116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Williamsburg’s boys’ wrestling season started with some uncertainty.
New faces dotted the Raiders’ young and inexperienced lineup. Williamsburg Coach Grant Eckenrod was optimistic, but had some questions.
“You have some goals and hope you can be there at the end of the year,” Eckenrod said. “There were a lot of unknowns.”
Strong work ethic and a business-like approach has propelled the Raiders to No. 7 in the latest Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association Class 2A dual rankings, earning a chance to host a regional duals site on Jan. 31.
Williamsburg opened the season with a loss to No. 4 Mount Vernon, but has climbed to 18-3 overall without another loss to a 2A program.
“Our kids have just continually gotten better,” Eckenrod said. “It has been fun to watch.
“We’ve had kids in and out of the lineup. I don’t think we’ve put our best lineup together yet. Hopefully, we can get that done soon.”
The Raiders have 10 wrestlers with winning records. Seven of them have surpassed 20 victories, including senior 2021 state runner-up Gavin Jensen, who leads the team with a 26-4 mark. They have done it with a blue-collar approach. Think hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.
“I’m very pleased with how these kids have come along and how they’ve improved,” Eckenrod said. “It’s been an awesome group to work with. They are a hardworking and quiet bunch. Not a lot of hoorah and emotional-type guys. They come to practice, work their tails off and are great kids.”
The sum of the whole is greater than the parts and the Raiders seem stronger in dual competition. Williamsburg does have two ranked wrestlers. Jensen is third at 120 and senior Gable Dayton is ninth at 182.
Dayton won Benton Community’s Bobcat Jerry Eckenrod Invitational and was a runner-up last weekend at the Loyd Shaffer-Marion Invitational. He has been a leader by example for the program.
⧉ Related article: Williamsburg’s Gavin Jensen continues strong senior wrestling season
“He’s a super quiet kid and does what he’s supposed to do,” Eckenrod said. “The kid has put in some extra time. We’ve got to have those guys where you see them in the offseason. They’re in the weight room and get some extra mat time. A lot of these guys are doing that and will be more successful.
“Gable is one of those guys. He’s had a heck of a football season. It has just carried over to wrestling.”
Williamsburg is one of three Wamac Conference programs that will host regional duals. No. 3 West Delaware and Mount Vernon will also host state duals qualifiers. No. 12 Independence is expected to be in the field. Benton Community and South Tama are just on the outside of the top 24 in 2A, giving the strong Wamac a possibility of six teams in the field.
“The Wamac is loaded, not only in wrestling but everything,” Eckenrod said. “You have to have to have that great competition. You have to be in serious battles during the regular season. It gets you ready for the postseason.”
Other Gazette-area hosts will be No. 5 Linn-Mar in 3A and Alburnett and Lisbon in 1A.
Jillian Worthen among No. 1-ranked wrestlers
Four Gazette-area wrestlers earned No. 1 rankings in the latest IAwrestle rankings released Wednesday.
Union Community sophomore Jillian Worthen is the top-ranked 105-pounder. The returning IWCOA girls’ state champion improved to 20-0 this season, winning the Oelwein girls’ tournament.
Sophomores Mackenzie Childers, of Cedar Rapids Prairie, and Emma Peach, of Iowa Valley, are ranked first at 125 and 145, respectively. Decorah junior Naomi Simon is top-ranked at 170.
The Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union super regionals are Jan. 27. Alliant Energy PowerHouse in Cedar Rapids and Luther College in Decorah will each host two regionals. The inaugural IGHSAU state tournament is Feb. 2-3 at Xtream Arena in Coralville.
Maquoketa Valley’s big trio
Maquoketa Valley swept the final three titles Saturday at the MFL MarMac Invitational in Monona. Nathan Bietz (195), Brady Davis at 220 and heavyweight Aiden Salow earned crowns for the Wildcats.
Davis and Salow pinned their way through the tournament. Bietz reached the finals with two pins before a 7-1 decision over Ryan McCartney, of Lancaster (Wis.) for the championship.
The trio is a combined 68-9 this season. Bietz is ranked seventh in 1A, while Davis is sixth.