DES MOINES — You pin, I pin. You win, I win.
That mantra was never more true than last February when Waverly-Shell Rock rode a wave of momentum on day one of the 2019 traditional state wrestling tournament en route to its sixth Class 3A state title.
On that day, W-SR got three pins and a technical fall from its first four wrestlers to take the mat as part of a first round that saw the Go-Hawks record six bonus-point wins.
With the target of defending state champion on its back, Waverly-Shell Rock figures to need a similar performance to beat perennial power Southeast Polk and a strong Fort Dodge team.
The Rams, ranked No. 22 nationally by Intermat, lead Class 3A with 13 qualifiers, while the Dodgers have 11. The Go-Hawks and Bettendorf each have 10.
Waverly-Shell Rock believes it has the right catalysts in place to create early momentum.
Freshman Ryder Block and South Dakota State commit Bailey Roybal, a junior, are perhaps the best 1-2 punch at 106 and 113 pounds in the state. They are a combined 72-1 this winter with 49 bonus-point wins, including 36 pins.
“I feed off his emotion and his wins,” Roybal said. “We like to have fun. We have fun matches. The team gets excited and then the wins just come.”
“I’m going out there for my partner, Bailey Roybal,” Block adds. “I do it because I know he will be doing his part and that kind of gets the ball rolling for us.”
Block and Roybal have been nearly inseparable. In the offseason, both train at Sebolt Wrestling Academy where they are frequent training partners. And since the high school regular season started in November, they’ve sharpened each other on a daily basis in the W-SR wrestling room.
“I spend almost every day of the week with him,” Roybal said.
“I don’t know if I’d be where I’m at if I didn’t have him pushing me every day in practice,” Block added. “He will tell me to pick it up if he thinks I’m lagging.”
Go-Hawks head coach Eric Whitcome said the two have been good at raising each other’s level.
“Obviously, Ryder has had a ton of success growing up, but it is good having your friend, mentor there pushing you every step of the way,” Whitcome said. “That has been really positive for those guys. They have fed off each other.”
While Block and Roybal have been frequent catalysts for the Go-Hawks, they aren’t the only igniters in the lineup.
Of W-SR’s 10 state qualifiers, six have state tournament experience and four were on the podium last season – Aiden Riggins (third at 106 as a freshman), Roybal (fifth at 113), Evan Yant (fourth at 132) and Brayden Wolf (second at 195).
“Whether it has been Ryder or Bailey or another couple of guys, our guys feed off each other,” Whitcome said. “That is what makes it fun and that is part of the reason we have success is they know they’ve got a bunch of guys that have their backs.”
Cedar Falls qualified three wrestlers in Jackson Barth, Dylan Whitt and Collin Bohnenkamp. Bohnenkamp was eighth at 220 last year, but qualified at 195.
Waterloo West’s Kaden Karns is qualified for the second time. The Wahawk junior is seeded fourth at 120.
Defending champion West Delaware is the favorite on paper.
The Hawks’ 12 qualifiers are four more than Sergeant Bluff-Luton, which has the second-most. Osage and Solon each have six, and Union of La Porte City is one of three teams with five.
The Knights were fourth a year ago and feel they have the firepower to compete for a team trophy this week.
Leading the charge for Union will be defending state champion Jack Thomsen at 145. The South Dakota State recruit survived a district scare where he lost by defensive pin in his opening match, but was able to wrestle back and qualify.
“I’ve just got to focus on this year,” Thomsen said of his quest to win his second title.
Union also returns state runner-up Adam Ahrendsen, who is the top seed at 160, while Kolten Crawford was fifth at 113. The Knights’ other two qualifiers – Lake Lebahn and Stone Schmitz – are returning qualifiers.
“Our guys have some expectations, but it is one day at a time,” Union coach Bart Mehlert said.
Among other 2A wrestlers to watch are defending 106-pound champion Carter Fousek of Crestwood. He is top-seeded at 113.
“Carter is special young man who is fun to watch,” Cadets head coach Keith Slifka said. “He has worked really hard and spent a lot of time on the mat. He’s really focused, driven and highly skilled. He is a confident kid who has great mat awareness.”
Independence’s Isaiah Weber, second at 113 last year as a freshman, is the top seed at 126.
Columbus Catholic junior Sam Hackett qualified at 132.
A year ago, Don Bosco of Gilbertville racked up 151 points while winning its 11th traditional state title. It was the most points scored by a championship-winning 1A school since the Dons set the tournament mark of 194 in 2009.
Don Bosco has qualified a 1A-best 10 wrestlers, and that group has the potential to score more points than a year ago as all 10 are seeded fifth or better.
Three Dons are seeded first – Cael Rahnavardi at 145, Cade Tenold at 160 and Thomas Even at 182. Two others are seeded second – Cael Frost at 132 and Carson Tenold at 170.
Even and Carson Tenold were state runner-ups at 182 and 160 last year, while Michael McClelland (sixth at 126), Easton Larson (fourth at 132), Frost (fifth at 138), Rahnavardi (fourth at 170) and Cade Tenold (fourth at 152) all reached the podium during that championship run.
“We have a lot of confidence in those 10 kids that they can score some big points for us,” Don Bosco head coach Tom Hogan said. “All 10 guys are seeded in the top five. Seeds are not going to win you the tournament, but if you wrestle at or above your seed, that is going to be a lot of points.”
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