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DES MOINES – The leap was substantial and powerful.
A year ago, Nelson Brands had to settle for watching the wrestling state championships after falling short of qualification as a freshman.
Fast forward a year, and the Iowa City West sophomore tore through the Class 3A bracket and now stands above all 138-pounders.
Brands collected second and third-period takedowns and claimed the state title with a 6-5 decision over fourth-ranked Clint Lembeck of Cedar Rapids Xavier Saturday night at Wells Fargo Arena.
“Hard work pays off,” Brands said. “Worked hard all summer. Came here and got what I wanted.”
Southeast Polk claimed the 3A team title for the second year in a row with 141.5 points. Cedar Rapids Kennedy finished tied for fourth (72 points), while Prairie was seventh (62).
It was a furious tournament debut for third-ranked Brands (54-3), who posted a pair of convincing decisions – including a 9-3 victory over No. 1-ranked Zach Barnes – before advancing to Saturday night’s championship with a first-period fall in the semifinal.
“I felt like it’s been going my way all year,” Brands said. “Had a few losses, came back from them and beat him (Lembeck) for the second time, which is what I needed to get to the championship. Guess that’s the only one that matters right now.”
Brands – the son of Iowa associate head coach Terry Brands – is the first state champion for West since Dakota Bauer (132) and Phillip Laux (113) in 2012, while Lembeck (41-3) finished his prep career as Xavier’s first three-time placewinner.
Two other Metro seniors – Kennedy’s Logen Rodriguez and Taylor Mehmen of Prairie – dropped title matches to top-ranked, undefeated opponents at 152 and 195, respectively.
Linn-Mar 160-pounder Shea Hartzler capped a stunning reversal of fortune to his senior season with a 5-0 decision over Mason City’s Jacob Carlson. Hartzler scored a first-period takedown and overpowered Carlson for the remainder of the match, eliminating any offensive threat from the Mason City senior.
“It’s great,” Hartzler said. “I’ve been working so many years, working so hard for a long time.”
After his hand was raised in victory, Hartzler triumphantly bounded about 20 rows up the Wells Fargo Arena for a celebratory hug from his parents. This would hardly have seemed possible back in December, but Hartzler rebounded from three defeats in the first two weeks of the season and finished 44-3 with a state championship, Linn-Mar’s third in the last five years.
“I knew it was possible, I just lost my focus a little bit,” Hartzler said of the early-season struggles. “But I got there and I took a step back. I did a lot of praying, a lot of soul-searching. Got back in with some club coaches I had fallen away from and got back into it. Worked three, four times harder than I ever would have.”
After finishing runner-up at 170 last season, Western Dubuque junior Max Lyon dominated the 182-pound bracket, recording a fall in 1:04 to win the state title over Jamiir Moore of Waverly-Shell Rock. Top-ranked Lyon finished the season 51-0 and needed just 7:05 to collect three pins and a technical fall in four tournament wins.
“This was the goal,” Lyon said. “After getting second last year, I was kind of salty about it. I’m not going to lie. Good motivator coming in.”
Lyon’s Bobcat teammate – Aaron Costello – was pinned in 1:48 in an all-Dubuque heavyweight championship match with undefeated Iowa State recruit Gannon Gremmel of Dubuque Hempstead.
Western Dubuque finished eighth as a team with a school-record 57.5 points.
(Top 10 plus area)
Teams — 1. Southeast Polk 141.5; 2. Fort Dodge 131.5; 3. West Des Moines Valley Valley 113.5; 4. (tie) Cedar Rapids Kennedy and Waverly-Shell Rock 72; 6. Dubuque Hempstead 66.5; 7. Cedar Rapids Prairie 62; 8. Western Dubuque 57.5; 9. (tie) Council Bluffs Thomas Jefferson and Pleasant Valley 52; 13. Iowa City West 45; 14. (tie) Linn-Mar 44; 18. Cedar Rapids Jefferson 41; 23. (tie) Cedar Rapids Xavier 32.5; 34. Iowa City High 12; 37. (tie) Cedar Rapids Washington 9.
106 pounds — Kyle Biscoglia (Waukee) major dec. Nick Oldham (West Des Moines Valley), 9-1; 113 — Brody Teske (Fort Dodge) dec. McGwire Midkiff (Council Bluffs Thomas Jefferson), 9-2; 120 — Jack Wagner (Bettendorf) dec. Adam Brown (Southeast Polk), 8-5; 126 — Triston Lara (Fort Dodge) dec. Nathan Lendt (Southeast Polk), 9-3; 132 — Grant Stotts (West Des Moines Valley) dec. Austin Yant (Waverly-Shell Rock), 3-2; 138 — Nelson Brands (Iowa City West) dec. Clint Lembeck (Cedar Rapids Xavier), 6-5; 145 — Michael Zachary (West Des Moines Dowling) tech. fall Colten Mertens (Mount Pleasant), 20-5; 152 — Colton Clingenpeel (Council Bluffs Thomas Jefferson) dec. Logen Rodriguez (Cedar Rapids Kennedy) 38-8 (Dec 8-2; 160 — Shea Hartzler (Linn-Mar) dec. Jacob Carlson (Mason City), 5-0; 170 — Marcus Coleman (Ames) pinned Deion Clayborne (Sioux City North), 5:29; 182 — Max Lyon (Epworth-Western Dubuque) pinned Jamiir Moore (Waverly-Shell Rock), 1:04; 195 — Sam Cook (Fort Dodge) dec. Taylor Mehmen (Cedar Rapids Prairie), 9-6; 220 — Wyatt Wriedt (North Scott) dec. Ethan Andersen (Southeast Polk), 12-10; 285 — Gannon Gremmel (Dubuque Hempstead) pinned Aaron Costello (Western Dubuque), 2:48.
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