DES MOINES — Five years ago, Eric Whitcome wrote a letter to a bunch of eighth graders.
In summary, that letter said if they stuck together and bought into the plan, they would someday win a state championship.
Saturday night, Go-Hawk seniors Dylan Albrecht, Ian Heise, Bryson Hervol, Jacob Herrmann and Andrew Snyder along with six other teammates hoisted a gold trophy above their heads.
With a consistent three-day performance, W-SR claimed its sixth Class 3A traditional state title and first since 2011 at Wells Fargo Arena.
“We took the loss in the Duals,” Albrecht said of losing to Southeast Polk in the State Duals championship final on Wednesday. “But we knew we could do it in the traditional tournament and we ended up being better.”
The letter was just an impetus.
Hours after finishing out of the race in the 2018 state championships, Go-Hawk coaches gathered their returning wrestlers in the W-SR wrestling room and laid out a plan to win in 2019.
The Go-Hawks bought in to a man.
“We worked on it all year, actually since last state tournament,” said junior Evan Yant, who finished fourth at 132. “That week we went into the room and the coaches read out what we needed to do to be state champs this year.
“We kept rolling and rolling and working and finally got it done.”
That task and execution of the plan was difficult. Southeast Polk, which finished second, returned 50 more state tournament points than W-SR.
But with nine medalists, including state champion Snyder at 285 and two runners-up, the Go-Hawks easily outdistanced Southeast Polk for the title, 157-123.
“We said we have to make up 50 points, and we have to score more than that,” Whitcome said. “So they knew the mission a year ago ... they stuck with it and it led to this.”
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Snyder used an escape and a stalling point on opponent Griffin Liddle of Bettendorf to claim a 2-1 state championship victory to cap the Go-Hawks’ victory.
The win came on the one-year anniversary of Snyder’s biggest fan, his Grandpa Max, passing away at the age of 74 after a courageous battle with cancer.
“For sure, for sure,” Snyder said. “I’m so happy. I’ve worked so frickin’ hard. I have been living that championship lifestyle for years and it finally paid off.
“It’s crazy. I love this. I’m so happy.”
W-SR’s first finalist, senior Jacob Herrmann, scored an escape to lead 1-0 early in the second period, but Southeast Polk’s Cade DeVos scored a takedown with 1:03 left in the second and held on for a 3-1 win at 160.
At 195, Southeast Polk’s top-ranked Gabe Christensen handed Brayden Wolf a 12-2 defeat.
In firm command of the lead after Friday night’s semifinals, W-SR wasted little time securing the title Saturday morning in the consolation semifinals.
Needing just 12 1/2 points to clinch, the Go-Hawks had four wrestlers on the mat when the first whistle was blown and posted three victories, including the clinching win, Yant’s last-second win over Caleb Helgeson of Johnston.
“We talked about it as a staff asking, are we going to be reserved or are we going to attack knowing we needed to score 12 1/2 points,” said Whitcome, who got a resounding answer to that question from his athletes.
In addition to the finalists, the Go-Hawks saw freshman Aiden Riggins finish third at 106, sophomore Bailey Roybal fifth at 113, Albrecht fourth at 126, Yant fourth at 132, Heise sixth at 138 and Hervol seventh at 160.
“It means the world,” Albrecht said of winning the team title. “We’ve been dreaming of a state title since we were five years old.”
Cedar Falls had three wrestlers reach the podium. Jakey Penrith earned his third state medal with a sixth at 113, while Dakota Southworth at 160 and Collin Bohnenkamp at 220 each finished eighth.
“I know everybody judges you about how you do at the end, but there are a lot of things behind the scenes that went well,” Tigers head coach Chris Ortner said following his first season. “I guess I didn’t know what to expect, but hopefully the kids in the program see that if you prepare then when you get down here you are going to be ready to go.”