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DES MOINES — Form a young age, Marion’s Caleb and Colin Conway trained in their own basement.
Like many young athletes, they pretended those scraps were state tournament matches. The Conways acted out close and hard-fought matches to advance. Their imagination turned into reality.
In the their state tournament debuts, the senior twin brothers won first-rounds matches at the Class 3A state tournament Thursday at Wells Fargo Arena.
“We’ve been dreaming of this since we were little kids, practicing in our basement, drilling shots and stuff like that,” Caleb Conway said. “It means a lot to us.”
Third-ranked Caleb Conway remained unbeaten, edging Waukee’s No. 7 Brock Parker at 145. Colin Conway, ranked fifth at 152, beat Marshalltown’s Reese Hageman, 5-0.
“Wrestling those matches down there super close with Colin gets me comfortable to go out there and wrestle those one-point matches out there,” said Caleb Conway, who used a second-period rideout and third-period escape to improve to 45-0. “I knew going into that third period when it was close that I have been there before in my mind many times.”
Wells Fargo Arena is just a tad larger than the family’s basement and many more eyes are fixed on them. They have seen their older brothers, Aaron, Austin and Alex participate in the state meet between Veterans Auditorium and here. Aaron won the 119-pound Class 2A title in 2003 and Austin was a medalist. They knew how to handle the electric atmosphere.
“It’s easy to get flustered by the big lights,” Colin Conway said. “It’s a big stage, but true competitors can perform here. You just have to stay calm and wrestle another match.”
Colin Conway (42-3) sandwiched an escape between two takedowns.
“He’s got a good single leg,” Colin Conway said. “He got in on it a couple times, but I was able to fight it off. He’s a solid guy and I need to stay in better position.”
Like the Marion duo, Western Dubuque represented the Wamac Conference well in the 3A field. The Bobcats had four advance to the quarterfinals and two more won consolation bouts, putting them in fifth with 19 points after day one. Southeast Polk leads the team race with 30 points, 1 1/2 ahead of Fort Dodge. North Scott is third with 22 1/2 and West Des Moines Valley has 22.
“They are wrestling well,” Western Dubuque Coach Paul Cleary said. “That’s all we can ask for.”
Western Dubuque’s Nathan Betts (126) and Bradan Birt (132) sparked the Bobcats. Birt pinned Council Bluffs Thomas Jefferson’s Cesar Salazar in 53 seconds. It was the first of three first-round pins and four overall for Western Dubuque. Defending state champion and two-time finalist Max Lyon (46-0) and top-ranked heavyweight Aaron Costello (47-0) advanced with falls.
“We’re excited,” Cleary said. “Just keep moving forward one match at a time.”
Iowa City High was right behind Western Dubuque in the team standings. The Little Hawks also have six alive, tying Johnston for sixth with 18 points.
The Little Hawks opened with four straight losses, until unbeaten Jacob Dykes turned the tide that led to six straight City High wins.
Fourth-ranked Dykes scored an escape as time expired in the first overtime tiebreaker and then rode out West Des Moines Valley’s No. 3 Connor Corbin in the last frame for a 2-1 victory at 195.
“My confidence is already high, coming in as the only unbeaten,” Dykes said. “You have to go out and prove it every time. I feel like I’m finally being able to show where I belong in the rankings or with these other guys.”
Dykes clung to Corbin as the match ended, avoiding a reversal. He took a page from the playbook of City High Coach Cory Connell. Dykes, who was a 170-pounder last year, created some scrambles, avoiding points and nearly scoring winning takedowns on counters in the third and sudden victory.
“He’s got a good double and high crotch,” Dykes said. “I knew if I could keep the match on the mat I knew it was mine.”
Cedar Rapids Jefferson Matt Culver made his state debut. The fourth-ranked 160-pounder defeated Southeast Polk’s No. 9 Thad Breitsprecker, 7-2. Culver seemed to become more comfortable and opened up as the match progressed.
“I knew he was going to tie-up 2-on-1, so I was waiting to feel that out,” Culver said. “Once I started feeling it out and working my snaps, I started to loosen up, because it gets to my offense easier.”
Culver will face a second straight ranked opponent. He has Waverly-Shell Rock’s third-ranked Zack Wagenhoffer in the quarterfinals. Wagenhoffer beat him, 5-2, at the Keith Young Invitational on Dec. 3.
“We’ve been watching film on that,” Culver said. “I’m looking forward to getting another shot at him. He’s a good wrestler and good competition.”
Culver was joined in the quarterfinals by teammate Tavian Rashed, who beat Oskaloosa’s No. 8 Jason Beebe, 10-4, at 170.
Iowa City West and Cedar Rapids Kennedy each had three wrestlers advance to the quarterfinals.
Cam Shaver won his state tournament debut with a 4-1 win over West’s Alex Aguirre at 120. Kennedy’s Ben Sarasin (170) and Garrett Kubovec (182) won by technical fall and pin, respectively.
West was led by defending state champion Nelson Brands, who throttled Johnston’s Elliot Pohlmeyer, 28-13. The Trojans’ Carter Rohweder also won by technical fall at 160 and 106-pounder Hans vonRabenau also advanced.
Cedar Rapids Prairie moved two into the quarterfinals. Conrad Braswell (106) scored a first-period pin and fifth-ranked Trenten Wennermark (132) won by decision over Des Moines East’s No. 7 Matt Jordan, 8-3.
Linn-Mar’s sixth-ranked Alex Streicher opened the state tournament with a victory over a ranked foe. He recorded an 8-3 win over Des Moines Lincoln’s No. 8 Tad Griffith at 160.