Prep Wrestling

Iowa high school state wrestling notes: Limited attendance doesn't change tournament's intensity

MFL MarMac wrestlers use 'Cowboy up' motto to bounce back

Wrestlers warm up before the Class 3A first round bout at the prep wrestling state tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in De
Wrestlers warm up before the Class 3A first round bout at the prep wrestling state tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines has limited capacity for the Iowa high school state wrestling tournament this year.

The cheers are still loud when a wrestler sticks his opponent but the general drone of excitement isn’t the same.

Rhythmic pounding of the mats and rhymings from the school’s respective cheerleaders is non-existent.

It’s two wrestlers competing against each other with two officials on the mat with them. And subdued cheers and jeers from the stands.

“It’s not the same as it always is but it’s the same goal,” Iowa City West 126-pounder Grant O’Dell said after the first round Thursday. “Fans or limited fans, it’s about the state title.”

Even with the limited fans, the building still provides an impressive environment for the grapplers.

“I had to get used to Wells Fargo Arena and get comfortable,” Graham Gambrall (152) of Iowa City West said. “It’s a different atmosphere. Once I got going, it was easy.”

Regardless of what the atmosphere is or isn’t, the goal doesn’t change.

“I’m highly motivated,” Gambrall, the defending state champion at 145 pounds said. “I want to win another state title. It’s just in me. It doesn’t matter where it’s at or who’s watching. I’m going to battle for that state title and give it everything I have.

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“The conditions don’t matter. I’m going to lay it all on the line.”

MFL MarMac wrestlers cowboy up

MFL MarMac’s Gabe McGeough and Karter Decker switched from headgear to cowboy hats when they were done wrestling in the first session of the Class 1A state meet. McGeough donned a black hat, while Decker sported a white one.

“We have a motto, ‘Cowboy Up,’” said McGeough, who suffered a loss during Wednesday’s state duals. “This hat reminds me that I’ve got to get back on the horse and keep it going. It’s not who the best guy was yesterday or today. It’s about who the best guy is in this tournament. I’m here to do it.”

Both are alive in the tournament. Decker (44-6) bounced back with a consolation-round pin at 138. McGeough (46-2) made quick work of East Sac County’s Garrett Quirk, winning by fall in 54 seconds.

“The plan was to get on and get off the mat,” the second-seeded 160-pounder said. “Do what I need to do. I’m going to have some tough matches coming up but I’m ready.”

McGeough placed fifth at 145 last year, losing his opening match and winning three straight consolation bouts. He is trying to take an easier route to the award stand. One more victory will do it.

“The experience last year helped me get ready right off the whistle,” McGeough said. “Last year, I struggled a little bit, being the first time down here. This time I’m ready to go. I’m excited.”

Girl power: Ella Schmit wins consolation match

Two girls qualified for the IHSAA state wrestling tournament this year, both at 106 pounds.

Bettendorf’s Ella Schmit lost her first match to Waverly-Shell Rock’s Zane Behrends by decision, 8-1. Schmit was able to bounce back on the consolation side of the bracket, pinning Carroll’s Cael Nelson in 4:00.

If Schmit wins her next match, she’ll become the second girl to medal in IHSAA state wrestling history

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Ottumwa’s Jasmine Luedtke lost her first match to Cedar Rapids Prairie’s Blake Gioimo by fall in 21 seconds Thursday. She lost her second match to Dallas Center-Grimes’ Luke Stover by fall in 2:28.

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