116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS - A year made a big difference for Taylor Mehmen, while teammate Tyler Pasker's season took a turn in one week.
The final chapters of their notable stories will be written at the state wrestling tournament in Des Moines.
Mehmen was one of six Cedar Rapids Prairie champions at the Iowa High School Athletic Association Class 3A district tournament Saturday at Prairie. Both contributed to the Hawks sending nine wrestlers to the state meet, starting Thursday at Wells Fargo Arena.
Each of them had unique circumstances surrounding their state berths.
The eighth-ranked 195-pounder used a late takedown to secure a 4-1 win over Western Dubuque's Ryan Kenneally. He returns to state at a much higher weight than a year ago, qualifying at 145.
'I think it's going to be a lot different this year,” Mehmen said. 'It's a lot different competition and wrestling style. I've experienced it all in a year and I think it will be different down there. I'm looking for more success.”
Mehmen sacrifice to get down to the lower weight last season, so he could crack the lineup. This season, he elected to maintain his size, wrestling the same style from his time as a light weight. He enjoys life as an upper weight.
'It's a lot easier to work out in the room,” said Mehmen, who improved to 32-7. 'It's a lot more fun.
'I've seen being a better wrestler is more than cutting weight.”
Prairie Coach Blake Williams said he was unsure of the effects of the jump at first. Now, he likes his chances at the state tournament.
'He probably won't see the same guys he saw last year,” Williams said with a laugh. 'In fact, I'm pretty sure he hasn't wrestled anybody he did last year.
'He's done well. We were worried early in the year how he would adapt to it, but he is pretty quick and athletic. He uses it to his advantage.”
Pasker wrestled part of the season behind Mehmen at 195, winning the Mississippi Valley Conference Junior Varsity tournament at that weight last weekend. He went from JV champ to state qualifier in seven days, earning a runner-up finish at heavyweight.
'It was something I wanted to do,” Pasker said. 'I didn't think I'd be going to go to 285 to do it.”
Pasker weighed in at 198 ½ pounds, having to drink a lot of fluids just to surpassed the 197.1 minimum weight he needed to compete. Williams said Pasker has wrestled 220 to help the Hawks in duals. He jumped at the opportunity when the decision was made.
'When it got to this point where we didn't need to wait any longer, I said I think we needed to do it,” Williams said. 'He didn't hesitate. Hats off to him. He battled guys that were 80 or 90 pounds heavier than him all day. He found some guts and came through. He was just having fun out there.”
Pasker pinned his final two opponents, decking Dubuque Hempstead's Tanner Heeren to secure a state berth and igniting the crowd.
'I couldn't believe I actually did it,” Pasker said. 'It's good to know your fan base and team is always supporting you all the way.”
The Hawks also received titles from Marcus England (106), Trent Wennermark (113), Sam Uthoff (126), second-ranked Josh Wenger at 138 and 182-pounder Jarod Cadena. Wenger and Cadena both won by fall.
'I thought the team wrestled well,” Williams said. 'I always want one or two more. My heart goes out to a couple kids who were very close. I don't think you ever leave a district completely happy. It's the way it goes.”
Linn-Mar crowned four champions, including seniors Matt Wempen (145) and Toby Northrup at 152. It marks one more example of how they have overcome adversity. Linn-Mar Coach Doug Streicher estimates Northrup has missed more than half his career matches and Wempen was sidelined for about 50.
'You can't change it, so you have to deal with it,” Streicher said. 'You kind of feel bad for the kids because they don't have four years of being healthy and getting after it.”
Northrup seemed strong and healthy with a technical fall and two pins. He stuck Maquoketa's Logan Mayberry in 1:34 for the title. He said he is blessed to be better than he has, returning to state for the first time since he was a sophomore when he only wrestled seven matches that season.
'I've had some knee problems,” Northrup said. 'They kept bothering me. I'm healed up from them. I'm feeling good.”
He worked hard during the summer and fall to prepare for one final run. His perseverance has led him to a final shot at a state medal.
'I lifted a lot in the off-season,” Northrup said. 'I worked on a lot of technique. It helped me get back to speed.”
Wempen improved to 22-1 with a major decision over Hempstead's Alex Ward in the final. He was a state champion as a freshman, placing fourth and fifth the next two years. He is ranked third and trying to become just the fifth Lion to be a four-time state medalist.
'You want them to be healthy one time in the year this is it,” Streicher said. 'You take what you get and go down and make your own breaks from here on out.”
Linn-Mar's third-ranked Shea Hartzler pinned his way through the 160-pound bracket and Noah Ajram added a title at 120.
Western Dubuque had two champions. Heavyweight Aaron Costello entered the day with a 9-6 mark. He pinned Heeren in the finals, advancing to the state meet. He was joined by second-ranked Max Lyon at 170. The Bobcats finished with six state qualifiers.
'He has the heart of a champion,” Cleary said of Costello. 'I can't tell you how many times he was lifting weights at 6:30 a.m. I'm extremely happy for him and his teammates, who trained with him.”
Cedar Rapids Xavier's Clint Lembeck will head back to state, looking to improve last year's fourth-place finish. Lembeck (40-2) beat Prairie's Seth Wennermark, 11-4, in the 132 finals.
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