8: THAT’S PRETTY GREAT
STORY CITY – For two weeks – 14 frustratingly long and miserable days – Connor Larson had to live with the sting of a career-long goal being tossed in the dumpster.
Even though he shied away from the topic all season, the Webster City senior wanted to become the school’s first four-time North Central Conference wrestling champion. But when it didn’t happen, well, he seethed.
Saturday’s Class 2A sectional meet might not completely erase that bitter taste, but it was a dang good start.
“It was completely personal after conference, you bet it was,” Larson, ranked seventh at 170 pounds, said after he worked over fifth-ranked Nikko Wheeler of Humboldt – the very guy that denied him in the NCC final, 2-1 – by major decision, 13-4, in Saturday’s gold-medal round. “I lost that (NCC) match in the last 10 seconds and it made me mad.”
Larson’s journey to the top of the sectional podium was just a piece of a dominant day for the Lynx, who won half of the 14 titles and sent eight grapplers on to this weekend’s district tournament in Webster City.
WCHS piled up 232 points to secure the team championship, 13 points clear of runner-up Humboldt (219). Both qualified for Tuesday’s regional duals in Humboldt; the 11th-ranked Lynx will meet Perry while the Wildcats will battle Estherville-Lincoln Central in the semifinals at 6 p.m. The two semifinal winners will then square off for the right to advance to the state duals at 8 p.m.
WCHS trailed Humboldt and third-place finisher Ballard (207) for much of the day, but a statement finals round left no doubt. The Lynx won their first seven matches and went 7-1 overall.
Freddie Seeley (120), Jacob Powers (145), Tanner Hild (152), eighth-ranked Alex Oswald (160), Brandon Patten (182) and fourth-ranked Dylan Fielder (195) all joined Larson on the top step. Fourth-ranked Gavin Dinsdale (285) also advanced with a runner-up showing.
“We really wrestled well in that finals round,” WCHS head coach Ted Larson said. “We wrestled how I know we’re capable of wrestling and that’s what I feel good about.”
Connor Larson (37-7) imposed his will on Wheeler, who entered the day with a 2-1 advantage in head-to-head match-ups this season. A reversal and three-point near-fall late in the second period broke a 3-3 tie and Larson tacked on a second takedown and turned Wheeler for three more back points in the third period.
Fielder (37-2) also avenged an NCC finals loss to Humboldt’s third-ranked Reed Dreyer with an 8-5 finals win. Fielder went on the attack for six minutes and generated three takedowns in a match that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated.
“I just worked really hard on trying to find a new shot because we’re going to wrestle a bunch,” Fielder, who is 3-1 against Dreyer this season, said. “He knows I’ve got a double and I know he’s got a double, so I went with a different shot – the high crotch – and it worked.”
Seeley (30-16) was one of the day’s bigger surprises, as he stuck No. 2 seed Ethan Estabrooks of Ballard in the semifinals and then manhandled top-seed Zane Russell of Humboldt in the finals, 14-4. Seeley turned Russell multiple times and never found himself in trouble.
“I knew it was going to be tough, but the practice this week got us ready for this,” Seeley said. “Guys (like Russell) that I don’t wrestle as much don’t know what I do, so that helps.”
Powers (38-4) then started a streak of six consecutive championships for the Lynx with a methodical 9-3 thumping of Ballard’s Kenton Brekke. A pair of wins on the day put him within three of the single-season school record (41), currently owned by former Lynx state place winner Royce Nessa and it continued a personally surprising season for the Lynx senior.
“My goal for the year was more than 30 wins and less than 10 losses, so I’m doing pretty well on that,” Powers, a former state qualifier, said. “It’s been a little bit of a surprise.”
Hild (27-6) and Oswald (31-5) cruised to decision wins in the finals. Oswald needed a last-minute takedown in the semifinals to secure a 5-4 decision over Ballard’s Will May and that close call opened his eyes.
“I just got too worked up,” Oswald said of the semifinal bout. “I was able to fight through it … I just have to keep a level head and don’t let it happen again.”
Hild will make his second district appearance; he placed third as a sophomore and is determined not to fall short again.
“(Districts) is just going to be fun for me,” Hild said. “I’ve just got to keep calm and go out and do my thing.”
Patten (36-10) continued his season-long dominance over Humboldt’s Adam Mickelson with a fall in the closing seconds of the third period. Patten, 4-0 in the series this winter, led 10-1 before picking up Mickelson and showing him the lights. He said the team’s run of success leading up to his match paid dividends.
“We had the ball rolling and a lot of momentum,” he said. “Everyone in the finals had won already and I knew I had to keep it going.”
Dinsdale (36-8) lost for the first time in four meetings this season against fourth-ranked Dylan Hendricks of Humboldt in the finals, but he shrugged it off and flattened Ballard’s Easton Moody in 2:24 in the wrestleback round.
While there were plenty of smiles in the Lynx camp afterwards, there were still enough disappointed grapplers to keep Ted Larson from celebrating too much.
Cole Nokes (113) and Gus Gasca (220) both fell a rung short and settled for third. Ty Schnathorst (126) was fourth, and Gage Sadler (132) and Ryan Ferrari (138) placed fifth.
“This is always bittersweet because there are people that make it (to districts) and people that don’t,” Ted Larson said. “But we’ll need everybody Tuesday … the team duals is important.”
Notebook: Connor Larson and Dylan Fielder moved closer to reaching Tyler Patten at the top of the school’s career wins list. Larson heads into the regional duals with 136 victories, one more than Fielder’s 135. Patten’s school record stands at 138 … WCHS and Humboldt both qualified eight wrestlers for districts. Ballard will send five, Gilbert four, Roland-Story two and Nevada one … One win in the regional duals would also give the Lynx a new school record for single-season victories. They share the mark of 21 currently.