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Iowa high school wrestling: Takeaways and observations from Week 3 of the 2020 season


Cody Goodwin   | Des Moines Register
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We’ve reached the unofficial halfway mark of the high school wrestling season. 

The holidays provide a natural break in the action, though teams will continue to practice and compete like they have for the last five weeks. But the month of December is done, and only the postseason remains after January.

While the first half of the season wasn’t exactly smooth — many teams haven’t practiced or competed yet and a handful were limited, while others haven’t missed a beat — we’re hopeful the second half of the season will be as exciting and as thrilling as the first.

Week 3 featured a lot of strong individual and team performances, milestone victories, and more teams finally got on the mat and competed. The last week and weekend was an exciting end to the first half of the season. 

Here’s what we learned: 

Round-robin fun at Indianola

They don’t make round-robins more fun than the 120-pound bracket at Indianola on Saturday.

Consider the contestants:

  • Ankeny’s Trever Anderson, a two-time state medalist and 2019 state champ;
  • Don Bosco’s Garrett Funk, a returning state medalist;
  • Chris Coates, a talented freshman from Missouri power Liberty;
  • and Millard South’s Caleb Coyle, a Nebraska state champ, Junior All-American, and Oregon State signee.

Anderson defeated Coates, 3-1, in a third-period takedown, then Coates pinned Funk in the second period, then Funk beat Anderson, 5-3, thanks to takedowns in the first and second periods — and they all beat Coyle.

The end result was Coates first, Anderson second, Funk third, but the real winners were the fans inside Blake Fieldhouse. We may not see that many high-level competitors at one weight in a single tournament often this season — until (hopefully) the state tournament. 

Downey continues trending up

Indianola’s Ryder Downey won at 132 pounds this weekend, his second tournament title in three weeks. He went 4-0 and outscored his opponents 48-6 this weekend. He’s now 15-1 to start this season, a strong opening after reaching the Class 3A state finals last season. 

The junior has toppled many of his weight’s top contenders: a 5-4 win over Mason City's Jace Rhodes, a past state finalist; a 2-0 win over Centerville's Matthew Lewis, a three-time 2A state champ; and technical falls over both Union's Kolten Crawford and Clear Lake's Sam Nelson, both who are ranked in the top-8 in 2A. He’s also flashed his ability to score in bunches, notching two pins, two major decisions and eight technical falls.

Downey was something of a surprise finalist last year, knocking off Ankeny’s Anderson in the semifinals, 5-2, at 113 pounds. Anderson had previously beaten Downey six straight times before that. Considering Downey's performance so far this year, that victory looks more and more like it was a springboard for what was coming. 

Ankeny's Rathjen starts strong, too

Ankeny’s Caleb Rathjen kicked off his senior season this week. The future Hawkeye is now 6-0 after winning in Ankeny’s duals against Cedar Falls and Fort Dodge on Tuesday and Thursday, then going 4-0 at Indianola on Saturday, all at 160 pounds.

Rathjen, a two-time state champ, imposed his will the whole way, with five first-period pins in six matches. His lone non-pin was a 19-10 major decision over Don Bosco's Cael Frost, a returning Class 1A state medalist, in his final match Saturday, wherein he scored eight total takedowns, including three in the third period.

Not a bad start to what Rathjen — remember, pronounced 'rah-chee' — hopes is a special year.

Don Bosco produces another strong showing

One final note from Indianola: Don Bosco was the top Iowa team, scoring 143 points to finish third. Liberty (MO) and Millard South (NE) finished first end second, respectively, with 240 and 161.5 points.

But the Dons showed their depth and overall talent on Saturday, with 10 wrestlers finishing third or better. Both Cade Tenold (170) and Jared Thiry (220) finished first, and both Frost and Carson Tenold (182) finished second.

And they did all of this without senior 145-pounder Cael Rahnavardi, a returning state finalist and Northern Iowa signee, who was resting a small foot injury. So Don Bosco could’ve conceivably scored more points.

Scary thought, right? 

Welcome back, Southeast Polk and Waukee

Two of Class 3A’s top teams, Southeast Polk and Waukee, returned to action this week after switching back from fully virtual learning. 

