DES MOINES -- Winning wrestlers have something internally and externally that drives them to greatness.
Michael Blockhus has always had a fire inside him that has burned hot. That fire has taken him to three state finals appearances and two state titles.
As the New Hampton/Turkey Valley senior and Northern Iowa recruit prepares to make a run to become one of Iowa's elite three-time state champions beginning Thursday inside Wells Fargo Arena, he also has an external spark.
Blockhus wants to help the Chickasaws, who have a 2A-best nine qualifiers, chase State Duals and state traditional championships.
He'll also be wrestling for Logan Luft.
"You have a lot of things that will drive you," Blockhus said. "The tragedy of Logan Luft impacted me a lot. That is just a big thing to keep me going, helping him living on through me and my wrestling career and helping his family."
Luft was destined to be the next big star at Charles City, one of New Hampton's biggest rivals, when the 15-year old freshman-to-be tragically lost his life in an ATV accident on July 4 last summer.
Luft's dream was to be a state champion. Blockhus made his dream a reality by donating his two state championship medals to the Luft family to be buried with Logan, with whom he was teammates at Immortal Athletics Wrestling Club in Waverly.
"He is a special kid. That is who he is to the core," New Hampton/Turkey Valley head coach Nick Hemann said.
On the mat, Blockhus' competitive fire has always burned bright.
In addition to Fort Dodge's Brody Teske and Underwood's Alex Thomsen, who are in line to become Iowa's 26th and 27th four-time state champions, Blockhus is one of three wrestlers going for their third state championship this week, joining Waukee's Kyle Biscoglia and Nelson Brands of Iowa City West.
Additionally, Blockhus, who lost in the 120-pound state finals as a sophomore, could become the 58th four-time finalist (Teske and Thomsen would make that 60) in state history.
"He is on another level right now," Hemann said of Blockhus.
"My focus is on getting sharp and crisp with everything on the mat," Blockhus added. "I'm looking to be the best Michael Blockhus I can be.
"What motivates me? Logan Luft. Family. It's ending on three state titles instead of two. All that adds up to one big thing that is my motivational tool. It keeps me going, doing it all for them."
Forte Baratta's Restaurant at 615 3rd St. in Des Moines will be the site of a tribute in Luft's honor by Donate Life Thursday from 4-6 p.m. Tickets are $25 and include a pasta bar meal and one complimentary refreshment. More information is available at iawrestle.com or on Facebook.
CLASHING FOR CROWNS: In Class 1A, Don Bosco of Gilbertville and Denver figure to be two primary contenders for the same title.
The Dons and Cyclones each have nine qualifiers, as does Lisbon.
Don Bosco head coach Tom Hogan and Denver coach Chris Krueger say the path to team gold won't be easy.
"We need to go out and be the bad draw," Krueger said. "We think our schedule has us prepared to take on anything. It's the same mentality, give it your all for six minutes and hopefully get your hand raised."
Eight of the Cyclones' nine qualifiers are ranked -- Brooks Meyer (7th-106), Jacob Moore (4th-113), Isaac Schimmels (7th-120), Gabe Lewis (4th-132), Riley Wright (2nd-138), Caleb Wilson (2nd-152), Cael Krueger (4th-170) and Brock Farley (4th-285).
Seven of Don Bosco's nine qualifiers are ranked -- Daniel Kimball (3rd-106), Cael Frost (10th-120), Easton Larson (3rd-126), Max Wettengel (7th-132), Gable Fox (1st-138), Austin Hellman (4th-160) and Thomas Even (9th-170).
"The beauty of this thing is you have to beat the guy who is in front of you," Hogan said. "There are tough matches ahead of us, but so does everybody else. All these wrestlers have earned their way to state so you can't be looking for an easy match when you get there."
Denver and Don Bosco have one head-to-head first-round match -- Hellman and John Ebaugh at 160.
GETTING IT DONE: First-year Cedar Falls head coach Michael Kelly and his staff have the Tigers' program pointed in the right direction.
Cedar Falls qualified six wrestlers -- state tournament veterans Jakey Penrith (113) and Tanner Doyle (160) -- as well as first timers Bailey Roybal (106), Jackson Barth (120), Christian Simpson (138) and Justin Campbell (285).
The six qualifiers are the most for the Tigers since 2006 when they sent nine, and one more than 2008 when Kelly was a sophomore on a team that had five qualifiers who all reached the podium -- Kevin Hancock, David Weidenbacher, Jesse Froehner, Kelly and Aidan Brock.
"At the beginning of the year, you just know your guys," said Kelly. "I knew they were motivated, fired up and wanted to get better. I'm happy with six. They went out and wrestled at a level capable of getting themselves to the state tournament. It was a great day."
METRO EXTENDED: Longtime 3A contender Waverly-Shell Rock qualified six wrestlers, including two returning placewinners -- Dylan Albrecht at 120 and Evan Yant at 126. Dalton Woodyard at 145 and Bryson Hervol at 160 are also returning qualifiers.
Waterloo East's Tyrell Gordon will be one of the favorites at 195. Gordon was fourth at 182 last year.
Waterloo West freshman Kaden Karns qualified at 113 with a 35-11 record.