DES MOINES — A second chance resulted in a second medal.
Now, North Linn’s Cael Bridgewater is looking for the best possible finish to a topsy-turvy week.
Bridgewater originally finished third at the district tournament and did not qualify. When the runner-up didn’t advance, he stepped in and has reached the podium for the second straight season in the Class 1A state wrestling tournament Friday at Wells Fargo Arena.
“It means a lot to get a second chance,” Bridgewater said. “I’m trying to make the most of it. It’s been a really up-and-down week, but being here is fun and being on the podium is even better.”
The sophomore 132-pounder was disqualified for a controversial illegal slam call and his opponent was unable to continue. He thought his season was over, drowning his disappointment with a couple fresh Mountain Dews.
“It was a frustrating and long Saturday evening and Sunday,” North Linn Coach Brendan Schott said. “It was tough.”
Schott praised Postville and the staff for the way they handled the situation. He received a phone call and Bridgewater received the news at 1:30 p.m. Monday. Just in time for practice.
“I thought, ‘It’s go time,’” said Bridgewater, who was sixth at 113 last year. “It’s the best news I could have heard.”
Bridgewater has heard the critics, objecting to him being in the field. He has tried to ignore naysayers.
“Some people think you shouldn’t be here,” Bridgewater said. “It’s fun to prove them wrong.”
Bridgewater had to show resolve to move into the top eight. He lost to Mediapolis’ eighth-ranked Quinten Aney in the opening round. He stormed back with a major decision and then a two-point victory over Sioux Central’s fourth-ranked Chris Ferguson.
“We feel fortunate to be wrestling,” Schott said. “The first match didn’t go the way he wanted against a quality opponent. “He won two straight and now the goal is third place.”
Blake Gioimo’s reversal of fortune
Cedar Rapids Prairie’s third-ranked Blake Gioimo survived a thriller against Iowa City High’s No. 5 Kael Kurtz to reach the 106-pound semifinals in Class 3A. The Hawks sophomore secured a top-six finish with a 9-8 decision in tiebreaker-1.
The victory isn’t a surprise, but the way he won was a bit uncommon. Gioimo scored four reversals in the match, including the decisive one with six seconds left in the last 30-second period. Gioimo forced overtime with a reversal in the last 26 seconds of the third.
Gioimo earned his first medal in two state appearances.
Metro medal count
Ten Metro wrestlers will bring home medals this year. Linn-Mar leads the way with five, including freshman Kane Naaktgeboren (120), Abass Kemokai (152) and 220-pounder Luke Gaffney, who all won consolation matches to reach the podium. Kemokai and Gaffney placed for the second straight year.
Cedar Rapids Xavier will cap one of its best seasons in program history with three medalists, the most since three in 2014. Seniors Ivan Thomas (170) and Ryan Volk (182) won a second-straight consolation bout to move into the top eight, earning their first state medals.
“It’s pretty exciting for our program,” Xavier Coach Ryan Chambers said. “It shows our program is going in the right direction. I’m really happy for Christian (Stanek), Ivan and Ryan. In a year they could have struggled, they stepped up with great leadership. They are hard workers in the room and that relates to good results.”
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Cedar Rapids Kennedy’s Cael Knox (220) scored his second consolation pin to secure a top-eight spot.
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