), 4-0.
Barnes was unable to generate any offense. Lopez scored a reversal with 1:10 left in the second period, then added a takedown with one second left as Barnes was in desperation mode.
“They had a perfect game plan to slow us down, and it worked,” Underwood coach Joe Stephens said.
At 132, top-rated Lisbon junior Cael Happel (54-0) won his third state title and 76th straight match with a 23-9 win by major decision over fifth-rated junior Logan James (29-2). Happel had 11 takedowns in the match.
“That’s Cael Happel, you know what I mean?” James said. “He’s a two-time returning state champ. I’m coming off a knee surgery. I’m still trying to work my (tail) off. He’s a hell of a competitor. He put up probably 13, 14 points on me just because he fought like a dog. So much respect I have for that kid for doing that.”
At 138, top-rated senior Cobe Siebrecht (50-0) of Lisbon won by major decision 9-1 over No. 2 freshman Nick Hamilton (50-3).
Stephens was asked what he hopes his three finalists learned.
“We can’t take things for granted,” Stephens said. “We ran into some really good guys. We had a couple winnable matches, I thought, going into it. We were going to have to be at the top of our game and we just weren’t.”
Stephens stressed the results had nothing to do with his wrestlers’ attitude or work ethic.
“The kids are fantastic,” he said. “There’s absolutely nothing wrong at all with them. They did everything they were asked to do. We just have to be better. That’s what we will be, starting in a couple weeks.”
The bright spot of the day was junior Blake Thomsen (54-4) at 145. He was disqualified from his quarterfinal match with Highland’s Brady Hahn after an illegal slam. He rebounded with four straight wins to finish third. Hahn continued to compete and finished sixth, one win from a rematch.
“Blake gets completely robbed in the quarterfinals and came back tough and did everything right,” Stephens said. “Your heart breaks for a guy like that. He should have been out here, too. We felt like he’s the best guy in the weight.”
Also for the Eagles, seniors Michael Baker finished fifth at 160 and Tanner Owens placed eighth at 152.
James probably spoke for all of Underwood’s returning wrestlers after his match.
“It’s just going to put more fire into my chest,” he said.
Logan-Magnolia’s second-rated Reisz (55-1) finished as the runner-up for a second straight year. The sophomore lost 3-1 to No. 1 freshman Robert Avila Jr. (52-1) of Lisbon.
After three stalemates, Avila notched what proved to be the winning takedown with 40 seconds left in the first period. Reisz escaped with one second left .
“He had a tremendous season,” Logan-Magnolia coach Dan Thompson said. “We’re leaps and bounds ahead of where we were last year. You can call it the same result, but we’re a significantly better wrestler than we were a year ago. It was two really good guys, and it came down to one takedown. He got it. That’s kind of how this tournament works.”
Senior has to settle for second
Cameron Baker’s medal will be silver, but Council Bluffs Thomas Jefferson coach August Manz said his effort was golden.
Second-rated, top-seeded Beau Lombardi of West Des Moines Valley outlasted top-rated, second-seeded Baker 4-1 in the second tiebreaker period on Saturday in the Class 3-A 220-pound championship match at Wells Fargo Arena.
It was a match befitting their lofty credentials.
“You just don’t want to ever end it like that, but as a coach you can’t be more proud of a guy that goes out there, not just for six minutes, but over time and gives it his all,” Manz said. “He left it out there. It was just two guys battling it out. One guy’s going to come out the victor and somebody’s coming out on the short end of the stick. But there’s nothing against his effort or what he’s done in the whole season.”
Lombardi, also the Valley quarterback, escaped in the second period and Baker escaped in the third period, as both wrestlers struggled to find openings. It went to extra time at 1-1.
After a scoreless, one-minute sudden-victory period, Lombardi chose the bottom position in the first 30-second tiebreaker. He escaped in the first four seconds to lead 2-1. Baker needed to escape from the down position in the next 30-second period to extend the match, or get a reversal to win it.
Lombardi was able to expose Baker’s back for two near-fall points, clinching the 4-1 win.
Baker has been the face of Thomas Jefferson’s athletics for much of his high school career. It’s something he’s handled well, Manz said.
“A lot of kids look up to him,” he said. “He’s the face of our athletic program. He’s a great example for everybody to look at and say, ‘This is what I want to be and this is what I aspire to.”’
Also from western Iowa in 3-A, Brett Mower of Glenwood finished fourth at 182 .
Western Iowa trio finishes season with silver medals
DES MOINES — Three western Iowa wrestlers took to the mat in championship matches Saturday, but none walked off of it victorious.
It was not for a lack of trying.
Harlan senior Derec Weyer (49-3) pinned his way to the finals where the heavyweight went up against top-seeded Spencer Trenary of Clarion-Goldfield-Dows, last season’s state runner-up. In a match where both spent nearly all their time trying to throw the other, it was Trenary who eventually got it done with the pin in 3:12.
“The kid beat us to the step and got his hips into it,” Harlan coach John Murtaugh said. “Derec battled him and it was going to be one of those deals of whoever could throw the other guy was going to win that match.
“That kid came in highly touted, but I don’t think we backed off him one bit.”
Despite the loss, it was still an impressive season for a wrestler who spent last year on the junior varsity.
Atlantic/CAM senior Chase McLaren (51-4) ran into top-ranked Jack Thomsen of Union in the finals at 138. The brother of four-time state champion Max Thomsen was able to deny the Trojan on his first-period shot attempts and went on to secure the 10-3 victory.
“Chase is a kid that has done everything we have ever asked him to do, and he is a kid that has busted his tail from Day 1,” Atlantic coach Tim Duff said. “He was totally committed and all in to try to be a state champ. There is nothing right now that will take that sting away, but we are proud of him.”
McLaren, a four-time state qualifier who finished seventh a year ago, was taken down and gave up two back points in the first period. Two more back points made it 6-1 after two as the Knight was able to secure victory.
Red Oak junior Justin McCunn (47-3) knocked off a pair of higher-ranked foes to reach the finals before falling to Ballard senior Skyler Noftsger 8-3. Noftsger proved to be too much on his feet as he was able to take down McCunn four times.
“He kind of worked me on my feet quite a bit, so now I know what I have to go back and work on this summer to improve for next year,” McCunn. “Time to improve and come back to get that title.