116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — Alburnett's dual success can be whittled down to one phrase from the coaching staff.
The Pirates need their "studs to be studs," referring to the six ranked wrestlers in the lineup.
They have already powered Alburnett to a sixth straight berth to the Iowa High School Athletic Association Class 1A State Duals tournament Wednesday at Wells Fargo Arena. The third-seeded Pirates open with No. 6 Westwood Sloan (26-3) in the quarterfinals, beginning at 11 a.m.
Alburnett has overcome forfeits to post a 32-5 mark, relying on their best wrestlers to record pins, technical falls and major decisions.
'We need those guys to be studs,' Alburnett first-year head coach Clayton Rush said. 'We need them to get bonus points.'
Alburnett has top-ranked Bryce Paul (160) and Tanner Sloan at 170, second-ranked and returning state finalist Conner Shulista at 152. Drake Halblom (132) is ranked third, freshman 106-pounder Jaymus Wilson is fourth and Ben Moyer is ranked sixth at 120. They know their role.
'They embrace it,' Rush said. 'I think they know their responsibility in a dual format. It's something people have looked for them to do. It's not new to them by any means.'
The Pirates followed that blueprint in the regional dual final, erasing a 30-0 deficit through five matches for a 39-36 victory to advance. They received a pin from Shulista, a major decision from Paul and a technical fall from Sloan in the final three weights.
'I try dominating my opponent,' said Paul, last year's 152-pound state champion. 'You go out to get the pin. Coach Rush says if you can't then get the next best thing.'
The seniors are the third straight class who have reached the State Duals every season. The accomplishment is a standard more than an aspiration. Alburnett has finished third each of the last two seasons, winning the 2013 championship. The Pirates return, despite losing key figures to graduation.
'We knew it would be tougher with some holes we had to fill,' Paul said. 'We certainly have come to expect it (State Duals).'
Rush said the culture of expecting to reach the State Duals pleased him when he took over for Kane Thompson, who is the current Cedar Rapids Prairie coach.
Even though the Pirates are seeded lower in duals than their ranking in the traditional format, Rush said Alburnett is stronger than it's being credited. Top-seeded Lisbon (23-3) and No. 2 Don Bosco (24-3) are still the favorites.
'I think this team is known for being a tournament team,' Rush said. 'I think we have a better dual team that people think.'
Lisbon (23-3) will open with Sigourney-Keota (25-3) in the quarterfinals. Sigourney-Keota and Westwood Sloan are making their first State Duals appearances.
DEMONS MAKE DUALS DEBUT
About a decade ago, a support group began taking a group of second-grade wrestlers to tournaments. The goal was to find good competition, traveling all over to various sites.
Many of those wrestlers are now varsity contributors that helped Washington (Iowa) earn its first trip to the State Duals tournament. The seventh-seeded Demons (31-1) face No. 2 Davenport Assumption (17-1), in the Class 2A quarterfinals, beginning at 9 a.m.
'We've been trying to build a program,' Washington Coach Brent Van Weelden said. 'This has been one of our goals.
'We were fortunate to get through (and) we are excited for the opportunity.'
The tight-knit group has rallied around each other all season, avenging their only loss for a regional dual win over Williamsburg. The Demons trailed by 16 points on two occasions and stormed back for a decisive 39-19 victory. They were confident they would come back.
'You could see it in their eyes,' Van Weelden said. 'I told them if they kept rolling and did what they were supposed to then they would be all right.'
Van Weelden said the Demons are excited to compete in the team event. Other years only a select group would still be working out and making the trip to Des Moines. Van Weelden said everybody continues to work out, coming in, loosening up and getting to work.
'It's been real upbeat,' Van Weelden said. 'We've kept it short and intense.'
Assumption is making its 17th straight appearance, reaching the finals six straight years, including a runner-up finish last year and four consecutive titles from 2011-14. They have not met in competition this season.
'We have a good idea of what they are all about,' Van Weelden said. 'It will be a tough test for us.'
PRAIRIE, INDEE RETURN TO DUALS
Cedar Rapids Prairie made program history when it won its fourth straight Mississippi Valley Conference title last month, but made another contribution. The Hawks qualified for the State Duals for the fifth straight time, which is now the school's longest streak.
Prairie qualified four consecutive years from 2005-08. The Hawks (19-3) are seeded fifth in their 16th overall trip and face No. 4 Johnston (21-2) Wednesday in the Class 3A quarterfinals at 9 a.m.
Independence reached its third straight State Duals tournament, which is the longest streak for the Mustangs. Fifth-seeded Independence (23-6) faces No. 4 Clarion-Goldfield-Dows (18-3) in the 2A quarterfinals.
Independence beat Denver-Tripoli and Gilbert for its eighth State Duals appearance.
'Sometimes you never know how your kids are going to react,' Independence Coach Michael Doyle said after the regional dual final. 'I'd like to think our team is one that looks forward to things like this and the opportunity to go to the next level and do the next thing.'
Clarion-Goldfield-Dows moved up to 2A after winning the last two 1A State Duals titles.
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