116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Popeye has spinach.
Iowa City High’s wrestling team has Cale ... and Kael.
For the second consecutive year, Little Hawk sophomores and frequent practice partners Cale Seaton and Kael Kurtz will head to the state wrestling tournament in Des Moines as district champions.
Third-ranked Seaton (40-2), representing City High in the 120-pound weight class on its home mats Saturday in a Class 3A district wrestling meet, was the first Little Hawk to be crowned district champion, thus punching his ticket to state. Seaton dominated his first two opponents (tech. fall 2:23 and fall 1:56) before defeating sixth-ranked Corbin Grace from Ottumwa by fall in 3:15.
Minutes later, on the same mat, the match of the day took place in the 126-pound weight class between seventh-ranked Kurtz (36-4) and third-ranked Jayce Luna from Bettendorf.
With just six seconds remaining in the third period, trailing 3-1, Kurtz flipped Luna for a takedown to tie it up.
“I knew I was working hard at finishing my shots,” Kurtz said. “That’s where I’ve struggled a lot this season. And I knew the work that I’ve put in the last few weeks to finish my shots would pay off.”
After neither wrestler scored in the sudden victory period, Kurtz began in the down position in the first tiebreaker. With just one second on the clock, Kurtz escaped to get the match-winning point in a 4-3 victory.
“I knew I had to get into him and push him away,” Kurtz said. “Thirty seconds is not a lot of time to get out, so I was just going as hard as I could.”
With the proximity in weight classes and skill set, Seaton and Kurtz are often practice partners. Needless to say, their “competitive” friendship on the practice mat has paid dividends.
“It’s a perfect partner,” Seaton said. “It’s a ranked match every day. So we just make each other better. We’re lucky to have each other.”
“We just know how hard we have to work in here to make each other better,” Kurtz said. “And we know when one is slacking and it really shows.”
Seaton added that the two are “best friends off the mat” as well. The two even have a few classes together and sit next to each other.
“They’re together all the time,” City High head coach Cory Connell said. “They’re talking all the time. During practice or warming up, they’re joking. But when it’s time to get serious, they’re making each other better.”
“They are as good as they are, because of each other.”
As freshmen, Kurtz placed seventh at 106 in last year’s state tournament, while Seaton placed third at 113.
This year, despite moving up in weight classes, both have seen similar success to last season, thanks to the work the two put in together in the offseason.
“I lifted a lot this summer, me and Kael both did,” Seaton said. “I don’t feel like anything’s different. We’ve put all the work in all year, and just have to trust it.”
Other City High wrestlers joining Seaton and Kurtz in Des Moines are Ben Kueter (district champion at 220), Jake Mitchell (district runner-up at 138) and Ryan Ott (district runner-up at 145).
Kueter, a junior and two-time state champion, defeated Daniel Sololik by fall in 2:11 in the semifinal round before winning the district title via forfeit.
For Kueter, a University of Iowa football and wrestling commit, this will be his third straight trip to the state wrestling tournament. He will have an opportunity to become one of just three Little Hawks in school history to win at least three state titles.
“My biggest thing is taking it one match at a time,” Kueter said. “I’m just excited to be out there.”