DES MOINES — Brandon O’Brien is Linn-Mar’s little big man.
O’Brien wrestles at 106 pounds, but weighed in at 102 pounds even Thursday at Wells Fargo Arena for the first round of the state wrestling tournament.
O’Brien, a sophomore, found himself trailing Southeast Polk’s Kale Anderson 4-0 after the first period and was actually locked up in a cradle for part of it, but fought his way out of it.
No. 6-seed O’Brien said he felt Anderson starting to coast after the first period and O’Brien came storming back to win, 9-4.
“I might have overlooked that kid a little bit,” O’Brien said. “I didn’t get to my elbows, pops or any of my shots and I’m pretty disappointed about that. I wanted to do some work on top and it showed in the third period. I have more of a gas tank than that kid. But I know if someone starts coasting against me, I’m not going to let them slide by.”
O’Brien is an accomplished freestyle wrestler as a a Fargo All-American. But he hadn’t had quite the success he wanted in folkstyle. He said freestyle has helped his folkstyle. That and growing — yes, O’Brien actually grew to 102 pounds.
“My hips have gotten so much stronger from last year,” O’Brien said. “Also, I’ve put on weight, too. I was 80 pounds wrestling 106 and 113 last year so I got good experience from that. Now I’m in the 100s and it makes it easier for me to score points.”
As a team, Linn Mar sits in 21st overall with 9.5 points after the first day of competition.
Waverly-Shell Rock leads the 3A team race with 31.5 points.
Cedar Rapids Prairie paced Gazette area schools with 22 points and sits in fourth place. The Hawks went 7-3 overall with four quarterfinalists and three alive in the consolations.
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Prairie’s Ashton Stoner-DeGroot (195) pinned Waterloo West’s Brenden Burton in 33 seconds despite wrestling with a torn UCL in his elbow, an injury he suffered during the football season. He’s not letting that hold him back.
“I did pretty good,” said Stoner-DeGroot, downplaying his win. “I need to work on my shots a little bit more, but I did pretty good.”
The junior wrestles with a brace on his elbow to protect himself from further injury.
“The torn UCL doesn’t really affect me other than the brace,” Stoner-DeGroot said. “But other than that, I feel pretty good.
“It took a while getting used to the brace. I used it in football and it wasn’t too bad then, but trying to learn to wrestle with it took a while.”
Cedar Rapids Kennedy won its last four matches with a major decision and three pins. The Cougars are in 10th with 16 points and have five wrestlers still in the field.
Iowa City Liberty won’t be contending in the team race, but it did make history Thursday.
Liberty qualified its first wrestler ever in Ashton Barker and Barker won his first-round match 13-6 against Norwalk’s Tristen Duncan.
“He means a lot,” Liberty coach Joe Williams said of Barker. “He was the first one in school history to qualify for the state tournament. He’s the leader on our team. He definitely means a lot.”
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