LYNX FAB 5: Powers, Larson, Fielder, Dinsdale and Johnson bound for state
FORT DODGE – Years of watching state championship celebrations put the idea in Landon Johnson’s head, and when his chance came he wasn’t about to ignore his impulse.
Tipping the scale at 252 pounds and dripping in sweat, Johnson, a Webster City senior, sprinted the 10 steps towards head coach Ted Larson – all 170 pounds of him – and jumped into his arms following the Lynx grappler’s win in the gold-medal match at heavyweight during Saturday’s Class 3A District 3 meet inside the Fort Dodge Senior High gymnasium.
All sorts of things could have gone wrong, namely the crushing of his coach. But Johnson’s theory was simple: what the heck.
“This was a big deal, so I figured I’d give it a try,” Johnson said with a chuckle. “I could tell he was a little shocked; he didn’t expect that one.”
Larson hung on for dear life; he wasn’t about to become a punch line.
“No, it didn’t scare me,” he said. “It was great, but I was wondering if I was going to stay on my feet though.”
Celebrations were plenty in the Webster City huddle, as the Lynx won a district-best four individual championships and sent five wrestlers on to this week’s traditional state meet in Des Moines.
Jake Powers (145 pounds), third-ranked Connor Larson (160) and third-ranked Dylan Fielder (182) – all juniors – joined Johnson at the top of the podium. Freshman Gavin Dinsdale (220) punched his ticket with a runner-up showing.
WCHS finished fourth in the team race with 172 points. Fort Dodge secured the crown with 204.5 on the strength of five qualifiers. Mason City (182.5) and Algona (182) pushed through eight and seven individuals, respectively, and fell in line behind the Dodgers.
Johnson (32-8) notched an escape and takedown in the second period to move past Andrew Overton of Denison-Schleswig, 3-0, and earn his first state berth.
“This means a lot to me because it’s my last year,” Johnson said. “I just knew I had to come out and wrestle my best. I knew I could beat anyone out there.”
Powers, Connor Larson and Dinsdale will all be state rookies as well.
Connor Larson (33-5) provided a shot of adrenaline to the Lynx camp in his wild, yet short title bout against No. 5-ranked Andrew Bartel of Mason City.
After giving up an early takedown, Larson felt Bartel working on a two-on-one tilt, and that played right into his hands. Larson rolled through on the tilt, caught Bartel in a headlock and flipped him to his back.
Twenty seconds of squeezing later Larson secured the fall with just six-tenths of a second remaining in the first period.
“My arms were pretty tired from squeezing the whole time, so I definitely wanted to end it there,” Connor Larson said.
It was a mixture of excitement and relief for the veteran who twice before failed to get out of districts.
“I wasn’t here to talk to anybody, I just wanted to wrestle and get it done with,” Connor Larson said. “I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself to get there, so this took a lot of pressure off. Now I can go to state and just wrestle the way I want.”
Powers (30-10) was seemingly in control of his title match against Algona’s Austin Long throughout, yet needed a takedown in sudden victory to prevail, 10-8. Powers notched four of the five takedowns in the match, but Long never made it easy.
Powers adds to his own family’s history; older brother Joey was a state qualifier for the Lynx in 2011.
“This is awesome for Jake,” Ted Larson said. “As a junior punching a ticket to state, that’s a big deal.”
Dinsdale was unable to penetrate the defense of Boone’s Mason Frost in a 5-2 championship loss, but a convincing 4-1 semifinal win over bronze medalist Kyle Johnson of Fort Dodge ensured he would advance.
Dinsdale (14-9) is one of only two freshmen in the 16-man state bracket. Only three first-year wrestlers qualified at the two heaviest weights.
“A freshman making it at 220, that’s huge,” Ted Larson said. “Yeah, he’s mad he lost that match, but I’m glad he’s mad. That’s what we need.”
Fielder (36-2) took the been-there-done-that approach all day, as the now three-time state qualifier blitzed his bracket with a pair of falls and an 11-4 decision over Algona’s Tyler Frideres in the finals. The only points he allowed on the day were on escapes.
Fielder – a sixth-place state medal winner at 182 in 2A last winter – says Saturday was simply a stepping stone.
“It’s a good feeling to get to state, but the main goal is to get back on that (state) podium and see if I can get higher,” he said. “The goal is to get on the top of that podium, so hopefully I can put on a show.”
WCHS had several near misses as well; sophomore Freddie Seeley (113) and junior Alex Oswald (152) both lost wrestleback matches.
Seeley fell for the third time to Fort Dodge’s Cole Detmering, 12-4, and Oswald surrendered a 4-2 lead in the last two minutes of a 5-4 setback against Algona’s West Shaw.
Trailing 4-3, Shaw hit a single-leg takedown with 1:13 left in the third period and was able to ride out Oswald.
Ted Larson shared the pain of Seeley, Oswald and the rest of his wrestlers that failed to qualify.
“The kids that didn’t make it and the 42 kids that we’ve got on the roster this year, the commitment they’ve put into this is so appreciated,” he said. “It’s always bittersweet to see kids fall short, but I don’t want them to lose that taste in their mouths.”
The 3A opening round from Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines will begin at 2 p.m. on Thursday.