Prep Wrestling

Team effort produces Williamsburg's first state duals finals appearance

Raiders thrive in dual format, despite just 2 individual qualifiers

DES MOINES — Wrestling, it turns out, is a team sport.

Look no further than Williamsburg for proof.

Despite just two state qualifiers in the starting lineup, the third-ranked Raiders advanced to the finals of the Class 2A state duals tournament Wednesday at Wells Fargo Arena.

Williamsburg opened with a 39-27 quarterfinal victory over Sergeant Bluff-Luton and downed No. 2 Independence, 44-25, avenging a one-point regular-season loss. The Raiders reached the finals for the first time in three state duals appearances. No. 1 West Delaware claimed the state title with a 53-9 win.

“Our kids came into (Wednesday) and wanted to do it for each other,” Williamsburg Coach Grant Eckenrod said. “We wanted to do it for our seniors, those seniors who are done. Those guys are great kids. I love them to death.

“It’s their state tournament, so we wanted to do something special for them.”

The way the Raiders came together showed this was important. They also displayed their unity and camaraderie.

“It shows that we really put each other first,” senior heavyweight Cole Cremeens said. “It shows we have a nice brotherhood at Williamsburg. We put others first. It’s nice being a part of a program that’s not just focused on individuals or one or two guys.”

Top-ranked 138-pounder Jalen Schropp and No. 10 Kayden Gryp (120) will compete in the individual tournament, which begins Thursday. For a dozen wrestlers, these were their final matches of the season or even their careers. They don’t have individual achievements to chase down now, so this was their moment for one last memory.

“It was a bummer not qualifying,” Cremeens said. “I was thrilled to get one more shot at it here in the duals.”

Three of the 24 state duals teams across all classes had three individual qualifiers. Others had six, eight or even double-digit qualifiers that couldn’t do what the Raiders accomplished together.

They knew they were much better than the numbers might indicate. Take Cremeens, for example. He was one of three returning state medalists in his district bracket, vying for two state berths. Williamsburg's situation could be attributed to its tough postseason path.

“We know if we’re in any other district in the state we probably have six to eight qualifiers here,” Eckenrod said. “We told our guys that we’ve been beating kids who were state qualifiers all year. We were in a tough district. That’s the way it goes.”

The Raiders’ efforts were rewarded with their first state duals finals appearance in school history. Their previous best was fourth in 2018.

“It’s super exciting,” Cremeens said. “It’s nice to know you’re doing something that no one else from your school has done.”

Southeast Polk defends Class 3A crown

Top-seeded Southeast Polk won its second straight Class 3A state duals title Wednesday night, beating No. 2 Waverly-Shell Rock, 29-26, in the final, which was a rematch of last year’s championship dual.

Southeast Polk (18-0) set a state duals scoring record, beating North Scott, 80 to minus-3, in the semifinals. The Rams beat West Des Moines Valley, 53-21, in the quarterfinals. They have reached the finals in seven of the last eight seasons.

The Go-Hawks (22-6) reached the finals for the second straight season, dispersing of Indianola, 43-19, in the quarterfinals and No. 3 Fort Dodge, 51-24, in the semifinals.

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Moving on up

North Cedar’s Tyler Thurston and Postville’s Isaac Steffans ended the regular season ranked. Thurston is ranked sixth at 195 and Steffans 10th at 220 in Class 1A, but that isn’t where they qualified.

Both bumped up a weight and made the field. Thurston (37-6) is the sixth seed at 220 and opens with New London’s Jaxon Allen (40-10). Steffans (47-3) is the fifth seed at heavyweight, taking on HLV’s Kody Timm (37-8) in the first round.

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

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