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IOWA WRESTLING COMMITS EXCEL AT IOWA STATE TOURNAMENT

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Part of the future of the Iowa wrestling team was on display in Des Moines last night -- and the future looked pretty good.

IHSAA-Iowa

The 2015-16 Iowa high school wrestling season wrapped up this week, with the state dual meet championship earlier in the week and the traditional state tournament in Des Moines Thursday-Saturday.  In addition to Tristan Wirfs showing off his hand-walking skills, the tournament was also one final shot at glory (or more glory) for a handful of prep wrestlers who have committed to the Iowa program.  Iowa has five in-state commits for their 2016 class so far -- and four of those five celebrated state championships in their respective weight classes last night.  (The only one who didn't win a state title finished 3rd, battling back to place there after getting upset in the quarterfinals.)  That's not too shabby.

(All rankings via our friends at IAWrestle.)

#1 Jack Wagner (3A, 120 lbs) Bettendorf
Wagner TECH FALL (19-2, 2:26) Chris Shima (Storm Lake)
Wagner TECH FALL (23-8, 5:45) #4 Jakob Allison (Waukee)
Wagner MAJ DEC (14-5) #6 Harlan Steffensmeier (Fort Madison)
Wagner DEC (8-5) #2 Adam Brown (Southeast Polk)

Wagner won his third state championship for Bettendorf last night, knocking off #2-ranked Adam Brown from Southeast Polk in the finals.  Wagner projects at either 125 or 133 for Iowa and figures to be one of the main options in play when Iowa looks to replace Thomas Gilman and Cory Clark at those weights in two years.

#1 Brock Rathbun (2A, 126 lbs) Center Point-Urbana
Rathbun TECH FALL (16-0, 2:40) Justin Light (Mount Vernon)
Rathbun MAJ DEC (11-3) Tyler Shatek (New Hampton)
Rathbun DEC (2-0) #9 Gisaveri Niyibizi (Perry)
Rathbun DEC (7-3) #3 Brayden Curry (Sgt Bluff-Luton)

Like future Hawkeye teammate Wagner, Rathbun also claimed his third state championship last night, giving up an early takedown to #3 Brayden Curry before battling back to claim a 7-3 decision win.  He also projects at 125 or 133 in college and, like Wagner, also figures to be one of the primary options to replace Clark and Gilman in a few years. Iowa also has commitments from some well-regarded 2017 prospects at the lower weights (Justin Meija from California and Jason Renteria from Illinois) and is in hot pursuit of another major 2017 recruit at the lower weights (Pennsylvania's Spencer Lee), but Wagner and Rathbun should be able to give Iowa some quality options at those weights while still being able to redshirt guys at those weights as well.

#1 Carter Happel (1A, 145) Lisbon
Happel TECH FALL (19-3, 4:00) #9 Dylan Mueller (Central Springs)
Happel TECH FALL (17-1, 4:22) Tanner Heaberlin (Belmond-Klemme)
Happel FALL (1:02) #5 Tanner Hoyer (Alburnett)
Happel DEC (7-1) #2 Trent Johnson (Dike-New Hartford)

Happel was one of the major storylines of the state tournament, as he sought to conclude his career with a fourth straight Iowa state championship on Saturday night.  Mission accomplished.  Happel became the 25th wrestler in history to win four Iowa state championships, ending his prep career with a record of 209-1.  Happel rolled through the first three rounds of the tournament and while he had to wrestle the full six minutes against #2 Trent Johnson last night, he looked in control for most of the match and won comfortably.  Happel projects at 141 or 149 in college (he bumped up to 145 lbs this season in part to help out his team, Lisbon, who came achingly close to winning the 1A team state championship) and given Iowa's ongoing uncertainty at 141 lbs, he could be an option there.  If he does start as a true freshman (not necessarily likely, given Iowa's history there, but still), Iowa could be rolling out a lineup with three four-time Iowa state champions back-to-back-to-back: Cory Clark at 133, Happel at 141, and Brandon Sorensen at 149.  Being a 4-time Iowa state champion is no guarantee of success at the college level (see: Nick Moore), but it sure doesn't hurt anything.  Congratulations on joining an exclusive club, Carter -- we're excited to see what you can do in black and gold for the next several years.

#1 Matt Malcom (2A, 152) Glenwood
Malcom FALL (1:59) Colton Lewis (Williamsburg)
Malcom FALL (4:42) Preston Dunn (Sergeant Bluff-Luton)
Malcom FALL (4:26) #6 Isaac Judge (South Tama County-Tama)
Malcom MAJ DEC (18-5) #4 Joe Kelly (West Liberty)

While Wagner, Rathbun, and Happel were getting back on top of mountains they had already climbed in years past, Matt Malcom was reaching the summit for the first time.  Malcolm was a three-time qualifier to the state tournament and finished in 5th last year, but he broke through in a big way this year and was absolutely dominant in Des Moines. He pinned his way to the finals and while he wasn't able to go 4-for-4 in pins, he did run through #4 Joe Kelly in the finals, taking him down again and again with ease.  Malcom projects at 157 or 165 at college and while Iowa has some major prospects at those weights already (current Hawkeye freshman Michael Kemerer and incoming recruit Alex Marinelli), Malcom's continued improvement at Glenwood has been impressive.  If he continues to improve in the Iowa wrestling room, he may yet force his way into the lineup in the future.

