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Regional duals preview: Lisbon is a rare home underdog
No. 7 Lions could face No. 5 Wapsie Valley with state duals on the line
Lisbon finds itself in an uncommon and unique situation.
The Lions have been a perennial Class 1A wrestling power for decades. They have reached the state duals tournament 16 times since it began in 1987, qualifying each of the last eight seasons. Many of those during the latest streak included top-four finishes with two titles in five finals appearances.
Now, these cats are underdogs.
Seventh-ranked Lisbon will host No. 24 Pleasantville in a regional dual semifinal Tuesday night at Lisbon. The winner advances to face No. 5 Wapsie Valley in the final immediately following with a state duals berth on the line.
Sites were determined by the second Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association rankings two weeks ago with the regional duals field set by the final rankings last week. Lisbon and Wapsie Valley switched spots in the poll, leading to a higher-ranked team hitting the road.
“We changed spots, but they already had their minds set that Wapsie Valley was coming here,” Lisbon Coach Brad Smith said. “We’re just going to have to win two duals. That’s all.”
Johnston is the only other team in the same scenario. The Dragons earned a chance to host but dropped to No. 9 in the 3A final rankings. Johnston will wrestle No. 24 Le Mars with the winner taking on No. 8 Fort Dodge.
Smith isn’t concerned with the situation. Although it seems like an edge to have a bye, often an earlier dual can eliminate nerves and allow wrestlers to reach their “second wind” soon in a second match. Also, Lisbon is used to triangulars and even quadrangulars during the regular season, so they are accustomed to multiple matches on a weeknight.
“I don’t see it as a disadvantage,” said Smith, who became the first high school coach in Iowa to reach 700 career dual victories earlier this month. “Our conditioning is good this time of year. Our kids are in great shape.”
This season hasn’t been as smooth as recent ones. Lisbon is 16-8 and has battled injuries. The Lions also have two open weights. Something they have avoided in the past. Lisbon will need to be at its best and get a boost from its most experienced wrestlers.
“We will have to get some bonus points,” Smith said. We need to win a few toss-ups.”
The Lions are as healthy as ever. In addition to top-ranked 120-pounder and two-time state champion Brandon Paez, No. 2 heavyweight Wyatt Smith and No. 4 Indy Ferguson, the Lions have No. 6 Wesley Sadler (106) and No. 8 Indy Harbaugh (145), both of whom have missed time this season. Add in fifth-ranked duo Tiernan Boots at 138 and 170-pounder Matthias Kohl and the Lions have a formidable lineup again.
“We have a stronger lineup now,” Smith said. “We have everybody and that helps.”
Third-ranked Alburnett will also host a 1A regional. The Pirates have a semifinal bye and will take on the winner of No. 11 MFL MarMac and No. 22 Jesup. Alburnett is looking for its first state duals berth since winning the 2016 title.
The Wamac Conference is well-represented. Four-time defending 2A champion and second-ranked West Delaware will host No. 13 Independence and No. 24 Dike-New Hartford. If the Mustangs win the semifinal, it would be the second dual with West Delaware in six days with the Wamac Conference tournament held during the same stretch. The Hawks won, 43-19.
“I am grateful to get to wrestle them,” West Delaware Coach Jeff Voss said. “They are a great team that we have to be at our best to compete with them.”
Fourth-ranked Mount Vernon and No. 9 Williamsburg will hold regional duals. Mount Vernon is 22-3 and has only lost once to a 2A program (West Delaware). The Mustangs will take on the winner between No. 11 Davenport Assumption and No. 22 Monroe PCM, looking for the first state duals berth since 2005.
The Raiders have progressed throughout the season and will try for the program’s fourth state duals trip. No. 10 West Burlington/Notre Dame or No. 21 Knoxville will be Williamsburg’s opponent in the final round.
Williamsburg Coach Grant Eckenrod said either team will be a tough challenge, especially with the Raiders’ health.
“We have to be ready to roll but I am confident our kids will battle hard,” Eckenrod said. “Win or lose we have to give great effort and wrestle with urgency. We are limping into the postseason and have dealt with injuries like never before. I have never seen anything like it.
“The good thing is we are getting a lot of young kids varsity experience. I am proud of those young kids and we are going to have to count on some of them just to get our team through. We will see what happens. We are excited, though, and glad we get to wrestle this thing at home.”
In Class 3A, No. 7 Linn-Mar will face the winner between No. 11 Dubuque Hempstead and No. 22 Fort Madison. The Lions are vying for their third straight state duals berth and eighth overall. Linn-Mar placed fourth at state duals last season.
Cedar Rapids Prairie, ranked 17th, and No. 20 Western Dubuque will square off in a regional dual semifinal at Waverly-Shell Rock. The winner wrestles the second-ranked Go-Hawks in the final.
Iowa City High travels to regional duals at Ankeny. The 19th-ranked Little Hawks have No. 13 Bondurant-Farrar in the semifinal with No. 4 Ankeny facing the winner.
Regional dual champions advance to the state duals tournament Saturday at Xtream Arena in Coralville.