CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids Kennedy’s Josh Vis has made notable progress during his first three prep wrestling seasons.
The senior heavyweight was fourth at districts as a freshman, improving to a seventh-place state finish as a sophomore. Last season, Vis emerged as a state title contender who earned state bronze.
Vis picked up where he left off last season, improving to 4-0 and winning the Keith Young Invitational on Saturday at Cedar Falls High School. He began the season ranked second in Class 3A with his sights on a higher step on the podium.
“The coaches are really just making sure they are pushing me,” Vis said. “My teammates are really helping me out with my goal and everyone’s pushing me. I feel like I’m ready to make that jump and take it to the next level. Finish off strong this year.”
Last year’s finish didn’t sit well with the four-year starter. He ended the regular season ranked first and dropped a hard-fought semifinal to Bettendorf’s current No. 1 Griffin Liddle in an overtime tiebreaker. He took it hard at first before making it fuel for this season’s fire.
“At the time, I was eaten up about it, but I wanted to use it as a learning experience,” Vis said. “This is how I’m going to push myself. I’m going to think of this every time I feel like giving up or quitting.”
Kennedy Coach Dennis Hynek said Vis owns state title aspirations, focusing on getting the most out of every moment of his final prep campaign. He had a pin and major decision before beating Norwalk’s Maddux Borcherding-Johnson, 6-1, in Saturday’s finals.
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The Northern Illinois commit decked West Des Moines Dowling’s ninth-ranked Charlie Nank in the second period of the quarterfinals.
“For the first tournament of the year, he did several things very well,” Hynek said. “He’s excited about that. He knows when he gets moving and keeps up the pace that he’s tough to keep up with.”
The 6-foot-3, 277-pounder controlled his weight at the start of the season. He dropped about 20 pounds to be more mobile and agile on the mat. So far, the change has been positive and could get even better.
“I’m feeling good and moving well,” Vis said. “I think there are still improvements to be made on my footwork, but it’s a lot better than when I first got into the room.”
Technique has been an emphasis to continue those year-to-year strides. Coaches have worked with Vis to improve his position, bending at the knee instead of the waist. Hynek said it will be helpful for his transition to NCAA Division I next year, too.
“He wants to widen what he does, but also we’ve been really focusing on constantly improving his stance and getting it lower,” Hynek said. “It’s tough as a big guy. You get tired, but that is his main goal. He stays in good positon so easier shots present themselves. Plus, it turns into dang good defense.”
The offseason included some national-level wrestling, even though recovery from a knee injury prevented him from competing at Junior Nationals in Fargo, N.D. He wrestled in the Disney Duals, helping the Iowa team earn a medal with a top-10 finish and winning all but two matches.
Vis also won a preseason folkstyle national meet in the fall at Des Moines.
“It definitely does put things in perspective,” Vis said. “It just shows me how hard I work and it can push me to the next level. … There is more to be reached in my potential.”
Lisbon cracks national rankings
Lisbon’s runner-up finish at the Cliff Keen Independence Invitational on Saturday garnered national attention. The Lions debuted in InterMat’s “Fab 50” high school wrestling team rankings, entering the national list at No. 36.
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Lisbon finished ahead of Fort Dodge and Christian Brothers College (Mo.), which are ranked 43rd and 44th, respectively. Simley (Minn.) won the team race at Independence and remained No. 25.
The Lions received titles from Robert Avila Jr. (132) and 138-pounder Cael Happel. Cole Clark was a runner-up and Lisbon had 11 wrestlers place eighth or better in the 33-team field.
State wrestling finals tickets
Tickets for the 2020 Iowa state wrestling finals will go on sale to the general public Tuesday, Dec. 17.
Orders will be limited to 10 tickers per individual and can be ordered online, calling 1-844-55-HYVEE or at the Wells Fargo Arena ticket office.
The state finals are set for Saturday, Feb. 22. Tickets are $10 for any spectators 2 and older.
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