Northeast Iowa has always been a hotbed of wrestling talent. Don Bosco, Denver-Tripoli and Waverly-Shell Rock have done their part to make the Cedar Valley the epicenter of championship wrestling this season.
All three sit within a 30-mile radius of each other, and claimed team state titles last weekend in Des Moines. They will attempt for a championship sweep at the Iowa High School Athletic Association State Duals tournament today at the U.S. Cellular Center.
Don Bosco and Denver-Tripoli are top seeds in Class 1A and 2A, respectively. Waverly-Shell Rock is second in 3A.
The success didn’t happen overnight or even from the time wrestlers entered the practice room as freshman. The foundation was set as youths.
“The first thing that comes to my mind is all these kids … they all wrestled a ton when they were little,” Waverly-Shell Rock Coach Rick Caldwell said. “All three communities have good kids clubs.
“It’s a tribute to all the communities and the clubs in those communities,”
Caldwell he is familiar with wrestlers from both programs because they participated in youth events at the same time as his son, two-time state champion, Cody, who is now a junior.
“We were always at the same tournaments together,” Caldwell said. “We competed against each other a lot of times. I think that’s where it started.”
Don Bosco has been a traditional power for years. The Go-Hawks started to soar about halfway through the last decade with Denver-Tripoli catching fire recently.
“A radio announcer for Waverly (KWAY) said it must be in the water,” Don Bosco Coach Tom Kettman said with a laugh. “I know they work real hard at Denver and Waverly and the rewards are starting to come back.”
Don Bosco and Waverly have each won three consecutive traditional titles, but never have all three champs come from such a centralized location since the tournament split into three classes in 1969.
“When you think about it it’s kind of cool to see,” Titans Coach Chris Krueger said. “Just to have them all from this area is neat for the Cedar Valley.”
Competition exists between the programs and that was displayed in the opening weekend when all three battled in Cedar Falls’ Keith Young Invitational, finishing 1-2-3 in the tough field. They didn’t necessarily cheer each other on, but teams were aware of the others’ success.
“This year, seeing how tough all three of our squads were, I think we earned the respect of each other,” Krueger said. “We’re kind of hoping everybody would come out on top.”
The Dons (21-1) are big favorites to win a sixth straight crown, which would tie West Des Moines Dowling (1987-92) for most consecutive state dual championships. For the second straight year, Don Bosco boasts a senior class trying to sweep all eight titles throughout their career.
“We’ve just been real fortunate with a great bunch of athletes,” Kettman said. “We have some good kids we haven’t even got in the lineup yet.”
Don Bosco opens with Clarion-Goldfield (17-3) which is making its first State Duals appearance.
“We watched a few of their kids down at state,” Kettman said. “They wrestle hard. If that’s an indication of the rest of the team it’ll be a good meet.”
The Titans (23-0) are making just their second appearance in the State Duals and were the 2A runner-up in 2009. Two-time defending state champion and No. 3 Davenport Assumption are also in the field, providing a challenge for Denver-Tripoli in its chance for a sweep. Denver-Tripoli opens with Creston-Orient/Macksburg (12-4).
“Last year, we stepped up and had a great tournament down there,” Krueger said. “We’re hopeful the kids will show up and do the same.
“All 14 weights for us are solid, but we also know Ballard and Assumption and the kids we’ll see at the tournament are solid as well.”
The two-time defending state champion Go-Hawks (19-2) are seeded second to top-ranked Iowa City West (29-1).
The Trojans already own a victory over the Go-Hawks, winning 34-31 in the finals of the Five Seasons Duals on Dec. 12. Waverly-Shell Rock will need to duplicate its performance from traditional state meet when it won its third straight team title.
“We’re going to have to wrestle lights out again,” Caldwell said. “We had a great run at the state traditional tournament. Anybody who followed 3A knows we probably couldn’t have wrestled a whole lot better.”
Before Waverly-Shell Rock gets a chance to avenge that loss, they’ll face ninth-ranked and seventh seed Cedar Rapids Prairie (19-2) in the quarterfinals and likely No. 3 Bettendorf (13-2). in the semifinals. The performance may hinge on the five wrestlers who didn’t advance from the district meet Feb. 13.
“If they have great weekends, we have a shot,” Caldwell said. “If they don’t, I find it hard seeing us winning three duals on Saturday.”
Prairie is making its 10th overall appearance, qualifying for the fifth time in six years with a 32-29 win over No. 4 North Scott on Tuesday.
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