The action going on at Wells Fargo Arena this weekend epitomizes what high school athletics is about. It's a one-on-one battle to determine who's better with minimal coach and referee interference. The best guy (or girl, in a few cases) is going to win, and there's rarely any debate. I put you on your back, I win. The competition exhibited from these individuals wrestling, coaching, and cheering, is top-of-the-line.
The Iowa State High School Individual Wrestling Tournament is nationally-known for good reason. The skill and talent is here. The hard work and mental toughness is here. The legends are here. At this year's tournament there could be multiple 4-time state champions. Unfortunately, Spencer kids ran into two of them during Friday's brackets.
At 138 pounds, Jack Randall ran into John Meeks, the nation's top-rated wrestler at his weight, in the quarterfinals and got beat 9-2. Meeks hasn't ever lost a match in high school. (He's 167-0 entering Saturday's final.) John Christopherson also ran into a 3-time champ in SE Polk's Cory Clark, in the semifinals of 126 pounds. Clark has lost only once, this year, in his career. Those two are as tough as it gets in high school wrestling.
I never wrestled. (Obviously, if you've looked at me.) But I've always appreciated and respected the sport. I like the I'm-better-than-you mentality it breeds. I like the dedication and commitment it takes to compete at the highest level. How mind over matter is a way of life for wrestlers. Personal barriers and walls crumble before their very eyes as they push past them.
Other high school sports feature great competition as well, of course. But, for example, basketball is altered too much by the referees, and you can't be the only good player on the team and be successful. Football is controlled by coaches and player size. I'm not ranking sports here, far from it. I'm simply pointing out what wrestling brings to the table.
Sitting in the middle of eight mats for two days helps you appreciate the desire and passion present even more. When a wrestlers scores a late takedown to advance in the winner's bracket and looks up and points to his cheering section in the stands, it's a powerful scene.
When a wrestler jumps into his coach's arms after a big win, you can't help but notice the emotion. Wrestler and coach sharing a moment they know was paid for by blood and sweat. Even the cheerleaders seem to be representing more for wrestling. Every team that's here has a flock of cheerleaders following from mat to mat, banging and chanting with every reversal and takedown.
I'm a basketball guy, but I'm a fan of wrestling too. Maybe it's because I never did it is why I'm so intrigued. Whatever the reason, I'm enjoying the scene. State wrestling: high school athletic competition at its finest.