KNOXVILLE — Prairie City-Monroe senior Chase Shirk has been cutting weight since September.
The sacrifices it takes to get to a desired weight in the sport of wrestling often go undocumented.
For Shirk, the sacrifices he made for the past six months paid off Saturday. The Mustang senior won two of his three matches at the Class 2A District 6 tournament and the wins pushed him into his first state tournament.
Five others joined Shirk, and the Mustangs’ big day included a district championship banner.
PCM crowned three champions and three others were runner-ups as the seventh-ranked Mustangs edged No. 10 Williamsburg by four points. PCM scored 107.5 points in the top position, and Williamsburg was next with 103.5 points.
Sixth-ranked South Tama County was third with 96.5 points.
PCM advanced six to the Iowa High School State Wrestling Championships for the first time since Prairie City and Monroe consolidated.
The last time one of those communities sent six wrestlers to a state tournament was the in 1980s when Monroe accomplished that feat.
“I was going to be disappointed if we didn’t get six guys through. And I honestly still feel like we could have had more,” PCM coach Jeff Nicholson said.
The Mustangs brought eight to Knoxville High School for districts. Juniors Wes Cummings (160), Lucas Roland (170) and Jarron Trausch (182) all won titles at their weights, while Shirk (126) and freshmen Landon Fenton (106) and Colby Tool (138) advanced as runner-ups.
Sophomore Payton Drake’s 113-pound bracket featured four ranked wrestlers. Unfortunately for Drake, he didn’t advance to state after suffering two one-point losses and finishing fourth.
“We didn’t get Payton. He had maybe the toughest weight in the state in our class,” Nicholson said. “That was brutal. I really wanted to see him get through. That’s two heartbreakers in two years for him.”
But for every unfortunate story, there’s always a good one. That’s where Shirk comes in. He was 2-7 as a freshman, 6-6 as a sophomore and 23-21 last year. In his final season, Shirk is headed to the state tournament with a 29-10 record.
Shirk defeated Grinnell’s Alex Farmer 10-2 in the semifinals. He lost a 12-1 major decision to fourth-ranked Jalen Schropp of Williamsburg in the finals. He was forced to wrestleback against an opponent he defeated at sectionals the week before.
In the wrestleback, Shirk clinched a spot in the state meet with a 6-0 win over Van Meter/Earlham’s Tyler Haynes.
“It feels great. I put in a lot of work this year with the hope that I could make it to the state tournament in my last year,” Shirk said. “I accomplished that goal.”
Shirk started the season at 132 but decided to cut weight down to 126 and the move paid off in a big way.
“He has turned his whole life around in the last three years,” Nicholson said. “He was a kid who we had a hard time just getting to school and getting to practice a few years ago. He missed almost as many practices as he was there during his freshman year.
“The switch flipped once he bought in. He’s probably the most disciplined kid on the team now. He started leaning down in September so he could get to the weight he wanted to be at. He’s pretty much been watching what he eats for six months. He basically willed himself to the state tournament by doing everything that he did.”
Fenton opened the Mustangs’ historic day with a big win at 106. He battled Grinnell’s Dalton Gosselink to a scoreless tie until the final seconds. With less than 10 seconds to go, Fenton (38-8) scored a reversal for a 2-0 win.
The win was enough to send Fenton to his first state tournament. He lost 8-1 to fifth-ranked Colby Lillegard in the finals, but didn’t have to wrestleback after Gosselink won his third-place match.
“Landon started the day and won that tight match, and I think it got everyone charged up,” Nicholson said. “We had a pretty good first round.”
The Mustangs went 6-2 in the opening round.
Sixth-ranked Drake hit the mat after Fenton. He lost a back-and-forth battle to No. 4 Brock Beck of Grinnell, 6-5, in the semifinals. In the third-place match, Drake (39-5) suffered a 5-4 loss to Van Meter/Earlham’s Colby Wiederholt. Top-ranked Grayson Kesterson of Williamsburg also was in the field.
