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With mom matside, South Tama’s Gavin Bridgewater returns to state wrestling podium
Friday’s state wrestling notes: Sigourney-Keota’s Reanah Utterback will medal
DES MOINES — The Roman numerals neatly stretch across the left side of Gavin Bridgewater’s chest.
They’re not random numbers for the South Tama standout wrestler.
They represent the birthday of his mother, Tiffany.
“She is my inspiration,” Bridgewater, the top-seeded 195-pounder in the Class 2A Iowa high school boys’ wrestling tournament, said after the quarterfinals. “She got a matside pass because she does pictures for our school. I knew having her right there in my corner — that’s what I kept looking to when I wasn’t looking at my actual corner, so that I could keep going.”
Bridgewater’s podium-climbing journey hit a speed bump in Friday’s semifinals as he lost, 6-4, to fourth-seeded Gabriel Christensen of Ballard. But the talented junior’s assured of at least a top-six finish for the second straight state meet — and that’s a remarkable feat.
It gets better, though. Bridgewater wrestled in kindergarten and first grade, then began focusing more on basketball. That lasted until his sophomore year with the Trojans, when he decided it was time to give wrestling another try.
So after an eight-year absence from the mat, he competed at 220 pounds last season, attaining runner-up honors. He’s been building speed, agility and power ever since and despite Friday’s setback could finish as high as third.
“He has so many God-given talents and his strength that he works so hard for, he just blows me away with everything he does,” Tiffany Bridgewater said.
Gavin wrestled as a light 220-pounder last season, so he shifted to 195 in 2023 and carries a 37-2 mark into Saturday morning’s consolation rounds.
“I know I can get out of any position and come back, no matter what the score is,” Bridgewater said.
So Bridgewater’s firmly entrenched at 195, where opponents often find it difficult to keep up with his aggressive attacks on the mat. He’s physically and mentally tough, and having mom nearby for support provides him with both comfort and motivation.
“She gives me all my power,” Bridgewater said. “She is what pushes me.”
That’s true whether he’s on the mat for a title match, or fighting through the backside to attain the best result possible.
“We have a very special bond,” Tiffany said. “I don’t even know how to describe it. It’s indescribable and it’s hard to sit there in his corner, but I had a friend once tell me, ‘Never leave him alone on the mat.’
“So I’m very blessed to be there.”
Medal stand milestone
Sigourney-Keota’s Reanah Utterback made sure her second trip to the boys’ state tournament would come with hardware attached.
The No. 8-seeded 106-pound sophomore scored a pin after a first-round bye, then won by decision, 6-4, to reach the quarterfinals and ensure a podium finish. Utterback (37-10) is the first girl to medal at the boys’ state wrestling meet since Megan Black of Eddyville-Blakesburg became the first girl to do so in 2012.
Utterback wrestles for seventh place on Saturday morning.
One sweep down, possibly two to come
Osage wrapped up the Class 2A title Friday afternoon, becoming the first of three possible teams to complete a sweep of the state duals and traditional state meet.
Waverly-Shell Rock in 3A and Don Bosco in 1A could join the Green Devils in accomplishing the feat on Saturday.