#1 Tristan Johnson (2A, 160) Osage
Johnson MAJ DEC (14-3) #4 Josh Strohman (Algona)
#7 Cameron Leith (Creston/Orient-Macksburg) FALL (3:47) Johnson
Johnson MAJ DEC (14-2) Isaiah Vaughn (Union-LaPorte City)
Johnson DEC (9-2) #3 Jake Juhl (Independence)
Johnson FALL (1:06) Nick Long (East Marshall/GMG)
3RD PLACE: Johnson DEC (5-4) John Engelbrecht (Mount Vernon)

Johnson was the odd man out in the championship party thrown by Iowa's other 2016 commits in Des Moines; he surprisingly got put on his back in the quarterfinals on Friday, which prevented him from getting a chance to better his state runner-up finish from a season ago.  But Johnson didn't let that shock defeat linger -- he won four matches in the consolation bracket to claim 3rd place at 160 lbs in 2A.  Finishing 3rd was surely a disappointment for a #1-ranked guy who came to Des Moines with visions of winning a state championship, but the way he was able to pick himself up after getting knocked down was impressive.  Johnson projects at 165 or 174 in college and while super-recruit Alex Marinelli is expected to fill Iowa's hole at 165 (possibly as soon as next year if he forgoes a redshirt season), Iowa's future at 174 is a little less clear.  Johnson may be a name to track there in a few years.

While those five were the only official Iowa recruits in action in Des Moines, there were several other wrestlers who impressed  and who should be on the radar as Iowa recruiting targets.  Underwood sophomore Alex Thomsen won his second straight state championship on Saturday night (at 126 lbs) -- and finished his second straight undefeated season (yes, that's correct: he has yet to lose in high school) -- with a 15-7 thumping of Highland Riverside's Drew West, a very good wrestler (52-1 entering the state tournament) in his own right.  Just a sophomore, Thomsen may already be the best high school wrestler in Iowa and he already looks like a must-get for the Hawkeyes when he's able to commit to a college in a few years.  Fellow sophomore Brody Teske of Fort Dodge also won his second-straight state championship (at 113 lbs) to keep alive his own quest of becoming a four-time state champion; Iowa has a lot of lightweight recruits already in the pipeline, but Teske will be another name to watch there.

West Des Moines Dowling's Michael Zachary won his second-straight state championship at 145 lbs in 3A in impressive fashion -- he recorded a 20-5 technical fall win in 4:35.  Zachary, a senior, has incredible natural skills -- his agility and explosiveness are tremendous -- and they were on full display in the clinic he put on in the finals. Zachary is still unrefined in some areas, but his raw talent is impressive to behold and he could really blossom with a full-time focus on wrestling in college. Outside of Thomsen, Western Dubuque's Max Lyon may have had the most impressive state tournament of anyone: he brought home a title at 182 lbs in 3A with four wins while wrestling just a hair over 8 minutes total all weekend (he recorded three falls and a quick technical fall).  His attacking prowess was hugely impressive and the fact that he wrestles at a weight where Iowa is in need of future reinforcement (he'll likely be at 184 or 197 in college) makes him an even more intriguing potential recruit.  He's a junior so he would be a Class of 2017 recruit.

And North Scott's Wyatt Wriedt had maybe the most impressive win of the finals on Saturday night -- or at least the most entertaining win -- when he knocked off 2-time state champion (and Oklahoma State recruit) Ethan Anderson from Southeast Polk in the finals at 220 lbs.  It was a thrilling back-and-forth affair that Wriedt won with some brilliant counters to Anderson's shots, a non-stop motor, and a great takedown in the closing seconds.  Wriedt, a junior, certainly put himself on the map as a potential recruit in the Class of 2017.

Finally, there was another state champion Saturday night whose name might be just a little familiar:

#3 Nelson Brands (3A, 138) IC West
Brands DEC (11-4) Dain Gansen
Brands DEC (9-3) #1 Zach Barnes (Southeast Polk)
Brands FALL (1:33) #9 Nick Graham (Johnston)
Brands DEC (6-5) #4 Clint Lembeck (Cedar Rapids Xavier)

Brands, a sophomore, won his first state championship last night.  He's still a few years from deciding his college choice, but I think the Iowa coaching staff might have an in with him...

The Iowa state wrestling tournament wasn't the only state tournament this weekend to feature future Hawkeye wrestlers.  In Illinois, Jason Renteria won a state title at 120 lbs in 3A (the biggest class):

Jason Renteria (3A, 120) Oak Park-River Forest
Renteria FALL (2:55) Lucas Busse (McHenry)
Renteria MAJ DEC (16-4) Abdullah Assaf (Lockport Township)
Renteria DEC (7-2) Josh Stenger (Huntley)
Renteria DEC (8-3) Michael McGee (Plainfield East)

As noted earlier, Renteria is a 2017 recruit who likely projects at 125 or 133 in college.

And in Nebraska, another 2016 recruit brought home some gold, winning his second-straight state title at 182 lbs:

Cade Brownlee (A, 182) Omaha Creighton Prep
Brownlee FALL (4:29) Levi Cusatis (Hastings)
Brownlee MAJ DEC (12-4) Gabriel Jeffrey (Bellevue East)
Brownlee DEC (8-7) Gavyn Angerman (Millard South)
Brownlee DEC (4-2) Sean Lambert (Fremont)

Brownlee projects at 174 or 184 in college.  A redshirt is a certainty for 2016-17, but with Alex Meyer and Sam Brooks both departing after next season, Brownlee could very well be in the mix to man one of those spots come 2017-18.