Prep Wrestling

Linn-Mar goes 7-for-7 in finals of district wrestling tournament at Prairie

Cedar Rapids Kennedy advances 8 to state

CEDAR RAPIDS — Sevens were wild for Linn-Mar.

Seven finalists. Seven champions. Seven wrestlers ready to make more noise.

The seventh-ranked Lions were perfect, winning all seven of their championship bouts at a Class 3A district wrestling tournament Saturday at Cedar Rapids Prairie. They took the team title with 244 1/2 points and advance seven to the state tournament Feb. 18-20 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.

“I think they can all place,” Linn-Mar Coach Doug Streicher said. “The seven that are going think they can get on the stand and some of them think they can get pretty darn high. I like the team we have and the direction we’re headed. We’re feeling pretty good.”

The finals performances were highlighted by a couple of reversals from regular-season losses. Abass Kemokai (152) and 220-pounder Luke Gaffney avenged pins to Cedar Rapids Kennedy foes. These may have been in their sights from the dual.

“Those two matches were check-marked for us,” Streicher said. “We’ve been thinking about those for a while. We were waiting for this rematch. We were looking forward to it.”

Gaffney, a returning state medalist, faced the Cougars’ sixth-ranked Cael Knox in the final. He returned the favor, pinning Knox in 3:56.

“I felt good,” No. 7-ranked Gaffney said. “I was preparing for that match. I had my mind on it pretty much every day in the room. I was working on that this past week really hard.”

Knox attempted a roll on the edge of the mat in the waning moments of the second period. He attempted that move earlier and Gaffney was waiting for it, catching Knox for the pin.

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“I was expecting it to come again,” Gaffney said. “I knew if I slipped in my left hand for the half he’d fall into it. It worked the way I planned.”

Eighth-ranked Kemokai won a thriller over No. 10 Divion Ocheltree at 152. He led 3-1 after two periods and had to fight off his back in a wild third that included three lead changes.

Kemokai scored an escape with eight seconds left and a takedown as time expired for a 10-8 victory.

Freshman Grant Kress overcame a 5-0 deficit to Kennedy’s Ashtin Falck and stormed back for a 9-8 decision in the 138 final.

“There were some nail biters but we found a way to get those done,” Streicher said. “We dug a hole and dug our way out. It’s good to see.”

Top-seeded brother combos, Kane and Tate Naaktgeboren and Brayden and Bryce Parke, held their seeds. Brayden recorded two pins before a technical fall over Marion’s Wes Logan in the 126 final. Bryce pinned his way through the 132 bracket, as well as Kane at 120.

Tate, a state finalist last season as a freshman, topped Cedar Rapids Xavier’s No. 8 Caelen Shannon, 13-6, in the 160 final.

Cedar Rapids Kennedy sends 8 to state

The Cougars have the dubious distinction of a tournament-best eight state qualifiers without a single champion. All eight Kennedy wrestlers finished runner-up, including three winning wrestlebacks to advance.

“It’s hard working for it with no champs,” first-year Kennedy head coach Nick LeClere said. “Obviously, you want to win some of those matches for seeds at state but we’ll take the eight qualifiers. The kids worked their butts off, individually.”

Kennedy has dealt with a late start and multiple interruptions this season. It went stretches without official in-person workouts. The wrestlers, led by five returning state qualifiers, remained resilient.

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“They put in the work and even when we were shut down they still put in the work,” LeClere said. “With that type of depth, we had a program that bought in to the message we were selling and it worked out.”

Cedar Rapids Xavier makes more program history

Xavier finished with a program-high five state qualifiers, including three champions. Second-ranked Christian Stanek (145), 170-pounder Ivan Thomas and Ryan Volk at 182 were first.

“I’m excited,” Xavier Coach Ryan Chambers said. “Our program has taken some big strides this season. We were hoping to sneak a couple more, though.”

Stanek and Thomas remained unbeaten. Stanek pinned Marion’s Dalyn Mull in the final, while Thomas edged Kennedy’s Alex Koch, 4-3.

Thomas is returning to state for the first time since qualifying as a freshman at 106. That’s three years and 64 pounds between state appearances.

“It feels good to be back and wrestling at 170,” Thomas said. “I just want to give it my all.”

Volk used a reversal and two late nearfall points in the third to cement a 7-4 victory over Kennedy’s Colin Flannagan in the final. He earned his first trip to state.

“I knew he had potential,” Chambers said of Volk when he was a freshman. “Over the last year, he has grown immensely. I was really happy for him.”

Abe Duval punches ticket to state

Marion’s Abe Duval was a victory away from a state berth last season. This time, he didn’t leave anything to chance. Duval captured the 195-pound title and advanced with a 15-5 major decision over Cedar Rapids Jefferson’s Preston Bruck.

Duval, one of three Marion qualifiers, had modest goals to start and reset his sights on reaching Des Moines, surviving jitters a close decision to start and getting a pin in the semifinals.

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“I’m really happy,” Duval said. “In my first match, I had a lot of nerves. I got my spark back in my second match. I was gassed in my third match. It took all I had.”

Marion Coach Jason Haag said Duval overcame some injuries this season and is a coachable, hard-working wrestler.

“He showed up today,” Haag said. “He wrestled hard.”

Prairie crowned two champions. Third-ranked Blake Gioimo remained unbeaten at 106 and Hunter Kalous followed with the 113-pound crown. Gioimo dominated Kennedy’s No. 9 Cael Long, 15-0, tallying 13 points via nearfall.

Cedar Rapids Washington’s eighth-ranked Tate Sykora-Matthess claimed the heavyweight title, beating Kennedy’s No. 10 Gavin Bascom. Sykora-Matthess scored a reversal in the second period and put Bascom on his back for a pin in 3:34.

Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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