Prep Wrestling

Strength of Wamac Conference wrestling should be on display this week

West Delaware, Independence and Williamsburg all highly ranked in Class 2A

Williamsburg's Kayden Gryp (left) works to pin Solon's Jakobe Lahr (right) in a 125-pound match at Solon High School in
Williamsburg's Kayden Gryp (left) works to pin Solon's Jakobe Lahr (right) in a 125-pound match at Solon High School in Solon on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

The Wamac remains one of the strongest high school wrestling conferences in Iowa.

The mostly Class 2A league boasts some of the top teams in the state, including the top three teams in the initial Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association dual rankings. Defending state champion West Delaware is first, while Independence and Williamsburg tied for second in the poll.

Williamsburg travels to Independence Thursday for a Wamac West Division dual. All three programs will wrestle at Benton Community’s Bobcat Jerry Eckenrod Invitational on Saturday.

“This is the run,” Raiders Coach Grant Eckenrod said. “This is where it’s getting very tough, now.

“We’ve got the Wamac (dual schedule). The Bobcat is a mini-state tournament. It’s great. It’s awesome.”

The Hawks swept the traditional and dual titles a year ago. They had to beat Wamac foe Solon in the finals. Independence placed sixth in the same field. The conference has the potential to match, and even improve, that showing.

“I think the competition has raised everybody’s bar,” West Delaware Coach Jeff Voss said. “The nice thing about having such good teams in the Wamac is it serves as a good measuring stick during the season. When you get to the postseason, whatever you see isn’t a surprise. You’ve competed all year against really good teams and individuals in our conference schedule. I know it has helped us.”

Each of the Wamac’s top dual teams have represented the conference well. West Delaware was third in the Battle of Waterloo. Independence finished 13th at the BOW, winning its pool on Day 2.

Williamsburg’s runner-up finish to 3A No. 1 Southeast Polk at the multi-state Western Dubuque Bobcats Duals in December answered questions about this season’s potential.

“It was an experience,” Eckenrod said. “They kind of took it to us. I was excited. I thought it was great.

“It was fun to compete against someone like that.”

The Raiders own a 23-1 record, avenging losses to Cedar Falls and Western Dubuque. Eckenrod said the Raiders have benefited from talent being spread across the weight classes, staying healthy and experience up and down the lineup.

“We’ve been able to put 14 solid, not superstar-type kids, out on the mat,” Eckenrod said. “The big thing that we’re doing right now that has really helped us in dual meets is we’re pinning people. I will say this is one of the best pinning teams I’ve ever coached.

“I don’t know why. We’ve emphasized it and we always have. The kids have just taken it to heart and we’re getting it done.”

Things will get interesting this month. All three teams will face each other. After Williamsburg and Independence, West Delaware closes the month with duals against both.

“The fact that those two duals are coming up, they’ve kept our team focused on getting better and not worried about the past,” Voss said. “We know we have some great teams coming up and if we don’t get better we may not have the results that we want.”

Christian Kremer’s pin streak

Speaking of Independence, Mustangs senior Christian Kremer has tallied 17 straight victories, transitioning from 220 to 195 pounds. With the exception of one forfeit, Kremer has won his last 16 competed matches. He has recorded 15 pins during that stretch, including his last 13 bouts.

None of Kremer’s opponents during the stretch have reached the third period. He is 23-2 overall and has not lost since Dec. 7.

Prairie’s Legends & Legacy Night

Cedar Rapids Prairie will honor the 1964-65 wrestling team during its annual alumni night before the varsity dual against Cedar Rapids Xavier on Jan. 16.

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Prairie compiled a 13-0 dual record that season under late head coach Bob Mellgren. A small social with food is set for all members of the team, their families and guests, starting at 6 p.m.

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

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