116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — Independence Coach Michael Doyle huddled his team and reminded them of a primary tenet of the wrestling program.
“What did I tell you? Keep fighting until the end,” Doyle told the Mustangs after they completed a wild comeback to defeat rival Osage, 37-31, in the Class 2A state duals wrestling semifinals Thursday at Wells Fargo Arena.
Second-seeded Independence advanced to the finals for the first time since winning the 1997 championship. The 25-year hiatus ended after some drama with the Mustangs storming back from a 28-19 deficit with four matches remaining.
Senior Caden Larson provided the spark and the prime example of Doyle’s advice. He moved up to 170 and trailed 12-4 in the third before storming back. He scored three nearfall points and then cinched up a cradle, rolled Jake Clark to his back and notched the fall in 4:47.
“Always keep fighting,” Larson said. “Never give up and just go, go, go. There’s always a chance.”
Johnson had pins in the first two duals. Doyle said he’s been in and out of the lineup and has been willing to do anything for the team. He contributed in a big way.
“He’s a great team player,” Doyle said. “He will do whatever we need to do, weigh in wherever he needs to weigh in. Kudos to him doing what he’s done today.
“It’s something he’s going to remember for the rest of his life.”
Junior Mitch Johnson, a state qualifier at 170, moved to 182 in the lineup change. He stuck Ledger Nehls in 51 seconds, setting up senior Marcus Beatty with the Mustangs owning a 31-28 lead, going into the penultimate bout.
“Winning is contagious with us,” Beatty said. “When one of us is rolling, we’re all rolling.”
Beatty surrendered two takedowns in the first two periods and was down 5-1 when he hit a headlock and pinned Cole Jeffries in 5:33. The victory secured the program’s second finals appearance.
“We went out of bounds late and there was 50-some seconds left,” Beatty said. “I looked over at my coach and he said ‘you have a 50-second sprint left.’”
Independence (27-6) opened with a 40-30 victory over No. 7 Winterset. The Mustangs won eight matches against the Huskies.
Only three Mustangs qualified for the traditional state meet, but their lineup is stuffed with 12 starters with winning records. Eight of them have at least 30 wins with quite a few more, including Larson with more than 20.
They might not have the stars, although Isaiah Weber is a three-time state finalist and returning champion, but they have a prototypical dual team.
“We don’t have a bad kid in our lineup,” Doyle said. “We have someone competitive at every weight.”
State Duals is that final competition for those that didn’t qualify for the traditional meet, including Beatty and five others who placed third in the district tournament. They continued to fight for each other.
“You have to be in position to do as well as you can,” Doyle said. “We had three pins right in a row. It’s just two seniors and a junior doing what they can for the team.”
Top trio in Class 2A
The top seeds at the three heaviest weights in Class 2A are quite familiar with each other. Actually, all three of them were at the same weight a little more than a month ago.
West Delaware 195-pounder Wyatt Voelker, Mount Vernon’s Clark Younggreen (220) and Solon heavyweight Gage Marty are the No.-1 ranked wrestlers in their respective weight class. All three won Wamac Conference titles and are state title contenders.
Interestingly, all three were at 220 earlier this season. Voelker opted to drop down, while Marty started at heavyweight and moved back up after a handful of matches at the lower class.
Voelker improved to 41-0 after the first round of State Duals. He also accounts for Younggreen’s only two losses of the season. Younggreen is 44-2 and defeated Marty, who is 45-2. Marty’s only other loss is to Waverly-Shell Rock’s 3A top-ranked Jake Walker.
Voelker is a defending state champion and three-time state medalist. Marty is a two-time medalist, finishing sixth last season. Younggreen is making his state debut.
Not just for the boys
Three girls have qualified for the Iowa High School Athletic Association state wrestling tournament field in the same season that the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union announced it will sanction the sport next year.
Sigourney-Keota’s Reenah Utterback (38-3) and Underwood’s Molly Allen (32-5) are in the Class 1A 106-pound bracket. Ottumwa’s Jasmine Luedtke (19-14) qualified at 113 in 3A, placing second at the Iowa City High district. Utterback and Allen are both freshmen, while Luedtke is a sophomore.
Allen won the 105-pound title and Utterback captured the 110 championship at the Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association girls’ state tournament Jan. 22 in Coralville. Luedtke was a runner-up to Waverly-Shell Rock’s Eva Diaz at 115.
Utterback followed her girls’ state title with South Iowa Cedar League and sectional titles. She will open against Mount Ayr’s Brock Shaha (33-0). Allen faces North Tama’s Case Monat (32-7) in the first round.