Tool followed up Shirk’s semifinal win with a come-from-behind victory at 138. Facing senior Alex Hanna (46-7) of Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont, Tool got a pin with less than a minute to go in the match to advance to the finals.
Tool (32-8) nearly pulled off an upset in the finals when he lost 6-4 to No. 4 Tanner Probasco of South Tama. The match was tied at 4-all until Probasco scored the winning takedown late in the third period.
Hanna won his third-place match with a first-period pin, which clinched Tool’s first state tournament berth.
“Colby has had to change the way he wrestles. He’s always been stronger during his younger years and could get away with that,” Nicholson said. ‘When you wrestle juniors and seniors you can’t just rely on your strength, and he learned some lessons on that early on.
“He’s been disciplined lately. And he’s been successful by hitting high percentage shots with good technique.”
After Cummings, Roland and Trausch were advancing to another state tournament, senior Noah Anderson battled for his first state berth.
Anderson (18-13) lost his first match by fall to No. 7 Josh Holub of Williamsburg. He bounced back with a 29-second pin over Noah Hale of Van Meter/Earlham. He was awarded a wrestleback for all the marbles but lost by fall to Albia’s Ben Mason.
Cummings, Roland and Trausch all had to beat familiar foes in their path to Wells Fargo Arena.
Second-ranked Cummings (46-2) defeated Knoxville’s Cody Ray Smith 15-0 in the semifinals before pinning Williamsburg’s Cavin Malloy in the finals. Cummings pinned Malloy in the regional duals on Tuesday as well. Cummings now has a school-record 33 pins on the season.
“I was hesitant at first. I was pretty nervous,” said Cummings, who has now won 36 straight matches. “I knew the kid I wrestled in the first round pretty well. He was pretty shifty. I was afraid of getting caught. I played it safe. I still got the tech fall.
“After my first match, I mentally prepared myself. I took a shower, cleared my head and did some drilling with Jarron. I felt a little fresher. They say you wrestle your best match the second time around, and it felt like that today.”
Second-ranked Roland (45-1) was as dominant as Cummings in his two matches. Roland won both of his matches by technical fall. He defeated Williamsburg’s Tucker Stanerson 20-4 and then took down Knoxville’s Coby Meyer 17-2. It was his second technical fall against Stanerson in the past five days.
The two wins pushed Roland’s winning streak to 28 matches.
“It was a good day. I prefer the tech fall actually. I feel better about myself. I open my lungs up and get some work in,” Roland said. “It’s good to get this one out of the way, but this is just one step on the path of my ultimate goal.”
Seventh-ranked Trausch (43-4) also met a Williamsburg opponent who he defeated at regional duals Tuesday. He pinned Gage Hazen-Fabor in the second period and then dominated No. 9 Dalton Rosenburg in the finals.
Trausch pinned Rosenburg (36-7) late in the third period but he ran up enough points before that clinch a technical fall if the pin wasn’t the end result. It was Trausch’s 23rd straight win.
“I knew he was going to try to throw me. I am kind of a thrower, too. I kind of prepared to be thrown so that helped,” Trausch said. “I figured if I used my technique he wouldn’t be able to get me where he wanted me. That was the key.”
Roland and Trausch will both be wrestling in their third state tournament later this week. Cummings clinched his second berth Saturday. An injury prevented Cummings from advancing last season.
“This was a formality for those guys really. You still have to watch out because there’s kids that want to come at them because of their ranking,” Nicholson said. “You have to get through without getting hurt, too. Wes knows what its like to not be there. And he didn’t want to feel that again.”
The District 6 field was considered the toughest 2A district in the state. The tournament featured 18 ranked wrestlers, including three who are currently ranked No. 1.
South Tama County joined PCM with six qualifiers, and Williamsburg sends five.
The 2A portion of the Iowa High School State Wrestling Championships at Wells Fargo Arena begins at 9 a.m. on Thursday in Des Moines.