The Rams won four duals last week: 49-24 over Dowling Catholic on Thursday, then notched wins over Atlantic-CAM (52-13), Lewis Central (76-5) and, most impressively, Bettendorf (41-24) on Saturday at their own Red Owens Classic. 

Waukee won five duals, all on Saturday at its own Al Garrison Duals, over Ottumwa (73-3), Dallas Center-Grimes (62-6), Sioux City North (76-6), Ballard (71-3) and Harlan (70-6).

True tests await both of them. Southeast Polk’s next dual is Jan. 2, against Don Bosco — yes, really, in Gilbertville — then again on Jan. 4 against … wait for it … Waukee. It doesn’t stop there, either. The Warriors then face Johnston on Jan. 7, and the Rams will get a crack at Waverly-Shell Rock on Jan. 9.

Buckle up. It’s going to be fun. 

Odds and ends from Fort Dodge

The Don Miller Invitational in Fort Dodge had a few notable finals results, for a number of reasons.

At 106 pounds, Dowling’s Kyler Carstarphen defeated Fort Dodge’s Dru Ayala, 11-3. This weight might be pretty bonkers this season, with these two, Cedar Rapids Prairie's Blake Gioimo, Waverly-Shell Rock's Zane Behrends, Indianola's Bowen Downey and Waukee's Carter Freeman, among others, all in the mix.

At 113, Webster City’s Cam Phetxoumphone edged out Ankeny Centennial’s Lucas Bruhl, 5-4 in the first tiebreaker. It was an excellent showing from Bruhl against a returning Class 2A state champ — and Bruhl is just a freshman. Keep an eye on him.

And at 132, Fort Dodge’s Drake Ayala pinned Mason City’s Rhodes, in the third period, while leading 19-7. The result isn't all that surprising, but it revealed a little more about Ayala's plan this season.

Last week, the senior wrestled 126 and was set to meet Millard South’s Conor Knopick, a Cadet Greco world-teamer and Iowa State signee, in the finals of the Arena Sports Academy Invite before Knopick got hurt. The week before, Ayala was back at 132 and beat both Downey and Centerville’s Lewis. 

Expect the future Hawkeye to keep going back and forth this season as he continues to seek the best competition available to him.

Central Lyon is another 2A team to watch

Central Lyon/George-Little Rock produced an impressive team performance at the Austin Roberts Memorial Tournament at Spencer on Saturday, scoring 220 points to edge out Sergeant Bluff-Luton (207.5) and LeMars (177.5). 

Central Lyon finished with three champs — Daniel Schriever (138), Kalen Meyer (182), Dylan Winkel (220) — and two more finalists. Sergeant Bluff-Luton actually had four champs, in Noah Parmelee (120), Ty Koedam (126), Hunter Steffans (132) and Jack Gaukel (152), and two more finalists.

The difference? Two things, actually.

Central Lyon had a tad more depth, with 11 total wrestlers finishing fifth or better, while Sergeant Bluff-Luton had just nine such wrestlers. Also, bonus points. Central Lyon had 44.5 bonus points thanks largely to 20 pins. Sergeant Bluff-Luton had 39.5 on just 16 falls.

That's the formula to win tournaments: champs, finalists, depth, and bonus points. It made the difference this weekend, and will definitely be a factor come February, too — especially in Class 2A, where team trophies are always up for grabs.

Major wins from two Eastern Iowa lightweights

A couple of Eastern Iowa lightweights notched some important victories this weekend.

Central DeWitt's Keaton Zeimet took first at the Saber Invitational at 120 pounds this weekend. He recorded three pins. His first, a 35-second fall over West Delaware's Owen Neuhaus, was the 133rd win of his career, making him the all-time winningest wrestler in Central DeWitt history. He surpassed Justin Petersen's 132 career wins, a record that had stood for 20 years.

Lisbon's Cade Siebrecht improved to 12-1 this season by winning four matches last week, including a 9-8 win over Midland's Damon Huston, an Iowa State signee and the No. 1-ranked 126-pounder in Class 1A. Huston led Siebrecht 5-2 after the first period, but Siebrecht rallied with a takedown in the second, then two more in the third to win. 

Consider this another piece of ammo as to why 126 pounds is maybe the most exciting weight in Class 1A this season.

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