CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids Kennedy’s Shane Williams turned one of his toughest losses into a considerable gain.
The Cougars senior turned the agony of missing the state tournament into the drive to return. After reaching state his first two seasons, Williams was devastated last year when he missed a berth by losing a district wrestle back match.
“That’s all I think about when I wrestle,” Williams said. “It fuels my fire. It’s everything to me to get to Des Moines.”
Williams will try to return to the state tournament for a final shot at a medal by earning a berth at the Class 3A district meet Saturday at Kennedy, beginning at noon. The Cougars will host Cedar Rapids Jefferson, Cedar Rapids Prairie, Cedar Rapids Washington, Dubuque Hempstead, Dubuque Senior, Marshalltown and Western Dubuque with trips to the state tournament Feb. 16-18 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines at stake.
Williams attended the 2011 state meet, but recalled the disappointment watching teammates from the stands.
“After last year I told myself it wouldn’t happen again,” Williams said. “It was pretty devastating not being able to wrestle.”
The negative turned into a positive as Williams trained harder, working on wrestling three times a week in the off-season in addition to weight training for football.
“I think he’s been waiting for (today) for a whole year,” Kennedy Coach Brent Paulson. “He’s had by far his most successful season. Some of that is being motivated by last year.”
Williams owns a 35-5 record and is ranked fourth by The Predicament. He has reached the finals in all but one tournament this season. In addition to the skills on the mat, Williams, one of 10 wrestlers with 100 career wins in Kennedy history, has a strong grasp of the sport allowing him to strategize against his opponents and avenging some losses.
“He’ll analyze his opponents and figures out the best way to beat them,” Paulson said. “He’s very smart.”
He has not decided on a college, considering Ohio University to study Sports administration or play football at Simpson or Loras College. Wrestling is not in the plans, so not only is this his final season with the Cougars but it’s his last as a wrestler.
“Wrestling means a lot to me,” Williams said. “I have a sense of urgency this year.”
There is not any more pressure for Saturday other than the normal stress of competition. He is likely the top seed and favored to claim one of the two spots for state.
“Make sure my mind’s right (Saturday),” Williams said. “Wrestle to my ability and I’ll be fine.”
Just getting there isn’t the goal. Williams is looking for his first state medal and Paulson has confidence it can be achieved.
“He’s focused on (Saturday),” Paulson said. “He’s smart enough to know that, but there’s no doubt the plan is to go down (to state) and get on the awards stand.”
Iowa City West hosts a district meet, which includes Iowa City High. The district field ties a state-high 23 ranked wrestlers, including four top-10 wrestlers at 195 and three at 182.
Cedar Rapids Xavier, Decorah, Linn-Mar and Marion will compete in a district hosted by Waverly-Shell Rock.
Area districts in 2A will be held at Mount Vernon and Oelwein. The district meet held at Oelwein includes top-ranked Denver-Tripoli and No. 2 West Delaware.
In Class 1A, Tipton hosts a district meet. Fifth-ranked Alburnett and No. 7 North-Linn travel to a district meet hosted by Sumner-Fredericksburg.
The top two district placewinners at each weight advance to the state tournament.