116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — The Wellsville Mountains, considered by some to be the steepest range in the world, framed the horizon.
They loomed both as nearly impassable obstacles and towering peaks of inspiration. And brothers Gabe and Cooper Sanders of Vinton-Shellsburg gazed up at them every day for seven years while living in Utah’s Cache Valley.
“It was beautiful,” Cooper said.
So was Friday. Both Sanders brothers triumphed in Friday’s Class 2A semifinals, with Cooper winning by fall at 145 pounds and Gabe advancing to the finals via a tense, 3-2, decision at 152.
“It feels great,” said Cooper, who won one state title in Utah while Gabe won two. “I’ve been working for it all season.”
Just like everybody else. But now the Sanders are poised to summit the mountain Saturday night at Wells Fargo Arena. They returned to Iowa a few months ago in time for wrestling season and both attained the No. 1 ranking at their respective weights according to IAwrestle.com.
“When we lived in Utah we used to come back to Iowa and do some tournaments so more family could watch,” said Gabe, who is unbeaten this season and will face top-seeded Garrett Seaba of Clarion CGD in the finals. “Now that we’re back they can just come to all of our tournaments and it’s a lot nicer. And it’s cool to have everybody in the town know about you and cheer you on.”
There was plenty of applause to go around for an array of area Class 2A wrestlers who qualified for championship matches.
At 106 pounds, top-ranked Jace Hedeman of Union Community beat third-ranked Colin Cassady of West Liberty, 8-3. Hedeman, a freshman, improved to 45-0, but admitted to battling nerves just a bit for the first time all season at the state meet.
How’d he remain calm and focused?
“I just know I’m the man,” Hedeman said. “So that’s really all it takes to get my nerves out, knowing I train harder than everyone.”
Logan Arp of South Tama earned a spot in the 138-pound title bout after a grueling, 3-2, semifinal win over West Delaware’s Brent Yonkovic. Fellow Trojan Gavin Bridgewater also reached the finals at 220.
Wyatt Voelker of West Delaware won by technical fall at 195 to set the stage for his second straight state crown. Voelker is 88-0 the past two seasons.
Solon senior Gage Marty — now a three-time medalist — won his heavyweight semifinal bout, 4-2, in sudden victory to reach the finals for the first time.
Jaiden Moore of Benton Community, the second-seeded 126-pounder, will wrestle in his second championship in three years. He finished second in the Class 1A 106-pound final for Don Bosco in 2020 before joining his family in Benton last season and finishing fourth at 120.
“Benton hasn’t had a state champion in 37 years,” Moore said in reference to Terry Schmuecker’s consecutive titles in 1984-85. “So I’m trying to put an end to that and help get us on the right track. We’re rebuilding, but we’re gonna get there. We have two guys in this weekend. We’re getting there. Hopefully that can give confidence to all those young wrestlers coming through our program.”
Burlington Notre Dame leads the 2A team race with 90 points. West Delaware is third (68.5), Vinton Shellsburg stands fourth (62), and Union Community is sixth (50).