No. 11 Lynx don’t mind underdog role at state duals

DES MOINES – A favorite in nearly every tournament and dual it entered this season, the Webster City wrestling team will slip into the unfamiliar role of the underdog – and a pretty hefty one at that – when it steps onto Mat 3 inside Wells Fargo Arena for its Class 2A quarterfinal round battle at the state duals this morning.

That’s what happens when you draw one of the most dominant dual teams in Iowa over the past five years.

Second-ranked Davenport Assumption (19-3) will go in search of its unprecedented fourth consecutive state duals championship and its 11 a.m. quarterfinal date with No. 11 Webster City (23-3) is just the first step towards that goal. The Knights – making their 15th state appearance and seventh straight – feature eight individuals ranked at their respective weight classes.

But WCHS doesn’t mind being overlooked. It’s not going to change how it wrestles and the elite opponent certainly isn’t going to bring intimidation bubbling to the surface.

“Our whole intention is to go there to fight and compete to win it. That’s all we’re going to focus on,” WCHS head coach Ted Larson said. “We know who they are, but they’ve been beat, too. They’ve got the same number of losses we do.”

It appears that WCHS – in its fourth state duals and third in the past four years – will need to secure bonus points at the weights in which it is favored and then pull off several significant upsets to knock the Knights off their perch. That already steep hill to climb will be even steeper if fourth-ranked 195-pound senior Dylan Fielder is unable to compete due to a rib injury he suffered during the district tournament on Saturday.

An X-ray of Fielder’s ribs came back clean, but Larson says his two-time state place winner is still in pain and if that continues he may not compete today. Filling in at 195 will be back-up Nelson Ball, a senior who has dominated at junior varsity tournaments this season but hasn’t stepped onto the varsity mat.

“There’s a chance (Fielder) could wrestle, but we don’t know where and we don’t know when,” Larson said. “Part of me thinks he should wrestle one match so he knows what to expect pain wise, but we may just drill him on our own.

“This really stinks for Dylan to have this ailing him right now, but athletes deal with pain all the time.”

Ball may not have been on this kind of wrestling stage before, but he’s no stranger to spotlight situations. The senior was an all-state middle linebacker for the playoff-qualifying WCHS football program last fall.

“Ball will be fine … not much intimidates him,” Larson said. “Anywhere else he would be a state qualifier himself. But look who he’s been behind for so long. I’m just proud that Ball is still here in our program … I’ve got a lot of faith in Ball.”

WCHS and Assumption met in the same round two years ago; the Knights prevailed 45-21 en route to the championship while the Lynx went on to win back-to-back duals to place fifth.

A combined nine grapplers – five for WCHS and four for Assumption – that took part in that 2012 battle are expected to strap on the headgear today.

The winner will advance to the semifinal against either third-ranked Albia (33-3) or seventh-ranked Independence (25-4). The loser will go up against the loser of that same quarterfinal.

“We’re not going there to get fifth or sixth,” Larson said. “We’re going to go there to give everything we’ve got for six minutes.”

The top side of the 2A bracket features top-ranked Mediapolis (23-5), as well as the Lynx North Central Conference rival and fifth-ranked Clear Lake (23-4), which handed WCHS two of its three losses this season.