Linn-Mar Coach Doug Streicher has witnessed Jacob Wempen work toward being a state champion.
The process began long before he stepped into the Lions practice room as a freshman.
“It all started years ago,” Streicher said. “He’s been building for this since he was in elementary or middle school.
“He’s ready to make the final push and ready to go.”
Wempen enters the postseason as the top-ranked 182-pounder in Class 3A and will take the first step toward his goal at a district wrestling tournament Saturday at Western Dubuque High School in Epworth.
Wrestlers from across the state in all classes will compete in districts. The top two individuals will advance to the traditional state tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, beginning Thursday at 9 a.m.
Streicher said Wempen declined to be interviewed until after the district. The Lion senior is 30-1 this season, giving him 148 career victories. He captured his first Mississippi Valley Conference crown this year with two finals appearances and earned third or better all four years.
Earlier this season, he said he treats every match the same, regardless of rankings. He won’t take anything for granted Saturday.
“I treat every match the same,” Wempen told The Gazette after winning a tournament at Independence in December. “I warm up and prepare.
“I go out to dominate every guy. Rankings are just numbers, if they really mattered we would not even wrestle. We show up and we compete and work hard every day.”
Wempen missed the state tournament by one win his first two seasons, placing behind three eventual state medalists, including a state finalist in 2016. He even battled successful teammates just to crack the lineup early in his career.
“He’s been in a competitive spot ever since he’s stepped into the high school room,” Streicher said. “From the standpoint of being in our room and obviously once he made the lineup the districts. It’s just one of those things.”
Wempen turned a corner, reaching the state meet and finishing fifth at 170 last year. He reached the semifinals and fell to Cedar Rapids Kennedy state champion Ben Sarasin. The loss is just one of many results that has propelled him to improve.
“I think he uses everything,” Streicher said. “He uses the losses and close wins. He has one thing in mind and that’s to end with a state title. He’s been building for that for a while now.”
The 182 bracket will include Western Dubuque’s second-ranked Devin Ludwig, which could result in a rematch of the MVC championship match Wempen won 4-3.
The pair are two of 20 ranked wrestlers in the field. Two weights have three ranked wrestlers. Western Dubuque’s No. 5 Jake Hosch, Linn-Mar’s No. 6 Ryan Plummer and Dubuque Hempstead’s ninth-ranked Kent Kragenbrink are at 170. At 220, Kennedy’s third-ranked Cam Jones, No. 4 Tanner Schultz, of Linn-Mar, and the Bobcats’ No. 9 Jason Simon-Ressler are frontrunners for two state berths.
Cedar Rapids Jefferson, Cedar Rapids Washington, Dubuque Senior and Marion round out the teams.
“It’s very balanced,” Streicher said. “There are really good wrestlers and really good teams that have some pretty good lineups with depth.”
Cedar Rapids Prairie will host Burlington, Clear Creek Amana, Fort Madison, Iowa City High, Iowa City Liberty, Iowa City West and Mount Pleasant in a 3A district with 20 ranked wrestlers. City High and West lead the way with four apiece, while Prairie has three, including unbeaten 195-pounder Ashton Stoner-DeGroot.
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Cedar Rapids Xavier heads to Waverly-Shell Rock. The Saints are joined by Ames, Cedar Falls, Marshalltown, Mason City, Waterloo East and Waterloo West. Xavier freshman Christian Stanek is one of 19 ranked wrestlers in the field and one of two at 132 with the Go-Hawks’ No. 6 Evan Yant.
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