DES MOINES — Josh Gerke wrestled his final match and walked to the corner.
For the final time, he was met by Cedar Rapids Xavier Coach Ryan Chambers and Saints assistant Kevin Murray. They wrapped arms around each other and soaked in the occasion that followed Gerke’s impressive five-match run through the consolation bracket created by a one-point loss to West Des Moines Valley finalist and second-ranked Grant Stotts.
“It’s been a long four years with them,” Gerke said. “They’ve made me into the man I am today. I’m super grateful for them. It was really special to have that last moment with them.”
Fourth-ranked Gerke beat Johnston’s No. 6 Nick Graham, 12-7, for third place at 145 pounds Saturday at the Class 3A state wrestling tournament at Wells Fargo Arena. Gerke capped his career as a two-time state medalist, improving his fifth-place finish from a year ago.
“It was emotional to say the least,” Chambers said. “I said, ‘Love you, man.’”
Gerke’s state title dreams were dashed by the close first-round loss. He was disappointed Thursday night, but refocused on the highest finish possible.
“Great support from my coaches and family,” Gerke said. “It feels great to come all the way back and get it.”
He faced a tough road to earn bronze, capturing a medal with 220-pound teammate Alex Francois, who was eighth.
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Gerke beat four ranked wrestlers, including the fifth and 10th-ranked wrestlers. The biggest came against Marion’s No. 3 Caleb Conway, who had beaten Gerke in their three previous matches. Gerke topped Conway, 5-3, Friday night.
“They were all pretty close matches,” Gerke said. “It was great. (He’s) a great competitor and we’re good friends.”
Gerke has the satisfaction of closing his career with a victory. He is also the Saints’ all-time pins leader with 101, holding the single-season record with 29 this year. Gerke’s 158 victories is second in school history.
“He’s a fun kid to have coached,” Chambers said. “He’s a real role model.”
He was one of three third-place finishers from the Metro. Cedar Rapids Jefferson Matt Culver (160) and Cedar Rapids Kennedy’s Ben Sarasin (170) each won bronze.
Culver was joined on the awards stand by teammate Tavian Rashed, who placed fifth at 170.
Kennedy also had two placewinners. Garrett Kubovec finished fifth at 182, winning a second straight state medal.
Iowa City West had three medalists besides 152-pound finalist Nelson Brands. Hans von Rabenau (106) and Alex Aguirre (120) were eighth. West’s Carter Rohweder was fifth at 160.
Iowa City High had three reach the podium. Jordain Buckland placed fourth at 220, Jacob Dykes finished fifth at 195 and Lance Bormann (126) was eighth.
Marion and Prairie also had two medalists.
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Prairie’s Conrad Braswell reached the 106 semifinals Friday and finish fourth. The Hawks’ 132-pounder Trenten Wennermark also reached the semifinals and placed sixth.
Conway and twin brother, Colin, each placed in their final season. Colin Conway was fourth at 152. Caleb Conway placed seventh at 145.
Cedar Rapids Washington and Linn-Mar had one medalist apiece.
The Warriors’ 126-pounder Will Foreman placed sixth for the second straight season. The Lions’ Alex Streicher finished sixth at 160.
Western Dubuque moved three into the finals and had four medalists overall. Jacob Close placed fifth at 113 for the Bobcats, who were virtually locked in fourth place with 83 points.
Southeast Polk finished its State Duals and traditional tournament sweep. The Rams had 154 ½ points, entering the championship round. Fort Dodge is second with 114, five points ahead of West Des Moines Valley.
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