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4-time defending state duals champion West Delaware is ranked No. 2 this time, but has the same goal
Osage is ranked No. 1 in Class 2A tournament Saturday at Xtream Arena
CORALVILLE — West Delaware’s role has changed.
The Hawks have enjoyed being the top dog the last four seasons, but now can be considered an underdog.
“It’s a little different,” West Delaware senior Will Ward said. “We’ve had some dang good teams the last few years. It has added some motivation to the seniors, for sure, knowing that it’s not going to be given to us this year.”
Four-time defending Class 2A state champions, the Hawks will attempt to extend their streak at the IHSAA state duals wrestling tournament Saturday at Xtream Arena in Coralville. Quarterfinals for all three classes begin at 9 a.m.
“We don’t talk about winning or losing or winning state championships,” West Delaware Coach Jeff Voss said. “We are very intentional about setting goals every day that are going to make us better from the last time we practiced and last time we competed.
“I think that mindset allowed kids to improve every year, which has allowed us to be at a high level the last four, five or six years.”
West Delaware opens against No. 7 Webster City. The Hawks are seeded second, their lowest seed since being fourth in 2018. They are behind heavy favorite and top-ranked Osage and were rated behind potential semifinalist No. 3 Sergeant Bluff-Luton for part of the season.
“We are excited for another opportunity,” Hawks senior Logan Peyton said. “We (the seniors) have been there for four years now and it just kind of feels like another match. Really, it’s a pretty special deal to be able to go down there and do this. It’s been fun.”
West Delaware has always valued the team aspect of wrestling. The duals are important to the coaches and athletes because it involves every member of the program. They share in the wins and losses equally.
“We want to get better every day,” Peyton said. “Every single kid in there from freshman to senior wants to be part of this culture that we have and the team we have built. It’s a pretty special thing to be a part of it.”
The tradition has been built on unity and unbreakable bonds that are fortified by offseason excursions, which included a team camp at Luther College in Decorah, and the team’s spotlight exercise that consists of everyone telling a designated teammate how and why they are important to the team.
“The kids care about each other,” Voss said. “The kids want their workout partner to be as good as they can be. When you have a lot of kids doing that you see a lot of growth. I think that’s what we’re seeing right now.”
Voss said the seniors have been key components to the program’s success. They have emerged as leaders. Five of the Hawks’ eight ranked wrestlers are seniors. Cam Geuther leads the way as the top-ranked heavyweight. Carson Less is fourth at 120 pounds. Will Ward (195) is fifth, while 138-pounder Carson Turnis is No. 7 and Peyton is 11th at 160.
“The last four years these kids have been the hidden gem in our state championships,” Voss said. “They stuck with it. They kept getting better and when their time came they were ready and contributed in a big way for our team. I really think had these guys not stuck with it, I don’t know if we would have had four championships in a row. I couldn’t be more proud.”
Work has been necessary to get to this point. This year’s lineup had some question marks due to graduation. Five or six weight classes started as unknowns, but wrestlers have progressed and settled into those spots. Improvement has made the Hawks a stronger dual team as the season advanced.
“That has been the fun part for me,” Voss said. “Just seeing the growth from these guys.
“I think we’ve got a really good team. They’ve developed into that and that’s what is rewarding for us.”
The Hawks’ stretch of dominance was highlighted by a crazy win streak in the class. West Delaware logged 70 straight dual victories against 2A foes that spanned 1,785 days. The string was snapped by state duals qualifier Williamsburg on Jan. 5.
“We’ve battled sickness and injury all throughout the season, but we’re locked in and loaded right now,” Peyton said. “We’re all healthy and ready to rock and roll, so it should be a fun weekend.”
A new streak started, reaching eight in a row, and all coming against 2A teams.
“We’ve made some big strides,” Ward said. “The young guys are really growing into their style. Guys are building their gas tank up and finding out they can break guys and that’s how they win matches. Some guys are just working into their offense.”
Only West Des Moines Dowling (1987-92) and Don Bosco (2005-10) have longer championship runs. The focus is strictly on the Lynx in the quarterfinals. No chance of looking beyond the immediate task of each round.
“It’s pretty easy to take it for granted,” Ward said. “They have been telling us to really enjoy it. Some of us have been there four times, so it seems second nature almost. There are teams that haven’t been here once. We have to be grateful for the opportunity and they’re making us feel that.”