CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids Prairie Coach Kane Thompson expected some growing pains this season.
After all, the Hawks only returned six starters from last year’s team that won a fifth consecutive Mississippi Valley Conference Super meet title.
The lineup may be drastically different from a year ago, but the goals and expectations remain the same. Prairie is 5-3 overall, posting a 2-1 mark in the MVC Valley, and continues to adjust to the rigors of varsity competition.
“When over half of your lineup is new faces, sometimes those guys have to adjust to the different level of competition that they are used to,” Thompson said. “Those tournaments are drastic change to what they are used to and I think they’ve responded well.”
Prairie had seven state qualifiers last season and all but two graduated. Senior Trenten Wennermark and junior Conrad Braswell were medalists last season. They have helped teammates prepare and stay consistent from match to match in longer tournaments than they are used to at lower levels. Prairie has had leadership by committee, including a strong group of seniors stepping in and grabbing the reins without state experience.
“One of the things we focus on is we are stronger together,” Thompson said. “We don’t necessarily have to have a set of captains to jump out and do everything.”
Wennermark is ranked fifth at 145, while Braswell (120), senior 170-pounder Mike Jasa and sophomore Ashton Stoner-DeGroot (195) are all ranked sixth. Thompson said the team is already making strides. The Hawks have dropped two early duals to Iowa City High, but won one more match the second time, splitting the 14 bouts. The emphasis is to cut down on bonus points and get more of their own.
“We’re close,” Thompson said. “We’re right there.
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“I think our lineup is going to keep evolving, too. I think we can make some good progress.”
The Hawks are in a stacked division of the MVC, including City High, Dubuque Hempstead and Cedar Rapids Kennedy. Prairie hosts the Mustangs and Cougars on Thursday before competing in the Battle of Waterloo on Friday and Saturday. The competitions will be a good gauge, heading into the break, to see how close the Hawks are to their goals.
“I think the MVC is really solid this year,” Thompson said. “There are a lot of teams that could win that tournament on any given day, but it doesn’t change how we think about it. We’re going in with the expectation that we are going to contend to win it.
“Same with State Duals. This team knows they are solid enough to make a run and correct some mistakes we’ve already had and make a push to be at that level.”
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