With every takedown, every wind sprint and every pushup, Sawyer Amling drives a little harder.
He is powered by the feat that he has yet to accomplish, which is the same one that escaped him a year ago. After reaching the state semifinals last season and finishing third, Amling has his sights solely fixed on a state title.
The Edgewood-Colesburg junior begins his trek Saturday with an Iowa High School Athletic Association Class 1A sectional tournament at Arlington hosted by Starmont. Wrestlers across the state in 1A and 2A will compete in sectionals, beginning at noon, with the top two at each weight advancing to next weekend’s districts. The top two teams move on to regional duals next week.
Amling lost to eventual state champion Andrew Foutch, of Underwood, in the 126-pound state semifinals. He has pushed himself harder, drawing motivation from how last season ended.
“You got to think about it,” Amling said. “You have to improve from it. You don’t want to finish in the same spot you did last year.”
Amling realized how close he was to a title. He pinned his way to third, following the loss and improving his seventh-place performance as a freshman. He opened with a pin and technical fall, and held a 4-2 lead over Foutch late in their match. Foutch reversed Amling to his back for five points and then dominated his way to a major decision win in the finals.
“I was mad because I had him beat,” said Amling, who was 26-1 last year and has reach 80 career wins. “I knew I was there. I knew I had the opportunity.”
He became more determined to take that next step. Amling said he benefits from offseason training with state champions and other ranked wrestlers at DC Elite, a local wrestling club run by former Cedar Rapids Prairie state champion and University of Wisconsin NCAA qualifier Dusty Coufal. Effort and work is the only way to reach a higher step at the state podium.
“You have to get good workouts in and train all the time,” Amling said. “You have to push yourself to the next level.”
Amling is ranked second behind Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont junior Jeren Glosser at 138. He improved to 22-1 after pinning his way to an Upper Iowa Conference title last weekend. He has not lost to a 1A opponent this season. He is prepared to compete on a Saturday night at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, but it is more all or nothing.
“You have to. That’s all I’m going to go down there for,” Amling said about a state title. “I’m feeling good. I’m ready to go.”
Lisbon hosts a 1A sectional featuring two top-10 teams. The host Lions are ranked ninth and Highland is fourth. West Branch has as many ranked wrestlers (3) as both. English Valleys, Iowa City Regina, Lone Tree, Midland and North Cedar round out the field.
Lisbon nearly knocked off top-ranked Alburnett in its first Tri-Rivers Conference appearance last weekend. The Lions competed in regional duals last season.
“Our lineup is solidified right now,” Lisbon Coach Brad Smith said. “It says a lot for our program from where we were at last year until right now.”
The field includes 16 ranked wrestlers, including Highland’s top-ranked Drew and Bryce West at 106 and 113, respectively, returning state champion and Lisbon’s top-ranked 132-pounder Carter Happel. Highland’s Travis Cole is third at 138 and West Branch’s Casey Pence is third at 160. English Valley’s Sheldon Ealy is rated fourth at 120.
“Some pretty good kids are probably going to stay home,” Smith said. “There are some pretty good wrestlers in our area.”
Other 1A host sites include BGM in Brooklyn, Hudson, Maquoketa Valley in Delhi, Nashua-Plainfield and New London.
In 2A, Crestwood, Independence, Mount Vernon, Union Community in La Porte City, Washington (Iowa) and West Delaware in Manchester will host sectional meets Saturday.