CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids Kennedy is finally at full strength.
Injuries and illness were among the reasons the Cougar didn’t have that luxury during the regular season.
Kennedy couldn’t have picked a better time to assemble its best lineup of the year. The Cougars will compete in the Class 3A regional duals Wednesday night at Eldridge.
Twelfth-ranked Kennedy will open against Mount Pleasant in the semifinal. The winner will take on No. 7 North Scott for a berth to the State Duals tournament Feb. 14 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
“This is the first time we have everybody,” Kennedy Coach Dennis Hynek said. “It’s our best team.
“We’re excited about it.”
The season has been filled with plenty of adversity. The Cougars have been without as many as nine starters. Hynek said he has been proud of the way they have handled it and persevered.
“We focused on the things in front of us and on what you can control,” Hynek said. “The kids have done a nice job.”
The Cougars (9-6) are looking for their first State Duals appearance since back-to-back trips in 2003-04. Kennedy has five ranked wrestlers and a solid upperweight lineup. Top-ranked Ben Sarasin (170), No. 8 Cade Parker (182) and ninth-ranked 220-pounder Cam Jones. Cael Knox (195) and heavyweight Josh Vis have appeared in the rankings as well. State medalist Cam Shaver (126) and No. 8 Dylan Falck (132) give the Cougars a chance to split any dual.
“We believe we can be one of those teams,” Hynek said. “They have shown glimpses of that throughout the year.”
Cedar Rapids Prairie will attempt to earn its seventh straight State Duals appearance and 18th overall. The 15th-ranked Hawks (13-9) will have to overcome a tough challenge, opening with No. 17 Lewis Central and second-ranked West Des Moines Valley awaiting the winner.
“We’re going in with the mindset we have to be ready for Lewis Central,” Prairie Coach Kane Thompson said. “It’s not out of the realm of possibility to win it.
“Our kids are starting to believe. We need 14 kids ready to compete.”
The Hawks have finished sixth the last two seasons, following three straight fourth-place finishes. Thompson said coaches worked with individuals on early-season goals, but the wrestlers determined team goals. State Duals was atop the list.
“We left the room and let them decide the team goals and they wanted to wrestle in the State Duals,” Thompson said. “This is in their sights.”
Sixth-ranked Iowa City High (23-3) will host a regional dual and has a bye to the regional final, facing the winner between No. 14 Western Dubuque and No. 20 Linn-Mar (15-10).
The Little Hawks won their first Mississippi Valley Conference divisional dual crown since 2006, going unbeaten in the MVC Valley. Coincidentally, Linn-Mar won the MVC Mississippi title. City High is looking to end a State Duals drought that also goes back to 2006.
Iowa City West will travel to third-ranked Waukee. The 19th-ranked Trojans wrestle No. 13 Norwalk in the semifinal with the Warriors getting a bye to the final.
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