CEDAR RAPIDS — There was the unbeaten champ and the senior who never failed at district. A disappointed talent and one who cracked the lineup just to bust into the state bracket.
Cedar Rapids Prairie had plenty to accomplish at the Class 3A district tournament Saturday at Cedar Rapids Kennedy. The Hawks were successful in most of them, crowning seven champions and advancing nine to the Iowa High School Athletic Association 3A state wrestling tournament Feb. 16-18 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
At the forefront of the Hawks performance was sophomore Trey Blaha, who lost two heartbreaking matches last year to miss a state berth.
The sixth-ranked Blaha (36-5) left nothing to chance, pinning Cedar Rapids Washington’s Jordin Eicher in 1:10 for the 126-pound title.
“I just made sure I secured my points and kept scoring,” said Blaha. “I kept on the attack.
The feeling was much better than last year, although he made sure he remembered that disappointed to push him through training.
“After a letdown last year, it motivated me this year,” Blaha said. “Just knowing how it felt and what I was missing and the atmosphere down there. It’s awesome.”
Defending state champion and top-ranked Zach Witte pinned his way through the 152-pound bracket, attempting to become a three-time state finalist.
Saturday was business as usual for Witte, who pinned Washington’s Kaiser Herz in: 40 in the finals.
“I just try to do what I can,” Witte said. “It works out usually.”
Witte improved to 22-0, winning his 61st straight match. Witte, who missed the first half of the season with a broken wrist, is glad to be back and looking for four more wins.
“I’m ready to go,” Witte said. “It should be a good week for me.”
Fellow senior Peyton Wagner became the team’s only four-time state qualifier, claiming the 145-pound title with a 9-0 win over Western Dubuque’s Dawson Nemmers.
Junior Austin Gould didn’t wrestle varsity last season after part-time starts as a freshman. The 10th-ranked Gould powered his way to state with a 7-4 victory over Dubuque Hempstead’s Layton Fritsch.
He surrendered the opening takedown, but scored two reversals and was a hammer on top, getting three nearfall in the second.
“That’s a testament to hard work and trying to get better,” Prairie Coach Blake Williams said. “He’s got higher goals than just to qualify.”
Fourth-ranked freshman Josh Wenger (113), No. 4 Chris Walters (120) and Cam Rathje (170) added titles for Prairie. Senior Andrew Netolicky (220) and 160-pounder Casey Becker were runners-up. Becker scored a fall over top-seeded and fourth-ranked Shane Williams of Kennedy in the semifinal round to earn his state berth.
Kennedy senior Luke Kremer had the home crowd on edge as the former state medalist survived a battle in the 132-pound final against Western Dubuque’s seventh-ranked Nick Steger. Kremer, ranked fourth, scored a reversal with: 04 left in an overtime tiebreaker after riding Steger the first 30 seconds for a 3-1 win. He has two overtime district final thrillers in as many years.
“It was exciting now that I won,” Kremer said. “I was pretty nervous during it.”
After they exchanged escapes in regulation and had a scoreless sudden victory minute. He bided his time in the tiebreaker, exploding for the late score.
“I stayed in that position,” Kremer said. “When he loosened up then got out.”
The Cougars’ momentum carried over into the next final where Ryan Rodriguez avenged a loss to Prairie’s Skyler St. John, winning the 145-pound title, 7-2.
Cedar Rapids Washington’s top-ranked heavyweight Tyler Burrell punched his ticket to state with a 3-2 win over Western Dubuque’s Dakoda Elledge. The Warriors senior looked offensive, trying to score early in his bouts.
“I’ve been getting a lot of takedowns,” Burrell said. “We work a lot on trying to get takedowns because that’s going to win me matches.”
Burrell (38-2) placed sixth at state last season, and said he feels he is at the top of his game.
“It feels good to be there,” Burrell said. “It’s good to be on the way to try get that state title.”
Western Dubuque finished with eight qualifiers with Morgan Hall (160) and Riley Demmer (195) winning titles. Demmer is a senior in his first season wrestling varsity. Now, he is a state qualifier.
“He’s waited his turn,” Western Dubuque Coach Paul Cleary said. “He’s an awesome kid.”
CLASS 3A DISTRICTS
At C.R. Kennedy
Teams — 1. C.R. Prairie 277 (9), 2. Western Dubuque (8), 3. C.R. Kennedy 140 (2), 4. Dubuque Senior 127.5 (2), 5. C.R. Jefferson 125.5 (1), 6. C.R. Washington 118 (3), 7. Marshalltown 82.5, 8. Dubuque Hempstead 56 (2)
106 — 1. Chase Lynn (DS), 2. Austin Hosch (WD); 113 — 1. Josh Wenger (CRP), 2. P.J. Rashed (CRJ); 120 — 1. Chris Walters (CRP), 2. Jake Gotto (WD); 126 — 1. Trey Blaha (CRP), 2. Jordin Eicher (CRW); 132 — 1. Luke Kremer (CRK), 2. Nick Steger (WD); 138 — 1. Ryan Rodriguez (CRK), 2. Dylan Gansen (WD); 145 — 1. Peyton Wagner (CRP), 2. Dawson Nemmers (WD); 152 — 1. Zach Witte (CRP), 2. Kaiser Herz (CRW); 160 — 1. Morgan Hall (WD), 2. Casey Becker (CRP); 170 — 1. Cameron Rathje (CRP), 2. David Hughes (Mar); 182 — 1. Austin Gould (CRP), 2. Layton Fritsch (DH); 195 — 1. Riley Demmer (WD), 2. Mitch Powers (DS); 220 — 1. Brett Haas (DH), 2. Andrew Netolicky (CRP); Hwt. — 1. Tyler Burrell (CRW), 2. Dakoda Elledge (WD).