INDEPENDENCE — Strong senior leaders and a large group of young talent have meshed for a successful Independence wrestling season.
Actually, it could be one of its best.
The second-ranked Mustangs could set a program record with two victories at the Class 2A regional duals Tuesday night at Independence. Thirty-two teams in 1A and 2A will compete Tuesday for berths to the state duals tournament on Feb. 19 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
Independence can clinch its 10th state duals appearance, qualify in consecutive seasons for the third time in school history and set a program record for dual victories.
The Mustangs are 26-6 and face Mount Vernon in the semifinals. The winner will wrestle the winner between No. 12 Charles City and 17th-ranked Gilbert for the championship immediately after the semifinal.
“Our kids are excited,” Independence Coach Michael Doyle said. “I think our programs and community are excited. Anytime you have an opportunity to participate at the state level you can get a little more fired up about it.”
Independence was sixth at state last season, but the current lineup consists of 10 freshmen and sophomores, including 2019 state finalist and third-ranked 126-pounder Isaiah Weber. More experienced Mustangs understood the potential, while the underclassmen realized it as the season progressed.
“You look at that and you have a pretty young group of kids,” said Doyle, noting that a narrow victory over Wamac Conference foe and now third-ranked Williamsburg was a key moment. “I don’t know if they totally comprehended this was possible at the beginning of the year. It’s no fault to them.
“They just come to practice and do what they’re told. As the season went on and we were more successful in winning some of those bigger duals and matches, I think those younger kids buy into it more and more.”
Doyle said the Mustangs have thrived because the entire team is coachable and willing to do what is asked of them.
Leaders emerged among the seniors, including third-ranked 170-pounder Cole Davis, No. 4 Matthew Doyle (160) and fifth-ranked Christian Kremer at 195. They helped lead the way, demonstrating what to do on and off the mat.
“Those three kids are really good leaders,” Michael Doyle said. “If Matthew Doyle or Cole Davis say we need to do this they do it. … I think the combination of those three leaders and young people that look up to them are a strength.”
Independence defeated Mount Vernon 54-19 earlier this season. Indee hasn’t wrestled a dual against Charles City or Gilbert this year, but does have common opponents. Doyle said that doesn’t matter now.
“You’re going to have to be ready,” Doyle said. “You’re going to have to wrestle hard. We’re going in with the mindset that this was a goal of ours at the beginning of the year. We worked really hard to get to this point. We’re going to go for it. We’re going after it.”
Top-ranked West Delaware hosts 2A regional duals with Anamosa, Solon and Camanche. Williamsburg hosts Mount Pleasant, No. 16 Bondurant-Farrar and North Polk.
In Class 1A, top-ranked Lisbon takes on Wapello in the regional semifinals at home. The winner will face the winner of No. 20 Iowa Valley and No. 23 Belle Plaine.
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Dyersville Beckman opens with No. 6 Denver. Alburnett and Highland will compete with Don Bosco and Wilton at Gilbertville. South Winneshiek travels to Lake Mills to face No. 10 West Hancock.
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