CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids Prairie learned an important lesson at last year’s regional duals.
The Hawks suffered an early exit. Hawks Coach Kane Thompson accepted responsibility for the team not being ready to compete, refueling and rehydrating still when it was time to warm up.
The coaches have prepared the Hawks for the adjustment to their normal weeknight dual routine.
“As soon as weigh-ins start, that’s when that game face comes on and you’re ready to rock and roll,” Thompson said. “We don’t want to wrestle one dual on Wednesday and come home again. We want to be able to wrestle two duals and be able to wrestle a week from (Wednesday).”
Thirteenth-ranked Prairie wrestles No. 21 Pleasant Valley in the a Class 3A regional dual semifinal Wednesday night at Bettendorf, beginning at 6. The winner will face the fourth-ranked Bulldogs in a regional final immediately after the opener.
Regional dual champions advance to the state duals tournament Wednesday, Feb. 19 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. The Hawks (9-5) are attempting to earn their 18th trip overall. The last was in 2017.
“We’re going to put out our best lineup that’s available on the mat,” Thompson said. “We’re going to try to win two duals back-to-back.”
Prairie has not faced either Pleasant Valley or Bettendorf in a dual, but did place ahead of the Spartans at Clinton’s Bob Lueders Invitational.
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Prairie is led by ranked wrestlers Austin Kegley (No. 2 at 120) and No. 4 Ashton Stoner-DeGroot at 195. The pair and Hunter Kalous (113) won Mississippi Valley Conference titles, while Johnny Washburn (145), Nick Pearson (170), heavyweight Jordan Jacobus and Blake Gioimo at 106 all had fifth or better finishers at conference as well.
The Hawks have a strong nucleus of talent, but Bettendorf has six ranked wrestlers that await, if Prairie advances. Thompson said the team’s unity is an indication of how well it can do.
“They’re a pretty tight group,” Thompson said. “They’re not all best friends, but they work well together.
“I think the more they are talking to each other and being each other’s motivation the better. I think that’s when I noticed we are really on our game when they talk to each other more, getting one another ready.”
Interestingly, all three teams are assigned to the 3A district meet at Bettendorf. They will battle twice in four days for team and individual state berths.
“I’m curious to see how these next two competitions play out,” Thompson said. “That will set up for whether we’re leaving (next) Tuesday night, which is when I want to leave, or leaving (next) Wednesday.”
In a rare occurrence, none of the Gazette-area Class 3A programs host a regional dual. All of the Metro and Iowa City teams travel more than an hour.
Cedar Rapids Kennedy heads to a regional dual at Eldridge. The 12th-ranked Cougars take on No. 24 Fort Madison. The winner advances to the final against No. 6 North Scott.
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Kennedy closed the regular season with a second straight unbeaten Mississippi Valley Conference dual schedule and division crown. The Cougars are 10-1 overall and have not lost to an in-state opponent, despite being plagued by injuries. They are looking for their fifth state duals berth and first since 2004.
“We had some guys have the opportunity to step in a role and now they’re winning big matches,” Kennedy Coach Dennis Hynek said. “They’re contributing big time. There’s a lot of kids on this team that are a real big part of this success.”
Linn-Mar is the highest-ranked area team. The ninth-ranked Lions (10-4) open with No. 23 Dallas Center-Grimes. Eighth-ranked Waukee will wrestle the winner in the regional dual final.
The Lions have made five previous state duals appearances and are looking for their first since 2014.
Iowa City West travels to Ankeny. The 19th-ranked Trojans (6-3) face No. 11 West Des Moines Valley in the regional semifinal. The winner will take on No. 5 Ankeny Centennial for a state duals berth.
Second-ranked Waverly-Shell Rock received a bye to the final at home and will wrestle the winner between No. 17 Western Dubuque (13-6) and No. 18 Dubuque Hempstead.
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