By Jeff Johnson
DES MOINES – He was Center Point-Urbana’s first wrestling state finalist last year, and he’s Alburnett’s first wrestling state champion this year.
Christopher Halblom capped a perfect sophomore season with a 4-3 decision over Brandon Welter of Don Bosco in last night’s Class 1A 112-pound state championship match at sold out Wells Fargo Arena.
Halblom attended CP-U as a freshman, losing to Charles City’s Tanner Schmidt in the Class 2A 103-pound state final, but transferred to another Linn County school for “a couple of reasons I can’t really talk about” this year. His first-period takedown gave him an immediate edge, and he rode Welter the entire second period, which was also huge.
Halblom (39-0) beat Welter (32-10) for the third straight tournament, following sectional and district.
“That doesn’t matter,” Halblom said. “I knew what he was going to do, and he knew what I was going to do. You have to go out here and execute. After I got that first takedown, I felt good the (rest of) the match.”
Despite Welter’s loss, it was still a record-setting tournament for Don Bosco, which had a 1A record eight finalists, 1A record 194 points and four gold medalists. One of those was 135-pounder Bart Reiter, who became Iowa’s 18th four-time gold medalist with a 7-1 decision over Belle Plaine’s Cameron Wagner.
Reiter completed his career with a 161-2 record. Wagner finished second twice here and third once in a stellar career.
“I just appreciate what they’ve done for me,” said Reiter, who went into the stands after his match to hug his mother and father. “I’ve made my mistakes, made it hard on them. But they’ve been there the whole time pushing me and helping me along the way. I couldn’t say thanks to them more.”
Despite championship-match losses by Wagner and 103-pounder Zach Buch (4-2 in overtime to Sawyer Farris of New London/W-MU), it was a terrific tournament for Belle Plaine, which finished second in the team race with 96.5 points and had gold medalists in 130-pounder Drew Hinschberger and 140-pounder Colton Wagner.
“Obviously, we wanted first place, but Bosco showed up and was ready to wrestle and dominated the tournament,” said Hinschberger, a 9-4 winner over Woodbury Central’s Seth Epling. “We wanted to get as close to them as possible.”
It was kind of a bittersweet initial title for Colton Wagner, considering his twin brother’s defeat. A big four-point move late helped him secure an 8-5 win over Levi Peters of Twin River Valley.
“Definitely part of me feels like crying, and part of me is trying to celebrate,” said Wagner, a four-time placewinner of fourth or better. “I would have loved to have shared this moment with him being a champion. But like we talked about, we’ve got a lot of wrestling left to do together in college. This time it wasn’t meant to be.”
Speaking of brothers, North Linn’s Alex Burkle joined his (Kyle and Tyler) as state champs when he topped Jordan Simon of Aplington-Parkersburg, 12-5, at 215 pounds. Burkle outmuscled Simon throughout the match, scoring a five-point move right away in the first period.
“I felt more relaxed for that match than I’ve ever felt for some reason,” said Burkle (43-0). “I have a lot of confidence in myself, I worked hard all year. I just felt so confident going in there.”
Heavyweight Kyle Kober followed Burkle’s match minutes later by pinning Don Bosco’s Cory Becker early in the second period to become West Branch’s first state champ.
Kober (44-0) finished fourth last year here and second two years ago as a sophomore.
“This really feels special,” he said. “We’ve had some pretty good wrestlers, but we’re not really known for our wrestling. Hopefully this helps out our wrestling program.”
Alburnett, Alex Burkle, Aplington-Parkersburg, Bart Reiter, Belle Plaine, Cameron Wagner, Center Point-Urbana, Christopher Halblom, class 1A, Colton Wagner, Cory Becker, Don Bosco, Drew Hinschberger, Jordan Simon, Kyle Kober, Levi Peters, New London, North Linn, Sawyer Farris, Seth Epling, state wrestling tournament, Twin River Valley, Wells Fargo Arena, West Branch, Woodbury Central, Zach Buch