DES MOINES — Luke Hageman positioned himself in his seat, agonizing as he watched wrestlers’ hands get raised in victory a year ago.
He was a spectator instead of a competitor at the state wrestling meet. The experience was hard to stomach, especially since he was ranked No. 1 for the postseason only to lose a district wrestleback and place third behind the eventual state champion and bronze medalist.
It was eerily similar to Hageman’s sophomore year when he was ranked seventh and third at district.
“I don’t think I’m even over it, yet,” the Dyersville Beckman senior said. “I’m still looking for redemption and hopefully going to be wrestling Saturday night.”
Hageman soothed the sting slightly with a thrilling debut at the Class 2A state wrestling tournament Thursday at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. In one of the marquee matchups of the first round, third-ranked Hageman rallied from a 4-0 deficit in the final minute and pinned PCM’s No. 2 Wes Cummings as time expired to move into the quarterfinals.
“It’s everything I expected it to be,” Hageman said of his first state bout. “The last couple years I’ve come down here and watched kids that I beat winning those matches out there.
“It’s just a thrill to be out in ‘The Well’ and winning.”
Hageman (41-3) trailed for most of the match, but continued to pick up steam as Cummings started to fade. Once he got on the board with a reversal, Hageman took control. He tied the score with two takedowns and then turned him in the moments immediately before the last-second fall.
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“He wins matches in the third period when he needs to,” Beckman Coach Taylor Hotek said. “He works his butt off in the room so he can perform at that high level during the fourth and fifth minute. For him to come back and win the way that he did was awesome but not surprising.”
Hageman has proved to have a deep gas tank in previous matches, pushing opponents to the limit to win. All those early-morning runs, extra sprints, pushups and live scraps in practice played a part in the comeback.
“I know if I get guys into the third period I’m going to be wearing on them,” Hageman said. “They are going to be dead. It’s just been big for me.
“I always think ‘Why not do the extra rep?’ It’s going to pay off in the end.”
Hageman’s teammate, Owen Grover, followed with his own monumental win. Grover edged Sheldon-South O’Brien’s fourth-ranked Luke Jenness, 7-6, capping the Blazers’ 3-1 showing in the first round.
“Success breeds success,” Hotek said. “When you see your teammates out there just having fun and working hard it is contagious.”
The Blazers, Solon, South Tama and Union Community each have three quarterfinalists, but third-ranked West Liberty managed four.
The Comets finished the opening day in second place with 19 points, trailing New Hampton/Turkey Valley by four. South Tama was third with 16.
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West Liberty’s state medalist trio — Will Esmoil (132), Joe Kelly (152) and 195-pounder Bryce Esmoil — all posted pins. They were joined by 138-pounder Coy Ruess, who beat Creston-OM’s Cade Vicker, 10-0, in his first state contest.
“Coy has wrestled really well lately,” West Liberty Coach Jeff Wiele said. “I think he’s confident. We were hoping for it.”
South Tama’s Brady Fritz (132), Tanner Probasco (138) and 152-pound state champion Isaac Judge reached the quarterfinals. Colton Vest (145) and Dalton Rosenburg (182) won consolation matches to give the Trojans five wrestlers alive.
Monticello was among four Gazette-area teams with two quarterfinalists. Cousins Kain and Chase Luensman were victorious. Second-ranked Kain Luensman (113) defeated Grinnell’s No. 4 Brock Beck, 5-2. Chase Luensman blanked Southeast Valley’s Trey Lawrence, 7-0, at 132.
Kain Luensman beat Beck at Marion’s Loyd Shaffer Invitational earlier this season.
“I felt confident going into the match,” Kain Luensman said. “I felt it was a good way to kick off the state tournament with confidence.”
Kain Luensman, a freshman, improved to 48-1. He is the highest-ranked wrestler on his side of the bracket and has sights on a championship.
“I’m going for the gold like everybody else here,” Kain Luensman said. “I have confidence in myself that I can do it. I just have to keep wrestling the way I am and I think I’ll get there.”
Former state champions Grayson Kesterson, of Williamsburg, and North Fayette Valley’s Jordan Baumler kept their repeat bids intact. Kesterson topped Mount Vernon’s Ryan Clark, 6-3, at 113. Baumler pinned Williamsburg’s Isaac Maser in 2:24 at 220.
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