DES MOINES — Colter Bye’s memory of the moment is vivid.
The Crestwood senior wrestler has been to Wells Fargo Arena before as part of the state wrestling championships. It was just a year ago, and Bye took seventh as a junior at 160 pounds in Class 2A.
But Wednesday at 9 a.m., Bye is going to toe the line at Wells Fargo with 27 brothers behind him.
Despite all the rich wrestling history in Cresco, which includes seven state traditional team titles, five runner-up finishes and 66 individual state champions (second only to Waterloo West’s 89), Crestwood had never qualified for the State Duals since its inception in 1987.
That all changed last Wednesday when the Cadets edged Union of La Porte City, 36-29, in the regional finals.
“It was unreal. I don’t think we knew how to react at first,” Bye said. “Us seniors, for four years all the talk has been about making it to the State Duals.
“It’s huge. It was awesome to be part of doing it.”
Crestwood had lost in the regional finals each of the past three seasons — to West Delaware (2018), to Denver-Tripoli (2017) and to New Hampton (2016) — and has lost in regional finals four times in the past five seasons.
“We had been so close all four years, right there,” added Cadets senior Kaden Anderlik. “It was good to come together as a team and break the ice.”
It is a big deal for longtime Crestwood coach Keith Slifka, enough so that he is taking all 28 members of his team to Des Moines this week where the Cadets are seeded fifth and will face nine-time State Duals champion Davenport Assumption in a first-round match.
“We’ve had really, really strong teams over the years and just couldn’t get it done,” Slifka said. “The kids are excited. It all came together this year for them.
“We’re actually taking 28 wrestlers because the whole team has been involved with this. Almost every kid has stepped into the varsity lineup this year at some point. Team aspect is what we have emphasized all year, and every kid is important from the starter to the second or third guy deep.”
Crestwood is one of five area teams that will be competing at the State Duals.
Independence is also in the 2A field and will face second-seeded Solon.
In Class 3A, Waverly-Shell Rock is seeded second. The Go-Hawks have won four State Duals titles, but haven’t won since 2010.
Waverly-Shell Rock will face West Des Moines Valley, a team it beat 41-22 at the Battle of Waterloo in December, in its opener.
“They have risen to the occasion all year long and I don’t know what at this point would make it any different,” W-SR head coach Eric Whitcome said of his team. “We have to show up for every dual. We will be tested every step of the way.”
In Class 1A, all signs are pointing to a state championship rematch.
Defending champion Don Bosco of Gilbertville won its ninth title last year with a 38-27 win over Denver.
The Dons and Cyclones enter the State Duals as the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, respectively.
Don Bosco will Missouri Valley in its opener, while Denver takes on Logan-Magnolia. The Dons and Cyclones met early in the season, with Don Bosco beating Denver, 48-22, on Dec. 6.
Don Bosco head coach Tom Hogan said his team would like nothing more than to become the first program in state history to win 10 State Duals championships, but the message to the team leading up to Wednesday was to avoid putting the cart in front of the horse
“We had an open room today (Sunday), and we talked to the kids, saying first things first,” Hogan said. “Missouri Valley is first, and we’ve got to show up at that point before anything else.”
Wednesday will be the Dons’ 24th State Duals appearance, most in state history. Davenport Assumption is second with 20.
“We are kind of a young team this year, but I think whether it is freshmen, seniors, juniors or whatever, we are all ready to go and know what we are capable of doing,” Dons state champion Daniel Kimball said. “Every single guy is ready to go and compete hard in three duals. I’m excited and everyone else is excited.”