Prep Wrestling

Iowa City High's resurrection continues with first State Duals berth since 2006

Little Hawks win 10 matches for 53-16 regional dual victory over Western Dubuque

IOWA CITY — Iowa City High wrestling has experienced a resurrection.

The Little Hawks have resembled a mythical phoenix in the last six seasons under head coach Cory Connell.

The storied City High program had descended into a deep dale, suffering the last of three straight losing seasons when the current seniors were freshmen. The Little Hawks aren’t kings of the hill yet, but their steady ascension reached a new height since Connell returned to his alma mater.

Sixth-ranked City High dominated No. 13 Western Dubuque, 53-16, in a Class 3A regional dual final Wednesday at City High. The Little Hawks (25-2) advanced to the State Duals tournament for the first time since 2006.

City High faces No. 3 Waukee in the quarterfinals Feb. 14 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, beginning at 9 a.m.

“It’s been a huge jump for us,” City High 152-pounder Kyle Hefley said. “We’re starting to make that uphill climb now. We’re finally starting to reach the peak.”

• 2018 State Duals pairings, schedule

Connell realized the daunting task when he stepped into the room in 2012. He said he couldn’t downplay the importance of the Little Hawks’ feat. The victory means plenty, demonstrating the tremendous strides made from 7-20 and 7-23 records his first two years to a State Duals appearance and a top-10 ranking.

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“I knew we had a long ways to go,” Connell said. “A lot of time, a lot of effort by kids, coaches (and) by everybody. I’m just so proud of them.”

The Little Hawks share a strong bond and have good camaraderie. The culture changed as more wrestlers shared the same attitude and desire to improve. Success came with greater dedication up and down the roster.

“We built the team up, getting wrestlers willing to work and do what they need to do to get better,” City High senior 138-pounder Joey Harney said. “We had some guys before but we have a lot more guys now, who are like really into it.”

This extended beyond the 14 wrestlers who took the mat. Connell said this was great for wrestlers from past teams, who helped build the foundation for the current success. Some were in attendance to watch the Little Hawks win 10 matches, including the first six for a 32-0 lead.

“The kids want it bad for the team,” Connell said. “It’s great for the program.

“It’s great for the kids who have been here and helped turn this around. There were kids who graduated last year, graduated the year before that, here (Wednesday night). They love seeing this, too. From where we started to where we are, it’s just been fun to see them grow.”

Hefley provided the biggest victory of the evening. The seventh-ranked junior beat No. 5 Ryker Kurimski, 5-3, giving City High a 35-4 lead with six matches remaining, Hefley said he approached it like any other contest.

“I just kept looking forward,” Hefley said. “You can’t think about the rankings or the stats. You have to treat every match the same.”

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The Little Hawks came out aggressive from the start. Ethan Wood-Finley (106) and 113-pounder Garrett Bormann opened with pins. Reece Caven (126), Harney, Wilfred Kadohou at 160, Jacob Dykes (195) and heavyweight Jacob Murry added falls. Michael Santoro (120) and Lance Bormann at 132 posted major decisions.

“It was fun to watch them when they get on a roll,” Connell said. “They compete like that.”

The season has been filled with notable and drought-ending achievements. City High won its first Mississippi Valley Conference division crown since 2006 and captured the MVC Super Meet team title for the first time since 2002. The Little Hawks will turn their attention to the individual state qualifier on Saturday at Mount Pleasant.

“Kids have had great opportunities in front of them and so far we’ve taken advantage of the opportunities,” Connell said. “We have another opportunity on Saturday that we want to take care of for districts.

“A lot of individual stuff we need to take care of, a lot of team stuff and then next week. We’ve got a lot more work to do.”

Western Dubuque (21-8) defeated Linn-Mar, 54-15, in the semifinal. The Lions finished the season 13-13.

AT IOWA CITY HIGH

Iowa City High 53, Western Dubuque 16

(Individual takedowns in parentheses)

106 pounds — Ethan Wood-Finley (ICH) pinned Dawson Biermann, 1:41 (1,0); 113 — Garrett Bormann (ICH) pinned Jaylan Kidd, 1:52 (1,0); 120 — Michael Santoro (ICH) major dec. Joe Gamblin, 13-4 (6,0); 126 — Reece Caven (ICH) pinned Dakota Lau, 2:28 (1,0); 132 — Lance Bormann (ICH) major dec. J.D. Kluesner, 10-2 (3,0); 138 — Joey Harney (ICH) pinned Trenton Miller, :28 (1,0); 145 — Elijah Demmer (WD) major dec. Jack Anson, 11-1; 152 — Kyle Hefley (ICH) dec. Ryker Kurimski, 5-3 (2,1); 160 — Wilfred Kadohou (ICH) pinned Levi Burds, 1:25 (3,0); 170 — Jake Hosch (WD) dec. Brandon Lalla, 11-8 (4,2); 182 — Jedison Lux Morales (WD) pinned Daniel Gustafson, 1:40 (0,1); 195 — Jacob Dykes (ICH) pinned Tim Feltes, 1:36 (1,0); 220 — Jason Simon-Ressler (WD) dec. Jason Lemus, 4-3 (1,1); Hwt. — Jacob Murry (ICH) pinned Nathan Simon, 3:16 (1,0).

MEET STATISTICS

Takedowns — ICH 24, WD 8. Reversals 0. Reversals — ICH 1, WD 2. Escapes — ICH 9, WD 13. Nearfall points — ICH 9, WD 5. Penalty points (awarded) — ICH 0, WD 1. Total match points — ICH 68, WD 39.

Western Dubuque 54, Linn-Mar 15

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Hwt. — Simon (WD) pinned Cleo Gehrls, 3:53; 106 — Biermann (WD) dec. Brandon O’Brien, 7-0; 113 — Kain Wempen (LM) pinned Kidd, 1:54; 120 — Reece Seery (LM) dec. Gamblin, 10-4; 126 — Jack Nauman (LM) pinned Lau, 5:22; 132 — Kluesner (WD) dec. Taylor Pulis, 10-3; 138 — Miller (WD) tech. fall Hikaru Carolin, 18-2; 145 — Dylan Nemmers (WD) major dec. Evan Gaby, 14-0; 152 — Demmer (WD) pinned Roark Martin, 3:31; 160 — Kurimski (WD) pinned Xander Harris, 1:08; 170 — Hosch (WD) pinned Luke Holmes, 1:19; 182 — Devin Ludwig (WD) dec. Ryan Plummer, 10-5; 195 — Feltes (WD) won by forfeit; 220 — Parker Schmitt (WD) won by forfeit.

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

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