IOWA CITY — Hunter Garvin couldn’t recall when he exactly started wrestling.
He was young, though, starting about 5 years old. He began to wrestle in small tournaments as a kindergartner and competed in larger tournaments by the time he finished second grade.
Garvin was immediately hooked on the sport.
“It was so fun,” said Garvin, who also added freestyle and Greco-Roman. “I loved it. That’s when it clicked for me that this is what I do. This is what I want to do. Wrestling has always been No. 1 after that point.”
Now, Garvin is No. 1 in the sport that holds that rank to him. Iowa City West’s top-ranked 132-pound sophomore will attempt to return to the state finals when the postseason begins Saturday with a Class 3A district tournament at West.
The Trojans host Cedar Rapids Jefferson, Cedar Rapids Kennedy, Cedar Rapids Washington, Clear Creek Amana, Iowa City High, Iowa City Liberty and Marion. Districts for all classes across the state begin at noon. The top two wrestlers at each weight advance to the state tournament Feb. 20-22 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
Garvin and wrestling were just a perfect fit.
“If you watch him wrestle, he just has a natural feel for the sport,” West Coach Nate Moore said after a dual victory over Iowa City High on Jan. 3. “That really can’t be taught.”
Garvin was a state runner-up last season at 120. He has had this opportunity in his sights since he stepped off the state podium a year ago. Garvin is more confident this time.
“I’m a lot more motivated,” Garvin said. “I’m a lot more excited, because I’ve been there before now and I know what it feels like, so the nerves aren’t really there. I feel like I put a lot more pressure on myself and I just don’t feel that way anymore.
"It just feels like it’s another tournament, another business trip.”
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Big expectations accompanied Garvin into high school. He was a Cadet folkstyle national champion and responded with a 39-4 freshman campaign, losing twice to instate opponents.
This season, he enters districts with a 27-3 mark, dropping a decision to Lisbon 1A state champion and top-ranked Robert Avila Jr., one to an out-of-state prep and suffering a disqualification when an opponent didn’t continue after a penalty point.
“Things have gone pretty great,” Garvin said. “A couple things haven’t gone my way but that’s something that has happened before I felt that you have to get over. I feel like I have gotten over it and I feel I’m better from it.”
Garvin has elevated his performance and distanced himself from the field. He has been dominant with only two victories going the distance, recording 23 falls, two technical falls and a major decision.
“He works hard,” Moore said. “He listens to what the coaching staff has to say. Day in and day out, he comes to work.”
Garvin’s wrestling has evolved from last year. He has added new moves to his arsenal and trimmed what didn’t work as well. Garvin has tightened up his technique, but the biggest strides came in his approach.
“Out of everything, I feel my mental game was where it was at,” Garvin said. “It wasn’t where it should have been last year. Now, I feel like I’ve improved on it very well.”
Garvin has been part of a resurgence at West. The Trojans won the Mississippi Valley Conference Super Meet and have climbed to fourth in the final tournament team rankings. Five Trojans are ranked, including No. 2 Will Hoeft at 182, fourth-ranked duo Grant O’Dell (106) and Ashton Barker (170) and fifth-ranked 145-pounder Graham Gambrall.
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“Everyone is feeling good,” Garvin said. “Everyone is peaking and feels good during practices. As an individual and a team, we’re looking to do pretty well (Saturday).”
Linn-Mar travels to Epworth for a district hosted by Western Dubuque. Cedar Rapids Prairie will compete in a district at Bettendorf. Cedar Rapids Xavier heads to Marshalltown for its district meet.
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