Two is company and three is a crowd.
It is doubtful the Mississippi Valley Conference minds occupying much of the space at the Iowa High School Athletic Association State Duals tournament.
If results resemble seeds, three MVC wrestling teams will earn berths to the state team competition with wins in Wednesday’s Class 3A regional dual meets. Third-ranked Iowa City West, No. 5 Linn-Mar and No. 6 Cedar Rapids Prairie all host regional duals, starting at 7 p.m.
Qualifying a trio of teams isn’t new or rare for the MVC, but it hasn’t happened since 2006 when West, Prairie and Iowa City High advanced for the second straight year.
“I think everyone knows the MVC in all sports is pretty darn tough,” Linn-Mar Coach Doug Streicher said. “It doesn’t matter what sport you’re in, you have really good athletes, coaches and programs.”
It’s happened five times since 2000, but taking up almost half of the 3A State Duals field would reflect well on the top-tier MVC teams.
“I think it would be a great thing if all three teams can get there,” Prairie Coach Blake Williams said. “It would show the strength of the conference and the great wrestling over here.”
The strength helps prepare each of the teams for the postseason. Prairie is 2-1 against Linn-Mar with both wins coming down to the final match. West and Prairie were tied with two matches to go before West won. The Trojans also topped Linn-Mar.
“Any time you wrestle those top teams,” West Coach Mark Reiland said. “We’ve seen all the top teams. That’s what helps us the most.”
Linn-Mar (28-5) hosts No. 11 Pleasant Valley, attempting to earn its second straight State Duals berth and third overall. Last year the Lions edged North Scott by criteria to advance. They want to avoid another close finish.
“We brought that up in practice,” Streicher said. “We went out there and didn’t wrestle up to our ability and we came down to criteria. It shouldn’t have, if we had wrestled better.”
Having last year’s regional dual performance under their belts benefits the Lions.
“Any experience you can have with putting kids in that position so they’ve been there before is good,” Streicher said.
Prairie (26-6) faces 10th-ranked North Scott at home, trying to beat the Lancers twice this season. The Hawks won, 46-17, in December at the Battle of Waterloo. They also beat North Scott in a 2010 regional dual, so they know what to expect.
“They have a nice balanced team,” Williams said. “We’ll have to wrestle well.”
State Duals is a yearly goal for the Hawks, and the disappointment of not making it last year still motivates them.
“Our kids are excited,” Williams said. “They want to do well.”
West, the defending 3A state dual champions, welcome 14th-ranked Indianola. The Trojans (28-2) are looking for their 10th straight State Duals appearance. They are beginning a new title trek with Wednesday night’s dual. Last year’s achievement doesn’t impact the present.
“It’s not about defending. It’s about winning,” Reiland said. “It’s a lot easier to get there than stay there.”
Regional dual winners advance to the State Duals on Wednesday, Feb. 15 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.