DES MOINES — Zach Axmear stood up, his face stony — serious, almost grave.
Finding the small pocket of English Valleys fans in Wells Fargo Arena, he lifted his arms and flexed in their direction. Axmear had just beaten Alta-Aurelia’s Skylar Solko in a tough 10-6 decision at 152 pounds and was headed to the Class 1A state wrestling finals.
Leaving the mat, he turned and walked down the thin path separating the spectators from the wrestling on the floor. With his back to his hometown fans, he flexed once more.
“I was pretty sure I was going to win that match,” Axmear said. “I wanted to give my family some recognition.”
A three-time state medalist, Axmear has finished fifth, third and second. The ultimate prize — a state title — has been elusive for the Bears’ all-time wins leader.
There’s a plethora of good storylines and matchups in store for the state finals, though Axemear’s might be one of the best. With the pairings set, Lisbon has a pretty good narrative of its own — a chance to win both the traditional and state duals titles.
The Lions put themselves in great position, pushing two wrestlers, Cael Happel and Cobe Siebrecht, into the finals. They have 80 points as a team and a good deal of cushion to work with, as second-place Sibley-Ocheyedan has just 57.
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Don Bosco, which started Friday with six in the quarterfinals, finished with zero finalists and has just 48 team points. Lisbon was able to take advantage and also has two wrestlers in third-place matches.
“We’ll score some points tomorrow, but Sibley is a good team and they will too,” Lions head coach Brad Smith said. “Got two in the finals and I think they’re going to win.”
Smith felt the team was in pretty good shape and with the size of the lead they’ve built, it’s not exactly hard to see why.
The confidence, however, was not exclusively Lisbon’s.
Iowa Valley’s Jacob Krakow and Pleasantville’s Griffen McBride were tied 2-2 early in the third period in a semifinal bout at 160 pounds. All Krakow needed to do was get out from under McBride and he would win.
He did just that and then added a takedown and three nearfall points to complete the 8-2 win.
“I had to get out,” Krakow said. “If I wanted to win I had to get out and then I got comfortable on my feet and I didn’t feel like I could be taken down.”
Now he gets to prove it Saturday against Akron-Westfield’s third-ranked John Henrich.
Elsewhere, Wapsie Valley was able to push both of its qualifiers — Donny Schmit (126) and Kaleb Krall (138) — into the finals. North Linn also will have two wrestlers gunning for state titles as 120-pounder Brock Henderson and heavyweight Kyler Schott both picked up wins in the semifinals.
Schott will see Regina’s Jared Brinkman in the championship. Maquoketa Valley also will be represented, as Alec McDowell (182) will get his chance to be the best in the state
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