SOLON — Solon Coach Blake Williams owned modest expectations for the first wrestling tournament of the season.
The Spartans provided him with a pleasant surprise.
Solon was the highest finishing Iowa team and placed third at the Cliff Keen Independence Invitational on Saturday, beating ranked teams like Lisbon, Fort Dodge and Crestwood in the 33-team field. Seven Spartans placed eighth or better at their respective weights, including 220-pound champion Mike Hoyle.
“I was impressed with the aggressiveness of how we wrestled,” Williams said. “We always say good things can happen, if you’re aggressive. They went out to score points.
“There are a lot of things to work on, but I liked the fight and effort throughout.”
Hoyle, a two-time state qualifier ranked fourth in Class 2A, pinned his way to the finals and defeated Linn-Mar’s 3A No. 7 Tanner Schultz, 7-4, in the final. Junior Jax Flynn (170) and freshman Hayden Taylor (126) beat four and three ranked wrestlers, respectively. Zack Bevans was fourth at 152.
Zeb Gnida (132) and Andy Brokaw (160) also placed and return with state experience. Gnida is ranked fourth.
“We have quite a few guys back,” Williams said. “We have a pretty experienced team, right now. We have a good senior and junior class. We have a good mix. I think a lot of those seniors stepped up and took more of a leadership role than they had in the past.”
The Spartans opened with a decisive 56-15 dual victory over Williamsburg last week and face another tough test at second-ranked West Delaware on Thursday. Williams said Saturday proved Solon deserves to be in the conversation of top 2A teams, but isn’t putting too much stock in it.
“I told them nobody’s going to remember this later on down the road,” Williams said. “It’s a good start, but I wouldn’t pat yourselves too much on the back.
Lisbon duo Cael Happel and Cobe Siebrecht earned titles at Independence as well on Saturday. They did it at the expense of nationally-ranked foes in the finals.
Happel, a two-time state champ, defeated Ankeny’s Caleb Rathjen, 6-4, for the 126-pound crown. Rathjen was ranked 15th in the country by flowrestling.com.
Siebrecht wasn’t to be outdone. He recorded an 11-2 major decision over Christian Brothers College (Mo.) 138-pounder Wyatt Henson in the championship. Henson was ranked eighth nationally at the weight and is the son of World champion and Olympic silver medalist Sammie Henson.
The 1A top-ranked senior and two-time state finalist was also named theopenmat.com High School Wrestler of the Week for his showing Saturday, improving to 8-0.
Oelwein takes team title
Oelwein won the team championship at Wapsie Valley’s Chris Davis Invitational on Saturday. The Huskies had 11 wrestlers place and topped the host Warriors, 143-134.
Bryan Graves (170), Ernane Da Silver at 182 and 220-pound sophomore Mason Kunkle won titles for Oelwein. Kunkle is coming off an all-state football season.
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