IT’S OUR TIME: Hild, Oswald, Seeley punch first tickets to state tourney

WEBSTER CITY – Back injury? What back injury?

The frustrating and, at times, debilitating ailment that sent Tanner Hild to the shelf for the second half of his junior season was nothing but a distant memory in front of a packed house at Saturday’s Class 2A district tournament inside the WCHS gymnasium.

The Webster City senior 152-pounder was too busy celebrating to give even a second’s worth of thought to the past. Besides, his back felt just fine; great, in fact.

“To go through what I went through last year and then to do this … it’s great,” Hild said after punching a ticket to the state tournament for the first time on the strength of a district championship. “I knew that this wouldn’t be easy and I knew I would need to dig down deep to win it and I did.”

Hild was one of five Lynx grapplers to navigate the choppy waters and find land with a berth in the state tournament. Eighth-ranked Alex Oswald (160) also will compete at state for the first time after winning gold; Freddie Seeley (120), Jacob Powers (145) and No. 4 Dylan Fielder (195) all advanced was runners-up.

It will be Seeley’s first trip to Des Moines as well. Powers will join the fray for the second time while Fielder is as veteran as they come; he’s just the third Lynx grappler ever to qualify four times.

“It’s awesome because this has been the goal the whole year,” Oswald said. “But it’s just the next step. I’ve made it to state and now I’ve got to place.”

Hild (31-6) had a flare for the dramatic on his way to the top of the podium. Trailing Algona’s Kory Kuecker 5-4 late in the title round, Hild hit a switch and jumped on top of Kuecker on the edge of the mat for the winning reversal with less than a second remaining.

It was Hild’s first win over Kuecker in three tries this season and the key was never letting the motor idle for even a second.

“(Assistant coach) Billy Bertran and I have been working on how to finish my shot once I get in there because (Kuecker) is such a good scrambler,” Hild said. “We watched tape and perfected that and that was the big difference.”

Oswald (34-5) broke open a 2-2 tie in the third period with an escape and takedown in a 5-3 finals win over ninth-ranked Beau Sorenson of Forest City. It came on the heels of a back-and-forth 9-7 semifinal win over Algona’s Josh Strohman.

“(Saturday) I was just so laid back. I went out there and let it all hang loose,” Oswald said after beating Sorenson for the second time this winter. “(Sorenson) is good on his feet, but he plays right into how I want to (wrestle).”

Fielder (40-3) was forced to injury default out of the championship round against No. 3 Reed Dreyer of Humboldt after doing damage to his ribs in a grueling 6-3 win over Algona’s Jeff Buchanan in the semifinals.

Fielder was in noticeable pain for much of the semifinal bout and had trouble breathing at times. Still, he managed to jump ahead to stay with an escape early in the third period and he later added a takedown.

“When I went to hit a switch I heard a pop and I felt it pop,” Fielder said. “It was bothering me the whole match and I just had to tough it out. It’s frustrating, but you can’t do anything about it so hopefully it gets better by Wednesday.”

WCHS head coach Ted Larson expressed concern over Fielder’s condition and said he won’t hesitate to keep him out of Wednesday’s state duals in order to give his two-time state place winner an extra day to recover before the traditional meet kicks off Thursday morning.

“We’ve got to get him healthy, that’s the most important thing,” Larson said. “I’m not going to wrestle him (on Wednesday) if he’s in too much pain.”

Seeley (33-19) needed to endure three matches before he could exhale. Following a 6-2 loss to No. 6 Ryan Schmalen of Clear Lake in the finals, Seeley had to beat Humboldt’s Zane Russell for the third time in a week to secure second. A two-point near-fall in the second period was all he needed to prevail 2-0.

“This is what we worked all year for, so I’m really excited,” Seeley said. “(Russell) definitely got a lot better and knew my stuff. It was hard to get my shots in on him.”

Powers (41-5) tied the single-season school record for wins with an 11-2 dismantling of Clear Lake’s Blake Kelso in the opening round. But his offense was held in check by Algona’s Austin Long in the title match and Long was able to prevail in the first tiebreaker, 6-5.

The match was knotted at 5 after 7 minutes. Long was able to escape from the bottom in the opening 30-second tiebreaker and then he kept Powers on the mat in the next 30-second period to earn the win – his first of the season over the WCHS senior.

“I’m happy I made it, but I wish I would have won so I could get a better draw at state,” Powers said. “I started out good in that finals match, but then I got in deep and couldn’t finish (shots) for some reason.”

Clear Lake qualified a tournament-best six individuals and went home with the district crown after amassing 116 points. Algona was second with 88 and four state entrants, followed by Webster City with 87. Hampton-Dumont (67) and Humboldt (57) rounded out the top five.

The opening round of the 2A state tournament will get underway at 9 a.m. Thursday morning from Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.

WCHS will take its entire team to the Well on Wednesday for the state duals. The Lynx (23-3) will face an uphill battle in the quarterfinals against second-ranked and three-time defending state duals champion Davenport Assumption (19-3) at 11:30 a.m.