INDEPENDENCE - For Independence, the prep football season opener bore little resemblance to its winless 2016 campaign.
Even in defeat, a clear message was sent that there are brighter days ahead for the Mustangs.
Independence nearly matc ... »
CEDAR RAPIDS — No other wrestler in Xavier history can say they have ever had a season quite like Josh Gerke’s — and not many will be able to duplicate it, either.
The senior became a two-time Mississippi Valley Conference champion, obtained more than 150 wins, reached 101 pins and placed at the state tournament for the second year in a row.
Gerke, however, is not the only Saint who was successful on the mat this year. Sophomore Patrick Chambers and senior Alex Francois also reached the state tournament after runner-up finishes at the Class 3A district tournament at 126 and 220 pounds, respectively.
At Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Chambers was eliminated from the tournament after being pinned twice. He compiled a record of 29-19 this season.
After losing his first match by fall, Francois defeated Gage Linahon from Newton and Drake Leek from Norwalk in the consolation bracket and finished eighth. He was able to make the Xavier coaching staff proud with this finish in his final year.
“To see someone not give up, seize the moment and obtain a lifelong goal of placing in the state tournament is very satisfying,” Coach Ryan Chambers said.
Gerke finished third at 145 pounds after dropping his first match to West Des Moines Valley’s Grant Stotts. Gerke defeated Dalton Woodyard from Waverly-Shell Rock, Drew Sams from Oskaloosa, Caleb Conway from Marion and Nick Graham from Johnston in his comeback through the consolation bracket.
Conway had beaten Gerke three times previously this year, but this meeting at state was the one that really mattered.
“Being able to avenge a loss on the long way back to getting third definitely made this experience better,” Gerke said. “I am very happy to have been able to end my season and career this way.”
Francois and Gerke have left a mark on the Xavier wrestling program that will be remembered for years to come. It’s not only the records they set, but their hard work and leadership skills.
“They are tremendous kids with great work ethics who will be amazing people in society,” Chambers said. “We as coaches are the lucky ones to have been allowed to play a small part in their lives and we thank them for allowing us to be a part of their journey.”
As Gerke moves on to run track in the spring, he will look back fondly on his four years as a wrestler. He will remember all the good times with his teammates, along with his individual success.
“I’ll really miss interacting with my team and working out everyday with the guys,” Gerke said. “I’m really happy with how the four years went.”