WILLIAMSBURG — Jalen Schropp recalled the conversation with Williamsburg Coach Grant Eckenrod after his final match last season.
He had just placed third, earning his second straight medal in three state tournament appearances. Eckenrod encouraged him to set his sights on a “5-3-1” finish, improving his state performance each season and capping it with an elusive gold medal.
Schropp liked the message.
“It’s something we’ve kind of ridden all year, doing extra, working my butt off and keeping focus,” Schropp said. “I’m a senior. I might as well go get that state title. It’s always been a goal of mine I haven’t reached. It would be nice to hit that level.”
The top-ranked 138-pounder will begin his last quest as Class 1A and 2A teams across the state compete in sectionals Saturday, beginning at noon.
Williamsburg hosts a 2A sectional with Benton Community, Center Point-Urbana, Mid-Prairie, Mount Vernon and Vinton-Shellsburg. The top two wrestlers at each weight advance to next week’s districts. The top two teams qualify for the regional duals Tuesday.
Schropp is 46-0 this season, including 29 pins, three technical falls and four major decisions. Opponents have forfeited 10 times.
“He has been unbelievably dominant,” Eckenrod said. “Every time someone has taken the mat against him he’s scored bonus points against him. He’s wrestling very well, right now.”
Eckenrod praised Schropp for his mat wrestling ability, calling him a “pinning machine” with 109 career falls. He also added that Schropp has made strides on his feet to round out his ability. Schropp worked to improve his transition wrestling.
“If you get a takedown, there’s no reason you should stop and just ride,” Schropp said. “I’m always working for back points, whether that’s tilts or halves. I go out and try to dominate and put up points.”
Wrestling has always been a big part of Schropp’s athletic life, starting in kindergarten. Like many wrestlers, he followed in an older sibling’s footsteps with a younger one not far behind him. The sport was a natural fit.
“I’ve been doing this since I was a little kid,” Schropp said. “I just grew up in a family knowing wrestling.
“It’s something we just love to do. Competing in front of family is a different feeling, for sure.”
Eckenrod has seen that passion flourish with the Raiders. Schropp surpassed the 150-win plateau in December and sits at 183 career victories. He needs five to tie the program record held by Austin Blythe, who went 188-11 from 2008-11.
Schropp has put in the time, wrestling in the spring and summer reaching Junior Nationals in Fargo, N.D.
“He’s training hard,” Eckenrod said. “He’s done all the stuff you have to do in the offseason. He’s been locked in on winning that state title and that is his goal.”
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