Big kid, big stage: Dinsdale shucks age aside on ride to state

WEBSTER CITY – Gavin Dinsdale is a big kid; always has been. And while that may have been to his advantage on the playground, it never quite translated in the same way on the wrestling mat.

As a third grader, when he first took up the sport, he never got the chance to compete against kids his own age because, well, he was too big. It stayed that way through Dinsdale’s formative years and forced him to tie up with wrestlers that were older, sometimes by two or three years.

“When I was younger I always had to bump up,” Dinsdale, now a 15-year-old Webster City freshman, said. “Sometimes it was a little intimidating, it depended on the situation.”

His rookie season in the Lynx varsity lineup has had its share of intimidating moments as well, but not enough to stop the 220-pounder from qualifying for this week’s traditional state tournament. He and four teammates – Jake Powers (145), third-ranked Connor Larson (160), third-ranked Dylan Fielder (182) and Landon Johnson (285) – will jump into the fray Thursday afternoon when the Class 3A first round kicks off at 2 p.m. inside Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.

Dinsdale (14-9) missed the first half of the season with an injured leg, but since his insertion into the lineup in January he’s given the Lynx a stable force in the second heaviest weight class.

“A lot of times you see a big kid like Gavin have success in the youth programs, but then in high school everything catches up to them because other kids grow,” WCHS head coach Ted Larson said. “But Gavin has been able to stay at that competitive level and that’s quite an accomplishment. For him to come in here and do what he’s done as a freshman at 220, that’s really unbelievable.”

Dinsdale had a pretty good wrestling role model though; his dad, Brad Dinsdale, was a 1987 3A state runner-up at 185 pounds for WCHS.

“He’s the same way his dad, Brad, was through school,” Larson said. “Gavin is a big teddy bear until you make him mad, but I’m glad he’s got that fire inside.”

An underdog all season against upperclassmen, Dinsdale – one of only two freshmen in the 3A 220-pound bracket – will continue in that role when he opens up against second-ranked Kaleb Staack (39-6), a Waverly-Shell Rock junior, on Thursday.

“I’ll definitely have the butterflies,” Dinsdale said. “They’ll sink in (on Thursday) if they haven’t already.”

Powers and Connor Larson will also go to battle with ranked opponents in the first round; Powers (30-10) drew No. 8 Josh Davis (30-8) of Des Moines East, while Larson (33-5) – who enters state with 98 career victories – has one of the more intriguing match-ups in his bracket against No. 9 Dillion Chase (31-10) of Clinton.

Powers and Davis have never meant, but Ted Larson feels his junior 145-pounder is capable of pulling off the upset.

“We’ve heard that (Davis) is quick, but so is Jake, and Jake is good in scrambles, so I think it will play right into his style,” Ted Larson said. “Jake’s so excited he’s there, so everything he gets from here is just icing.”

Connor Larson’s potential path towards the finals is favorable. The top half of the 160 bracket features the Nos. 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 ranked individuals. Larson is the highest ranked wrestler on the bottom and is joined by Chase and No. 10 Mitchell Otto (39-6) of Sioux City East.

“We acknowledge that (No. 1-ranked Tim) Miklus (of Southeast Polk) and some of the other guys are on the other side of the bracket, but on the other hand, this Chase kid beat some good kids,” Ted Larson said. “Yeah, we know what’s next if we win that match, and we’re excited about that too.”

A win would likely set Connor Larson up to face Otto; the WCHS junior is 24-2 at 160 this season, and both losses came against Otto.

Fielder (36-2) – a 2A sixth-place medal winner at 182 a season ago – will be an overwhelming favorite in his opener against Drake Allen (28-11) of Cedar Rapids Jefferson. Also a junior, Fielder hasn’t shied away from his goal of winning gold Saturday night.

“I look for Dylan to have a good tournament, that’s what I’m after with all five of these guys,” Ted Larson said. “Dylan is so explosive and powerful, and he rises to bigger lights. He’s a gamer, always has been, and that’s a great thing to have.”

Fielder is also on the opposite side of the bracket of the two individuals ranked in front of him, but a second-round showdown with No. 4 Luke Sargent (32-6) of Southeast Polk looms.

“You can’t go in there over-confident, but you can see yourself at the top of the podium and that’s what we’re after,” Ted Larson said. “To be honest, we’re all aiming for the top of the podium because otherwise why go?”

Johnson (33-8), the only senior on the Lynx state roster, will tangle with Ryan Glenn (11-3) of Waukee. Glenn sat out because of injury when WCHS and Waukee met at the Dick Kennedy Duals in December.

“We’ve seen (Glenn) before, but I don’t know enough about him to know if we need to change anything with Landon,” Ted Larson said. “Landon’s tough; we think he’s going to be in a good place.”

A win would likely send Johnson into a quarterfinal match against top-ranked Pedro Gomez (33-3) of Marshalltown.