CHAMPS: PART III: Lynx send seniors out with 3rd NCC title

FORT DODGE – Jacob Powers couldn’t stomach the idea of spending the rest of his life listening to his older brother Joey brag, and so he went out and did something about it.

And now Joey has to tip his flat-billed cap to little bro and say one thing: Welcome to the club, kid.

After surviving two grueling matches that went down to the wire in the semifinals and finals, senior Jacob Powers sprinted into the arms of Webster City head coach Ted Larson before the referee could even raise his hand on Saturday at the 47th North Central Conference tournament inside Hodges Fieldhouse on the campus of Iowa Central Community College.

A wild 9-5 victory over Clarion-Goldfield’s Brady Brott gave Jacob Powers the 145-pound championship and brought him even with his older brother, who picked up the 152 crown in a Lynx uniform in 2012.

“I had a bet with my brother that I could do it … now we have to wrestle to see who’s better,” Jacob Powers said. “Since my freshman year I’ve wanted to get the chance to win conference, so this feels good.”

Powers and eighth-ranked (Class 2A) senior 160-pounder Alex Oswald took home the cardboard brackets, as they led No. 7-ranked WCHS to its third team championship in four years and fifth overall league title. The Lynx placed all 14 wrestlers in the top six and a tournament-best 10 in the top three to pile up 203 points and fend off runner-up and No. 3 (1A) Clarion-Goldfield (198) by five points.

“This is big because we knew coming into this that there were going to be a lot of tight matches and there were,” Larson said after WCHS placed in the top two for the fifth time in six years. “The thing I’m most proud of is we were consistent and that’s what it’s all about.”

Billed as a return to the glory days with four heavy hitters, WCHS and Clarion-Goldfield pulled away from No. 4 (2A) Clear Lake (171 points) and 2013 NCC champion Humboldt (164) midway through the day and battled for every point down the stretch.

The Cowboys led 164-151 after the semifinal round, but a solid consolation semifinal round by the Lynx – they won five matches, four by fall – put them in the driver’s seat for good.

Clarion-Goldfield and Clear Lake both won three individual crowns and the Cowboys also placed all 14 grapplers, but lagged behind the Lynx with three fewer medal winners.

“This says a lot about what our guys have in them,” Oswald, who became just the 13th WCHS wrestler to ever win multiple league titles, said. “This shows we’re taking the right steps and we’re doing the right things.”

The Lynx went just 2-4 in championship matches – Tanner Hild (152), sixth-ranked Connor Larson (170), Brandon Patten (182) and second-ranked Dylan Fielder (195) were all second – but plenty of support on the backside of the draw kept the team out front. Freddie Seeley (120), Ryan Ferrari (138), Gus Gasca (220) and third-ranked Gavin Dinsdale (285) all placed third, while Derick Khaleck (106) and Cole Nokes (113) won their fifth-place matches.

Gage Sadler (132) took fourth; Ty Schnathorst (126) was sixth.

“You look at our lighter weights, some of them have been struggling, but they fought all day and that says a lot about how hard they’re working,” Oswald said.

Oswald, a surprise champion a season ago, was methodically dominant on his way back to the top step. A pin and major decision set him up to dismantle Algona’s Josh Strohman, 10-4, in the finals. Oswald never trailed during the tournament.

“I was really comfortable and really focused, and the biggest thing was to come out here and dominate,” Oswald said. “Winning the title is great and it’s a good stepping stone, but now I need to get sectional and district titles. I’ve just got to keep rolling.”

Ted Larson had no complaints with his two champions.

“Anytime you can win a conference title when it’s as tough as this, that’s pretty good,” he said. “Both Jake and Alex had really good days. Jake sucked it up in some tough matches and Ozzie was really dominant.”

Connor Larson’s bid to become just the seventh four-time NCC champion and the first to do it in a WCHS singlet was derailed by fifth-ranked Nikko Wheeler of Humboldt. Leading 1-0 and riding near the edge of the mat, Larson got too high with his hips and allowed Wheeler to sneak out the back for a reversal with just 10 seconds left for a 2-1 decision.

Connor Larson is one of only three Lynx wrestlers to ever claim three league crowns, but that meant absolutely nothing to him afterwards; maybe in a few weeks or months, but not now.

“Winning four is what I wanted, so it’s tough,” Connor Larson said. “But I’ll get (Wheeler). I’ll get my chance at sectionals and districts.”

Fielder suffered a 7-5 loss to fourth-ranked Reed Dreyer of Humboldt in a battle of returning champions. After fighting back to tie the match at 5 in the final minute, Fielder got caught out of position on a shot and Dreyer flew around for the winning takedown with 40 seconds remaining.

“Obviously it sucked … I wanted to win conference, but we’re going to wrestle maybe three or four more times this year,” Fielder, who is now 2-1 against Dreyer this season, said. “I know what he’s going to do and he knows what I’m doing. It’s just whoever can pull out the takedown in that match.”

Hild, who now sits on 96 career victories, claimed his second NCC silver medal following a 4-1 loss to two-time champ Korey Kuecker of Algona. Patten fell to second-ranked (2A) Joe Teague of Algona in the NCC gold-medal round for the second consecutive year, this time by an 8-0 count.

“With Tanner and Brandon, the important thing is we wrestled both of those guys a lot better (than in the past),” Ted Larson said. “So we’ll keep working.”

St. Edmond also claimed a pair of individual titles courtesy of top-ranked (1A) Kaden McClintock (120) and second-ranked Vinnie Harvey (220). McClintock became the sixth individual to win four crowns.

NCC Tournament Notebook: Webster City remains in sixth on the all-time leaderboard for team titles, but the Lynx now trail Iowa Falls-Alden (six) by just one. Eagle Grove sits at the top with 10 … Speaking of the Eagles, they were unable to participate in the league tournament on Saturday because of a skin condition and various injuries that hit the team. It was unfortunate, as Eagle Grove – one of the state’s premier programs, regardless of class, for decades – will leave the NCC in July for the North Iowa Conference … Humboldt’s two individual titles gives the program a conference-best 99. The Wildcats are holding off Algona (97); Eagle Grove (95) and Clear Lake (78) follow. Webster City (71) is fifth … Humboldt has now claimed at least one individual gold medal in 26 straight NCC tournaments. The last time the Wildcats went home empty-handed was 1988 … Clear Lake was last blanked on the championship round in 1993, a span of 21 tournaments. No other NCC school has a streak of success that surpasses five years.