116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
ALBURNETT — Coach Clayton Rush knew he had a talented freshman class joining a good nucleus of Alburnett returners.
He just wasn’t sure how good, but it didn’t take long for him to learn. The Pirates’ fifth-place finish at Independence’s Cliff Keen Invitational the first weekend of the season provided perspective.
“They kind of surprised me there,” Rush said. “As the season has gone on, they’re just a really coachable group. Effort is never a question with them. It allows me to coach them from a technical standpoint and get them better at wrestling.”
Alburnett is coming off a tournament title Saturday at Highland’s Gary Curtis Invitational, receiving titles from Brody Neighbor and Carson Klostermann and placing seven in the top three. The Pirates topped Wilton by 13 points for their second team crown this season.
Rush said he has seen “good” out of everybody in the lineup, but none have peaked. They have a month until they want that to happen anyway.
“We just performed really well,” Rush said about the Highland tournament. “Honestly, it wasn’t our best performance as a whole. Some guys wrestled the best to this point, but there are many others who haven’t hit their potential yet and that’s exciting about this group.”
The season started with the biggest roster in Rush’s six seasons as Pirates head coach. Injuries and attrition have left them with 20-22 wrestlers. Alburnett has just one open weight.
“We have good numbers,” Rush said. “We’ll have good numbers for the next two, three and four years.”
One of the reasons for the cyclical increase is the feeder programs. Brett Shulista continues to work with the youth club. Brett Waughop (a former Williamsburg prep) is the junior high wrestling coach and has a strong rapport with students, developing interest in the sport. Incoming classes will have talent and greater numbers, according to Rush.
“He does a good job of getting the kids out,” Rush said. “We’re starting to see those kids trickle into high school. Next year, we’re going to have a couple tough wrestlers come in but we’re also going to have some numbers come in that we’re going to need to fill in. That’s what makes a team better.”
The 12th-ranked Pirates are 11-6 in duals with just one loss to a Class 1A opponent and that was to top-ranked Don Bosco. They also won Mid-Prairie’s Colton Allen Memorial tournament in December. Alburnett has four ranked by IAwrestle. Preston Klostermann and Gunnar Keeney are ranked seventh at 120 and 152 pounds, respectively. Neighbor sits ninth at 132, while Carson Klostermann is 11th at 145.
For the team to continue to improve, Rush said the Pirates need to capitalize on every opportunity to learn and improve in practice and competition. Alburnett wrestles second-ranked Lisbon and Starmont Thursday and at Cedar Rapids Jefferson’s J-Hawk Invitational Saturday.
“On paper, we’ve done really well and better than in the past,” Rush said. “It’s been real fun.
“This week is going to be a really tough test at Jefferson. We’re going to have a lot of fun with that battle.”
Iowa City Regina’s Aidan Udell dominates
Iowa City Regina’s Aidan Udell remained unbeaten, winning the 170-pound title at Highland Saturday. Udell improved to 21-0 with a pin in 3:45 over Wilton’s Kaden Shirk in the finals. Udell has ascended to No. 2 in the 1A individual rankings.
He has been dominant, posting bonus points in all but one victory. Udell has 15 pins and two major decisions this season. His lone decision was a 9-5 victory over West Liberty’s Drake Collins, who is ranked third in 2A and won the Benton Community Bobcat Jerry Eckenrod Invitational on Saturday.
Cedar Rapids Jefferson will host the J-Hawk Invitational this weekend. In addition to Alburnett and the hosts, Iowa City High, Waukee Northwest and West Des Moines Valley are among the 16-team field.
The Loyd Shaffer-Marion Invitational will include teams from all three classes, including Cedar Rapids Kennedy, Cedar Rapids Xavier, Mount Vernon, Williamsburg, North Linn and Wilton. Blue Valley Northwest High School from Overland Park, Kan., is one of the 16 participating teams.
Solon will host the Ed Hadenfeldt Invitational. The Spartans welcome Lisbon, 2A fifth-ranked Vinton-Shellsburg, Iowa City Liberty, Iowa Valley, West Liberty and nine other programs.
Independence will have a girls’ tournament, leading up to the Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association state tournament next weekend.
Cascade and MFL MarMac are among other programs that host tournaments this weekend.