CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids Prairie has been perched atop the Mississippi Valley Conference the last five seasons.
The Hawks have plenty of company in the team title race this year.
A handful of teams have a legitimate shot to capture a championship at the MVC Super Meet on Saturday at Cedar Rapids Jefferson. Prairie is looking for its sixth straight title and is among the contenders with Class 3A 10th-ranked Iowa City High, No. 9 Dubuque Hempstead, No. 7 Iowa City West and Cedar Rapids Kennedy. Dubuque Wahlert is ranked second in 2A as well.
“I agree with the number of teams going into Saturday probably thinking they have a shot at winning this thing,” Prairie Coach Kane Thompson said. “It should make for a really fun day.”
If regular-season duals and tournament results are indicative of the team race Saturday, the finish could be determined by the slimmest of margins. Prairie topped Kennedy and City High at the Mendenhall Invitational at Ames. Kennedy won a tournament at Louisa-Muscatine last weekend, while City High has dominated tournament foes the last two weekends.
“It is going to come down to bonus points, getting as many kids to the semis and finals as possible,” Kennedy Coach Dennis Hynek said. “I can see several teams having a shot.”
The MVC boasts about 40 ranked wrestlers. Individual parity reigned at last year’s conference tournament. Thirteen teams crowned a champion. Prairie was the lone team with multiple champions.
Conrad Braswell and Trenten Wennermark can defend titles for the Hawks, who may need to rely on their trademark depth and balance. Prairie has five ranked wrestlers, including No. 8 Mike Jasa (170), seventh-ranked Derek Horak at 182 and eighth-ranked 195-pounder Ashton Stoner-DeGroot.
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“I figured out real quick this team is about having a short memory that if we’re on the front side and get beat we understand how important coming through on the consolation side is for ourselves and the team,” Thompson said. “That’s how we’ve been able to be really successful the last three weekends.
“Not only are we getting good performances from our top-end guys, but our guys who get beat come around on the backside to place and score points.”
Thompson said the Hawks are aware of the streak, but it isn’t the focus going into Saturday. The past performances do not impact this tournament.
“It was the five previous teams,” Thompson said. “It’s not pressure about keeping the streak going. It is about what this team about this year and what kind of performance they are going to put out.”
City High has been impressive this season and will face Dubuque Hempstead and Dubuque Senior in a triangular Thursday with a chance to claim its first MVC divisional crown since 2006. The Little Hawks were runners-up last season and have a strong shot at their first Super Meet title since 2002.
City High is led by top-ranked 195-pounder and defending conference champ Jacob Dykes. He is one of six ranked Little Hawks.
“It’s a big team goal that we want,” City High Coach Cory Connell said about the dual championship. “Then, the conference championships where we got second last year. We want to win it.”
Kennedy has run into illness, sidelining five starters this week. Hynek said he likes their chance to be in contention with their best lineup.
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“I think we have as good of a shot as anybody, if we had our full team in there,” Hynek said. “Unfortunately, we haven’t had our full team in yet this year.”
Iowa City West and Wahlert each have two top-ranked wrestlers. The Trojans’ Nelson Brands (160) and 220-pounder Francis Duggan sit atop their respective rankings. Brands has a chance to make history, attempting to become the ninth four-time MVC Super Meet champion and the first since West’s Jack Hathaway and Justin Koethe both did it in 2012.
Brands, a two-time state champion, could become the first four-time Outstanding Wrestler of the tournament, but could be part of a bracket with five ranked wrestlers, including Wahlert’s Josh Ramirez, who is ranked No. 1 in 2A.
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