CEDAR RAPIDS — Conrad Braswell’s goal is the same, but the approach is a little different.
Visions of state gold came with unnecessary pressure, stemming from a pass-or-fail attitude, resulting. The Cedar Rapids Prairie junior still has his sights set on a state title, but he’s focused on the process to be his best.
“Setting goals too high wasn’t the problem,” said Braswell, who has placed fourth at 106 pounds the last two state tournaments. “I was having it be an all-or-nothing kind of thing. Now, I’m focusing on one match at a time and doing anything I can to eliminate any inconsistencies.”
Braswell is ranked fifth at 120 in Class 3A and is coming off a title at the Jack Mendenhall Invitational at Ames, beating Perry’s No. 4 Zachary Thompson in the finals. He improved to 23-2, giving him 91 career victories, and hasn’t lost since the opening weekend of the season.
“Ever since then it’s been super consistent and super aggressive,” Prairie Coach Kane Thompson said. “I know I can count on him if we’ve had a couple losses in a row I just look at him and I’m like, ‘Hey, you’ve got to get us started. You’ve got to use your aggression to do it.’”
The Mendenhall final was a prime example of Braswell’s progress. He opened up, scoring three takedowns. Braswell showed mental toughness with a final takedown when Zachary Thompson rallied and pulled within two late.
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“He was in on shots and leg attacks and was not afraid to pull the trigger,” Kane Thompson said. “I think that is a big change in big match against a highly ranked guy.
“I’ve just noticed that grittiness and he wasn’t as tight to pull the trigger. That was big.”
The offseason has allowed Braswell to make some strides, working with former Coe wrestler and NCAA qualifier Jan Rosenberg, pushing Braswell to improve. The pair are a good fit and work well together.
“He’s a small guy, who is really athletic,” Braswell said. “He’s a little bit bigger and stronger, so he’s the perfect workout partner. He’s shown me what he knows how to do.”
Braswell decided to make some adjustments after the first tournament at Independence. He also has heeded the coaches’ advice to be consistent in practice and doing things right, even when it’s hard.
“It will show out on the mat,” Braswell said. “If you consistently give your all in practice and do everything right and don’t cut corners it will show out on the mat.”
A little more than one month remains in the season with the conference tournaments, starting the championship season in a little more than two weeks away. Braswell will continue to build on his progress, looking for his third state medal and striving for a state crown.
“You can’t let the routine get to you and sit back, going through the motions,” Braswell said. “It still has to be the same focus for the next match ahead.”
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West Liberty’s Will Esmoil placed third at the Class 2A state tournament a year ago, weighing in at 106 pounds. Esmoil is ranked second with a 28-2 record, but he is a little bit bigger this season.
Esmoil gained 26 pounds and hit a growth spurt between his freshman and sophomore school years. He hasn’t changed his approach, competing at a higher division.
“After the season, I grew like six inches,” Esmoil said. “I just wrestle the same and grew into it.”
BACHMAN SURPASSES 300 WINS
MFL Mar Mac Coach Chet Bachman surpassed 300 dual victories, becoming the 51st coach in state history to reach the milestone. Bachman eclipsed the win plateau with the Bulldogs’ victories over Elkader Central (72-3) and Starmont (57-10) on Jan. 4.
MFL is 17-3 in Bachman’s 18th year at the school. The Bulldogs went 3-1 at the Storm Duals on Saturday, giving him a 304-58 career mark.
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