Prep Wrestling

Hard work pays dividends for West Delaware's Christian Nunley

Senior 220-pounder earns one of the Hawks' nine titles, West Delaware dominates home tournament

West Delaware's Christian Nunley wrestles Williamsburg's Billy Grout during the 220-weight bout of their 2A championship
West Delaware’s Christian Nunley wrestles Williamsburg’s Billy Grout during the 220-weight bout of their 2A championship match in the state duals tournament at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

MANCHESTER — Christian Nunley doesn’t frequent the cafeteria during lunch.

While classmates are socializing over the midday meal, the West Delaware senior eats a quick bite in an unlikely spot, moving to the weight room and devoting his time to be in the best possible shape.

“I have a snack with me,” Nunley said. “I bring it from home. I go to the locker room and I eat and drink something. Then, I start lifting.”

Nunley has developed into a chiseled 6-foot-1, 220-pound state medalist in wrestling and an all-state football player. His effort continue to pay dividends, including an individual title Saturday at West Delaware’s Bob Murphy Invitational.

The Hawks crowned nine champions and advanced 12 to the finals, capturing the team crown with 284 1/2 points. Western Dubuque was runner-up with 188.

Nunley dominated his bracket, pinning Western Dubuque’s Mitchell Ashline in 1:11 in the 220 final. He also posted a 14-second fall in the semifinals.

“It was an amazing chance just to get out and wrestle because some people don’t get to today (Saturday),” said Nunley, who is ranked seventh in Class 2A. “I feel like we have an amazing chance here.”

Nunley’s transformation began when he decided to eat better, limiting sugar and fat in his diet, He also worked out religiously. His habits made a big difference.

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“I wasn’t as fit as I am now,” Nunley said. “I woke up one day and said I want to change myself. It just started from there.

“I started working on my body, eating healthy and it kept going from there.”

The wrestling journey has been shorter than many others. Nunley began wrestling in seventh grade. He didn’t have much experience but he had a strong work ethic and a desire to learn. Nunley made steady gains each season, culminating in an eighth-place finish as a junior.

“It was crazy when I first started because I knew nothing about it,” Nunley said. “I did the best I could every year and kept building and building up from where I started.”

Athleticism and strength are merging with wrestling technique. That’s bad news for the competition.

“His commitment to the weight room the last four years has been unreal,” West Delaware Coach Jeff Voss said. “He’s transformed his body. He’s gotten confidence. Now, he’s learning the moves to go with it and that’s what is making him pretty tough.”

Voss also said he saw a team picture from Nunley’s freshman year and was astonished by the growth he’s made physically and competitively.

“He is a kid that has worked his tail off to get better in every sport that he is in,” Voss said. “The kid is just a product of all the work that he has put in. For him to get where he is at, right now, is definitely because of the hard work he’s put in.”

The Hawks boast a strong lineup, especially in the upper weights. Nunley has benefited from wrestling with top-ranked heavyweight Carson Petlon and assistant coach Adam Reth, who was a two-time state champion.

“I mostly wrestle Carson,” Nunley said. “He looks at what I do and helps me out. I help him sometimes, too. We try our best and get after it every day.

“It’s a fun time (wrestling Reth). He helps me a lot. He’s stronger than me, so when I face people with my strength, I have to use technique more.”

Nunley is determined to finish better than last season. He knows exactly how to prepare and what is required to accomplish it.

“I want to get higher this year,” Nunley said. “I have to work hard every day in the wrestling room to get there.”

Teammate Cael Meyer has bulked up from last season. The Hawks’ two-time state medalist jumped two weight classes to 182 this season. Meyer, ranked third at 160, captured his fourth Murphy Invitational title, beating Benton Community’s No. 6 Austin Roos, 5-2.

“He’s a big, strong, physical kid,” Voss said. “He’s got a good motor. It will be hard for 182-pounders to keep up with him because he can wrestle hard for six minutes. In that third period, he’s going to be strong and his technique is going to be good with whatever group he’s in.

“I liked the way he hustled (Saturday).”

The Hawks won the last six finals matches. Jadyn Peyton (160) ignited the run followed by the 170 title by Jared Voss. Top-ranked Wyatt Voelker (195) and Petlon won championships by technical fall and pin, respectively. Brayden Maury (106), ninth-ranked 126-pounder Blake Engel and Reilly Dolan at 132 also won titles for the Hawks. Maury and Engel pinned their finals foes.

“Overall, I think we’re moving in the right direction,” Voss said. “Our goal is to find another level from where we’re at and I think we’re making progress to do that.”

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Decorah crowned a champion in Jackson Rolfs, who won a battle of ranked wrestlers in the 152 final. Fourth-ranked Rolfs scored a third-period takedown for a 3-2 victory over West Delaware’s Logan Peyton, who is ranked fourth at 145.

“I wrestled pretty good,” Rolfs said. “I wish I could have gotten to my attacks more in the finals match.”

Rolfs, a three-time state qualifier who placed eighth last season, notched his 100th career win. The milestone was in his sights from a young age, looking up to the previous Vikings that achieved the feat.

“There is a plaque in the wrestling room at Decorah that’s got 100-win wrestlers,” Rolfs said. “There are so many of them. I always looked at that since I was younger and knew I wanted to be on there.”

BOB MURPHY INVITATIONAL

At Manchester

Teams — 1. West Delaware 284.5, 2. Western Dubuque 188, 3. Decorah 147, 4. DeWitt Central 142, 5. West Delaware JV 120, 6. Benton Community 93, 7. Dike-New Hartford 56.5, 8. Maquoketa Valley 51.

Championship matches

106 pounds — Brayden Maury (WDel) pinned Keaton Kruse (DC), 2:59; 113 — Royce Butt (DC) dec. Carson Less (WDel), 3-2; 120 — Keaton Zeimet (DC) dec. Jaiden Moore (BC), 4-2; 126 — Blake Engel (WDel) pinned Dylan Ohrt (DNH), 3:47; 132 — Reilly Dolan (WDel) dec. Austin Wilkins (Dec), 6-2; 138 — Cael Grell (DC) dec. Staveley Maury (WDel), 5-4; 145 — Carter Donovan (DC) dec. Kyle Schirmer (WDub), 3-0; 152 — Jackson Rolfs (Dec) dec. Logan Peyton (WDel), 3-2; 160 — Jadyn Peyton (WDel) pinned Garrett Lovstuen (Dec), 3:11; 170 — Jared Voss (WDel) major dec. Greyson Gardner (WDub), 15-4; 182 — Cael Meyer (WDel) dec. Austin Roos (BC), 5-2; 195 — Wyatt Voelker (WDel) tech. fall Sawyer Nauman (WDub), 25-9; 220 — Christian Nunley (WDel) pinned Mitchell Ashline (WDub), 1:11; Hwt. — Carson Petlon (WDel) pinned Emerson Lux-Morales (WDub), 1:29.

Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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