ALBURNETT — Alburnett’s Mason Wickman wants to make the most of his last wrestling opportunity.
The Pirates’ senior 170-pounder is fueled partly by the fact that he didn’t get this chance a year ago. He missed the entire season recovering from shoulder surgery that sidelined him for nine months.
Wickman has rebounded for his final campaign, climbing to fifth in the rankings with a 31-4 record before a Class 1A sectional Saturday at Cascade. Wrestlers from across the state will begin the postseason in 1A and 2A Saturday.
“It’s pretty exciting,” said Wickman, who plans to play football in college. “It’s just good to be able to get back out and get it one last time.”
Wickman placed eighth at 132 as a sophomore. A lingering shoulder injury (multiple labrum tears) from wrestling and football forced him to go under the knife. He was restricted to being a spectator during recovery.
“It’s never easy to sit out of something you’ve been doing since you were young,” Wickman said. “I’ve been doing this since I was 6 years old.
“This year, I’m just going to go out there and show everyone just because I was gone doesn’t mean I was gone for good."
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He has been motivated by his previous experience in Des Moines. Nothing compares to wrestling in front of the state tournament crowd. All the sacrifice and struggle is worth it when you toe the line at Wells Fargo Arena.
“Everything comes together and you’re out there battling for six minutes in front of everyone in the state,” Wickman said. “It’s a great time.
“Getting to come back for a shot to do it again this year really means a lot.”
Alburnett Coach Clayton Rush realized Wickman was on a mission early in the season. He beat two ranked wrestlers at a tournament at Independence the opening weekend and continued to wrestle well. Rush said he feels Wickman can compete with the best of the state.
“Just from there I knew he was right in there,” Rush said. “He has goals of placing pretty high at state. He wants to win it. It’s something I definitely think is attainable for him.”
Wickman has built himself into a strong upper-weight competitor. He has grown substantially from his freshman season, when he was cutting to make 113 for a spot in a state championship lineup. Wickman spent a lot of time in the weight room to bulk up, weighing in 57 pounds heavier than his first postseason.
He praised his father, John, for the foundation of a hard-working mentality.
“I’ve been working hard since I was born,” Wickman said. “I’ve wanted to be the best at everything I did. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the genes to do that, so I pretty much made myself in the weight room. Weights are a big part of my life.
“My dad was a military man and his drive pushed me to be the best that I could be. I try to push everyone else around as much as I can.”
Rush said Wickman has never missed a morning lifting workout and has been turned away in order for his body to recover.
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“He has a great work ethic,” rush said. “He has worked his tail off. Hopefully, all that hard work will benefit him this last couple weeks.”
Third-ranked Lisbon begins its quest for a third straight traditional state title at a 1A sectional hosted by English Valleys in North English. The Lions have six ranked wrestlers, including top-ranked Robert Avila Jr. (126), two-time state champion Cael Happel at 132 and 138-pounder Cobe Siebrecht.
The rest of the field consists of South Iowa Cedar League champion Iowa Valley, Belle Plaine, BGM, HLV and Iowa City Regina.
MFL MarMac will host a 1A sectional at Monona. The 10th-ranked Bulldogs welcome No. 2 Denver, Postville, Sumner-Fredericksburg, South Winneshiek, Tripoli and Wapsie Valley. Denver has eight ranked wrestlers, while MFL MarMac has three.
Starmont, Sigourney-Keota and West Branch will also host 1A sectionals.
In 2A, West Delaware will host a sectional with Benton Community, Center Point-Urbana, Dubuque Wahlert, Mount Vernon and Vinton-Shellsburg. The Hawks have nine ranked wrestlers, while the Vikings have three and Mount Vernon has two, including top-ranked 170-pounder Paul Ryan.
Other 2A Gazette-area hosts include Decorah, Solon and Williamsburg.
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