District Wrestling Preview: Ticket punching time
Six Tigers wrestle for state bids today in Sioux Center
The time has finally come for the 2015 Iowa State Wrestling Tournament brackets to be filled. All three classes take to the mats today for district wrestling competition as each school looks to advance as many mat-men as possible to the big dance in Wells Fargo Arena which starts Thursday.
Spencer sends six grapplers to Sioux Center today in search of 2A state berths.
Here's what you need to know about each Tiger's path in order of ascending weight class.
Cody Huckfelt enters the 113-pound bracket with a season record of 21-9. He certainly has experience on his side after reaching the 3A state tournament last year in the same weight class. However, the other three 113-pounders in Sioux Center aren't slouches, starting with top-seed Devin Phaly (44-4), of Sergeant Bluff-Luton. The Predicament has Phaly down as the No. 6-ranked wrestler at 113 pounds in 2A, and he earned a decision over Huckfelt Tuesday night in regional dual action.
With Phaly looming on the top of the bracket, Huckfelt's first match against MOC-Floyd Valley's Abraham Anzua (32-3) takes on additional importance.
"(Huckfelt's bracket) is tough, but the one thing we have to be careful on, and our guys know this, is to not look at records and get wowed because we wrestled a far more difficult schedule," Spencer wrestling coach David Schaefer said. "Phaly is the real deal, and this MOC kid is good, but if he wrestled our schedule, he'd have a lot more than three losses."
Schaefer has confidence in his senior's ability to get a win as he continues to get stronger after being sidelined late in the season with a knee injury.
"He had a great week of practice, and we've tweaked some things. I'm really confident that Cody can get (the match with Anzua)," Schaefer said. "The winner of that match is going to state. I really believe that. The guy that loses has a really tough road. (Anzua) is good, but we feel that we're pretty good too."
"Because of the injury, I think everyday (Huckfelt's) learned to adapt with that brace and gotten stronger, so I think he's much better off than he was a week ago. His timing looked great (Friday) in practice," Schaefer said. "He's been in this role before, and I think he's going to have a good day."
Spencer's next heaviest district wrestler is Alex Najera (8-29), wrestling at 132 pounds after starting the season in the 126-pound class.
"Alex by far has probably the most challenging obstacles in front of him in terms of where he's at and who he's got to run up against. Alex is very athletic, and he's got to make sure, technically, he puts himself in a position to be successful by using angles and his quickness," Schaefer said. "He's so fast. He has to use that to his advantage. He's a little small for the class, so he can't get into the pushing and shoving. That's not advantageous for him. He needs to move in and out and try to score easy points by getting angles."
Najera will first face the district's top seed in 34-4 Connor Ascherl, from MOC-FV, as he's the lone Tiger entering the tournament as a sectional runner-up rather than a sectional champion.
Dylan Huntoon (32-9) at 145 pounds checks in as the next Tiger in the tournament. He'll first take on 29-7 Zack Konz, of Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley.
"Another tough bracket. That first match is huge. I really think the winner of that first match goes to state, much like Cody's. It's critical we get that opening win. (Konz) beat Dylan at the Spencer Invite by a point," Schaefer said. "I really feel Dylan right now is wrestling the best he has in the last four years. He looks strong, and he's finishing on a roll. He's doing things technically sound. He's physically in good shape, and he's probably the most healthy out of our guys. He's also been (to state) before, two years ago, and he lost a close district semifinal last year. He's tasted both sides of it. That seasoning will be favorable to him."
Huntoon will also carry in some extra confidence after having beaten the bracket's top seed, Keagan Putnam (40-19), of SB-L, by way of a 3-1 decision during regional duals on Tuesday.
Next up for Spencer is Jacob Sandvig at 160 pounds. He enters the tournament with a record of just 10-4 after having to wait until January to get his season started due to injury. First up for Sandvig will be SB-L's Kyle Benson (38-17) who he nearly scored a major decision victory against Tuesday night.
"(Sandvig) has really gotten better every match. It's been a transformation that he's made, getting in the lineup as late has he did. It's been amazing," Schaefer said. "He has dominated two of the three guys in that weight class. It's an even class, and I can see all four kids being tough, but I like the way we stand having victories over two of the three. He should make a nice run."
Three of the grapplers in the 160-pound bracket, including Sandvig, are from the Lakes Conference, so there will be plenty of familiarity.
Stepping in at 220 pounds is Spencer's lone ranked wrestler in No. 9-ranked Austin Roberts (39-6). Fellow ranked man, No. 2-ranked Travis Vander Streek (40-1), of Central Lyon/George-Little Rock sits on the other side of the bracket as a runner-up after Roberts put the only blemish on his record at sectionals. First up for Roberts will be Levi Groeneweg (18-12), of BH/RV.
"(Roberts) is another kid that has gotten better every time he's gotten on the mat without question. He's coming off that big win over the No. 2 kid from CL-GLR," Schaefer said. "We feel good about that opening match. Then he's likely going to have to battle (Vander Streek) again. He's eager for another shot at him and feels confident. We want to take it one match at a time, but we like our chances to get to the final round. Then we'll see how it all shakes out."
Finally, Spencer's heavyweight, Nic Hoefling (25-16) will first take on Colten Smolders (29-8), of Sioux City East with No. 10-ranked Brody Koerselman, of MOC-FV, sitting on the top of the bracket.
"Nic has adapted so well, being on the light side in that weight class. He's learned to use his mobility and get angles on guys, and he's gotten a ton of pins for us too. It's critical he gets that first match," Schaefer said. "The MOC kid in the opposite bracket is a tough dude, but if you compare December Nic Hoefling to current Nic Hoefling, that's a total different cat. He's got a lot of confidence, and he's become a much better wrestler since the Spencer Invite. It'll be fun to see him go out and go to work and maybe get a big win there."
Overall, Schaefer expects a championship effort out of all of his wrestlers regardless of the outcome.
"I think it's a great group of kids that will represent the program well. They'd be the first to say that their success is a direct result of their teammates pushing them in the room," Schaefer said. "We've had great practices all year. The guys have been there for one another. I'm proud of all our guys still competing, but our guys are proud of being in this program and being part of a group of guys that have wrestled hard and gotten better each day for us."
Action starts at noon today at Sioux Center High School.