2017-18 prep wrestling: Gazette area wrestlers and teams to watch

8 state champions and 2 more state finalists highlight area landscape

Iowa City West's Nelson Brands celebrates after winning his 152-pound Class 3A championship bout at the state wrestling tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017. Brands won 11-9. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Iowa City West's Nelson Brands celebrates after winning his 152-pound Class 3A championship bout at the state wrestling tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017. Brands won 11-9. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

Gazette area wrestlers and teams to watch in 2017-18.




Nelson Brands, Iowa City West, sr., two-time state champion, won 2017 3A 152-pound title, going 54-1, three-time Mississippi Valley Conference Super Meet Outstanding Wrestler, MVC Mississippi Athlete of the Year, 143-19 career mark, University of Iowa signee.

Bryce Esmoil, West Liberty, sr., three-time state medalist, won 2017 2A 195-pound state title with 42-2 mark, 133-10 career record, signed with University of Northern Iowa.

Grayson Kesterson, Williamsburg, sr., Won 2A 106-pound state title last season, posting a 49-1 record, three-time state qualifier, 128-19 career record.

Tanner Sloan, Alburnett, sr., Three-time state medalist, placing fifth or higher each year, won 1A 170-pound title in 2016, 132-20 career mark.

Cael Happel, Lisbon, soph., Class 1A 113-pound state champion last season, posting a 53-3 record.

Isaac Judge, South Tama, sr., Class 2A 152-pound state titlist last season, going 46-4, two-time state medalist, owns 124-18 career record.

Jordan Baumler, North Fayette Valley, sr., Won 2A 220-pound state championship with a 29-4 mark last season, two-time state qualifier, 64-10 record the last two seasons.


Joe Kelly, West Liberty, sr., Three-time state medalist, 2016 state runner-up at 152 pounds, Placed third last season, 104-20 career mark, University of Iowa signee.

Cooper Siebrecht, Lisbon, sr., Three-time state medalist, Placed third at 132 in 1A, going 51-9, owns 134-26 career record.

Francis Duggan, Iowa City West, sr., Three-time Pennsylvania state medalist, placing fifth with 34-4 mark at Cedar Cliff High School last season, ranked fourth nationally at heavyweight by InterMat, two-time junior nationals All-American, Iowa State signee.

Cobe Siebrecht, Lisbon, jr., Class 1A 106-pound state runner-up last season, going 48-7, career mark of 80-25.

Ben Sarasin, Cedar Rapids Kennedy, sr., Two-time state medalist, finishing third with a 34-2 record last year, MVC Valley Athlete of the Year, three-time state qualifier, 104-19 career record.

Will Foreman, Cedar Rapids Washington, sr., two-time state medalist, placing sixth the last two years at 126, first-team all-MVC Valley, 94-23 career record.

Jacob Dykes, Iowa City High, sr., two-time state qualifier, finishing fifth last season, going 47-2, First-team all-MVC Valley, 104-18 career mark.

Jaymus Wilson, Alburnett, jr., two-time state medalist, placing third and fifth, 98-15 career record.


Thank you for signing up for our e-newsletter!

You should start receiving the e-newsletters within a couple days.

Conrad Braswell, Cedar Rapids Prairie, jr., two-time state medalist, finishing fourth his first two seasons at 106, first-team all-MVC Valley, 68-17 career record.

Colton Vest, South Tama, sr., two-time state medalist, placing fifth with a 47-3 record last season, owns 112-15 career mark.

Trenten Wennermark, Cedar Rapids Prairie, sr., three-time state qualifier, placed sixth last season with 37-11 record, first-team all-MVC Valley, 97-38 career mark.


CEDAR RAPIDS PRAIRIE: Until someone in the Metro overtakes the Hawks, or anyone in the MVC tops the Hawks, for that matter, they are the team to beat. The Hawks have won five straight MVC Super Meet titles. They return six letterwinners, including state medalists Conrad Braswell and Trenten Wennermark. Prairie could have as many as nine new faces in the lineup, but the Hawks have been able to reload after graduating leaders. They could take lumps early and peak for the championship season.

IOWA CITY HIGH: The Little Hawks have started to soar under Coach Cory Connell, who took over a struggling program. City High was the conference and district runner-up and had three state medalists last year. Two return, including MVC champion Jacob Dykes. The Little Hawks return 10 starters, including seven with at least 22 victories and five with more than 30. Another year of growth will help the Little Hawks take another step forward.

SOUTH TAMA: The Trojans were on the verge of the top 10 last year, tying for 11th in the 2A state tournament. They return an experienced senior class, including state champ Isaac Judge and state medalists Colton Vest, Brady Fritz and Tanner Probasco. They have a solid core with state experience and the ability to score a lot of points. Balance could be a little stronger, bringing back all but two starters from the Wamac tournament, but the bigger the tournament the better they will do in February.

WEST LIBERTY: Quality trumps quantity. The Comets placed fifth in the 2A state tournament with just three state qualifiers. Bryce Esmoil won the 195-pound title. Joe Kelly and Will Esmoil each placed third. All three are legit title contenders. West Liberty may not have the balance to be a top dual team, but if it can develop a few more wrestlers that can make Des Moines to add a few points, this is a team that can crack the top three.

LISBON: The Lions swept the traditional and dual state tournaments and are poised for another run. They return a whopping 95 1/2 points from last year’s team. Lisbon has five state medalists back, including state champion Cael Happel, state finalist Cobe Siebrecht, three-time medalist Cooper Siebrecht, Kaden Kilburg and Bryce Werderman. Lisbon won 25 duals last season and won the traditional tournament by more than 21 points. The Lions have more balance this season, which is scary for opponents.


ALBURNETT: The Pirates were fifth last season and have a few point scorers back in Tanner Sloan, Jaymus Wilson and Mason Wickman, who all reached the state podium. Graduation hit hard. Only one other letterwinner returns. The Pirates will have to rely on some freshmen to step in and contribute right away. Coach Clayton Rush said the inexperienced team will have room to grow, having to progress as the season does. The Pirates have strong leadership and should be a top-10 team again.

l Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com



  DES MOINES - Cael Happel cracked open a can of Mountain Dew. The Lisbon sophomore hadn't consumed soda in about eight months, but he earned this one. "I haven't had pop since June of last year, so that's the first one in a wh ...

DES MOINES - Nelson Brands let his actions do all the talking this week. His final performance spoke volumes about the dominance to close his prep career. The Iowa City West senior needed just 3:15 for to post his second technic ...

Give us feedback

Have you found an error or omission in our reporting? Tell us here.

Do you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.