INDEPENDENCE – Bigger and apparently better.
Cedar Rapids Prairie’s Andrew Netolicky proved that to be true with his latest triumph.
The senior heavyweight scored a win over a quality opponent for one of four Prairie, helping the Hawks claim the team title Saturday at the Independence Invitational. Class 3A fifth-ranked Prairie tallied 235 1/2 points, beating runner-up Alburnett by 45 points.
Netolicky blanked Marshalltown’s Pedro Gomez, 4-0, in the finals. Gomez, a state medalist two years ago, defeated Betolicky in a dual last year when he bumped up from 220 pounds.
“It was a loss I wanted to avenge,” said Netolicky, a two-time state medalist who was fifth last season. “I’m bigger this year. I feel stronger. I feel a lot more comfortable wrestling the bigger guys after my experience last year.”
Netolicky packed on 25 pounds more than last season, tipping the scales about 245. Prairie Coach Blake Williams said Netolicky has good size, despite being 40-pounds below the class maximum, and can use his quickness to his advantage. He scored a takedown in the first, adding a penalty point and escape in the final period.
“He got on the offense right away,” Williams said. “He beat a tough kid.
“He was ready for this match and that’s good. … It will carry him into the next few weeks.”
Netolicky said it felt good to get the victory, and it fuels his big expectations for the season. He has opened up in practice to become better in competition.
“My goal has always been set on being a (state) champion,” Netolicky said. “I’m working a lot harder than I did last year. I’m wrestling coaches everyday, trying to get better. I may not be the best at practice, but I’m trying to do things.”
Josh Wenger (126), 182-pounder Austin Gould and Casey Becker at 220 also won titles for the Hawks.
Wenger scored a fall over Cedar Rapids Xavier’s Clint Lembeck in 54 seconds in the final. It gave him two pins that sandwiched a technical fall in the semifinals.
“Just business like for him,” Williams said about his quiet lightweight. “He knows what he wants to do and does it.”
Gould dominated his way to the championship bout, decking his first two foes before the halfway point of the matches. He won by injury default over teammate Cam Rathje, who wrestled unattached at 182.
Casey Becker also posted two falls, decking North Fayette’s Nashua Lansing in 2:24 in the finals.
Prairie placed 10 in the finals despite bumping some of its lineup to a higher weight class. The Hawks did struggle in the final round, dropping four title matches.
“We talked about having to finish, and we had a pretty good day until that final round,” Williams said. “Some of them we just wrestled some really tough kids, but lost some we shouldn’t have lost. it doesn’t leave you with the best feeling but overall it was a pretty good day.”
Where Prairie stumbled Alburnett flourished. The Pirates won all but one of its seven championship bouts, including five by fall.
Alburnett state champion Hunter Washburn kicked off the pin parade with a first-period fall for the 113-pound title. Freshman Conner Shulista needed just 33 seconds to end the 132-pound championship match. The Pirates Colton Martin had a fall in 1:25. Dylan Windfield (160) was the Pirates final champion, giving up a takedown before reversing Osage’s Colin Barker to his back for the pin in 1:22.
“That was fun to go through,” Alburnett Coach Kane Thompson said. “You expect finals to be six-minute battles … they all put the hammer down and got some falls.”
Alburnett’s Zach Fowler, ranked fifth in 1A, took a 4-3 lead over Prairie’s 3A No. 8 Sam Uthoff with a reversal and rode him the rest of the second period and the entire third for the win at 106.
Senior Grant Henderson had a 16-0 lead and technical fall in hand when he stuck Prairie’s Jamie Day for the 152-pound championship. Henderson, a returning state place winner ranked third in 1A, is off to a strong start. He has been powered by hard work, concentrating solely on wrestling.
“I spent a lot of time in the offseason,” Henderson said. “I practiced basically everyday. I’ll get extra workouts in whenever I can.”
The Pirates are top-ranked in 1A and are coming off three straight third-place finishes at the state tournament. Henderson said the Pirates push each other to be better, and they try to perform than one another.
“When I look at their matches that fuels me,” Henderson said. “You kind of feed off it.”
Independence’s Kyle Fank handed Alburnett its only finals loss, capturing one of two titles for the host Mustangs.
Fank battled back from a 7-1 deficit in the second period to win the 170-pound title. Fank pinned Zach Hoyle in 4:50. Fank’s best finish in this tournament was second last year.
“It feels great,” Fank said about winning his school’s tournament. “I have bigger goals than this, but it’s a good thing.”
Fank was thrown to his back toward the end of the opening period, but closed within 7-6 with a takedown in the second and third and a second-period escape.
He was worried briefly and kept his composure.
“I kept going and going and I finally broke the kid,” Fank said. “I just had to stay focused and keep going hard.”
Independence’s Chase Straw, ranked fifth in 2A, won the 145-pound title, with an 11-5 win over Prairie’s Trey Blaha, ranked fifth at 138.