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Posted January 22, 2014
Kennedy’s Rodriguez finds success with new approach

Cedar Rapids Kennedy sophomore Logen Rodriguez works to turn Hunter Grau, of Geneseo (Ill.) High School, during the 126-pound championship of the Geneseo Invitational on Saturday, Jan. 18. Rodriguez pinned Grau in 4:33. (Audrey Clarke, Kennedy wrestling)

CEDAR RAPIDS – Success can be a case of mind over matter.

For Cedar Rapids Kennedy’s Logen Rodriguez, more success came when he emptied his mind of the things that didn’t matter. The Cougars have seen a more relaxed, confident and effective competitor

“I started clearing my mind before matches,” Rodriguez said. “I try to find something, like listen to music, to clear my head and almost get it off of wrestling until I get on the mat.”

Rodriguez has been impressive since the holiday break, posting a 10-2 mark in January, and pinned his way to the 126-pound title at Saturday’s Geneseo (Ill.) Invitational. He has turned a corner, improving to 19-5 overall this season.

“Recently, he has really opened up,” Kennedy Coach Dennis Hynek said. “He’s having a lot more fun with wrestling and hasn’t put as much pressure on himself.”

The key was keeping it simple. Rodriguez had to silence thoughts concerned with rankings, opponents and events around the mat, listening to tunes with an easy flow before matches. He found himself thinking too much during bouts, so the task was to trust his natural instincts and rely on his mat sense.

“I’m figuring out how I need to wrestle,” Rodriguez said. “I almost don’t think when I go out on the mat and go after it.”

Hynek said Rodriguez has developed his fundamentals to go along with the change in mentality. Rodriguez, who has a background in Judo, has avoided rolling on the mat too much and forcing various moves.

“He’s worked really hard on his basic positioning,” Hynek said. “He’s really bought in and worked really hard. I give him a ton of credit, because he’s drilling extremely hard in practice.”

The Kennedy sophomore has had a flair for the fall and this recent stretch has proven it. Before pinning his way through the Geneseo field, Rodriguez pinned his way to the finals of the Jack Mendenhall Invitational in Ames on Jan. 11. His new approach has created more opportunities.

“I’ve always been able to hit those big moves,” Rodriguez said. “Once I see something open up, I hit it and don’t think about it or what the outcome could be for him or me.”

The postseason is just a few weeks away, but Hynek wants to keep Rodriguez in the moment. Set your sights on the step immediately in front to avoid stumbling over it while looking too far ahead. The goals are set for the short term and they can lead to long-term achievements.

“Focus on the process and what you can control,” Hynek said. “Put the blinders on, don’t worry about who you are wrestling, focus on what you do and perform at your best level every match.”

Rodriguez can’t help but think about peaking for the postseason. He will try to earn his first state berth, finishing third in district last year as a freshman.

“I’m really feeling good right now,” said Rodriguez, who had more than 20 wins last year despite battling injury. “I’m feeling confident in my moves and mindset. I’ve worked hard all year for February, so I’m hoping to make some big things happen.”

Tests for West

Iowa City West will prepare for a top-10 test Thursday after having already passing one Tuesday. The Class 3A seventh-ranked Trojans dropped No. 5 Linn-Mar, 43-23, on Tuesday and host No. 4 Cedar Rapids Prairie in a Mississippi Valley Conference double dual tonight that will include Cedar Falls.

West improved to 17-6 and 8-1 in the Mississippi Valley Conference with wins over the Lions and host Dubuque Wahlert (43-21).

The Trojans are ranked sixth in the latest tournament rankings by The Predicament. West has six wrestlers ranked in the top-10 of their respective weights, including second-ranked Chris Walters (126), No. 4 113-pounder Tanner Rohweder, who was a state medalist for West Des Moines Dowling last season and Micah Kelsay, ranked fifth at 195.

Stacked bracket

The 120-pound bracket of last weekend’s Ed Hadenfeldt Invitational at Solon contained four of the state’s top wrestlers in Classes 2A and 1A.

Washington’s state champion and 2A top-ranked Fletcher Green remained unbeaten this season, beating Solon’s No. 8 Louis Gnida, 8-3, in the finals. Gnida was a 2013 state qualifier.

Green advanced to the championship with a 5-1 semifinal victory over Lisbon’s Nick Williams, ranked third in 1A. Gnida rode West Liberty’s 2A No. 4 Elliot Henderson for the win in the final 30-second ultimate tiebreaker. Henderson placed eighth at last year’s state tournament at 120.

Williams finished third, beating Henderson, 7-3, in the first tiebreaker.

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