No surprises this season to start Iowa High School wrestling state tournament week.
Sophomore Gage Linahon knew on Saturday he was headed to his second consecutive Class 3A state tournament.
A year ago, Newton High’s Linahon lost his wrestleback match at the district meet finishing third and no state tournament berth, but on that Monday he found out he would wrestling at state because the district runner-up was unable to wrestle.
Linahon and junior Jaise Gulling both lost wrestleback matches in district action a year ago.
On Saturday in the 3A District 6 meet, they each claimed second place with a wrestleback win after losing in the title matches of their 220-pound and 195-pound divisions, respectively.
Joining those two Cardinal wrestlers at the 2018 Iowa High School Athletic Association Class 3A State Wrestling Tournament will be senior Blayden Rhone. Rhone also lost in a district championship match at 182 on Saturday, but didn’t have a wrestleback winning second by rule.
Newton sends three wrestlers to the state tournament — the most since five qualified in 2014.
The Cardinal trio open up state tournament action on Thursday afternoon. The Class 3A first round begins at 1:30 p.m. at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. During the Thursday session also will be the first round of consolation action.
Class 3A quarterfinals and second-round consolation matches begin at 9 a.m. Friday. The Class 3A semifinal matches and third round of consolation action runs from 7:30 p.m. to 8:40 p.m. Friday.
On Saturday at 10 a.m. the Class 2A, 3A, 1A consolation semifinals and finals begin then the 2018 Class 3A, 2A, 1A championship matches begin at 6 p.m.
“I was just really excited to punch my ticket for state for sure on Saturday at the district meet. No surprises,” Linahon said. “I’ve been working a lot on my neutral position and takedowns and it really paid off for me”
As a freshman a year ago, Linahon lost two straight matches to senior wrestlers at the 3A state meet. He walked out of Wells Fargo Arena with invaluable experience.
“I worked hard in the offseason in the wrestling room and the weight room. It really has helped me this season. I’m excited about having the opportunity to return to the state tournament,” Linahon said.
Linahon is ranked No. 9 in Class 3A at 220. He lost to fifth-ranked Beau Lombardi of West Des Moines Valley in the district championship match. Linahon bounced right back with a third-period pin of Johnston’s Ben Standish in the wrestleback for second.
“I knew once I got him on his back I could finish it,” Linahon said.
On Thursday, Linahon (34-9) faces a familiar opponent — fellow Little Hawkeye Conference wrestler Norwalk senior Drake Leek (36-2), who is ranked fourth at 220. Linahon is hoping third time is a charm as Leek beat him in the teams’ dual meet and in the LHC 220 title match.
In the corresponding opening match in the 220 bracket are juniors Owen Dunne (24-9) of Dubuque Hempstead and Tanner Teem (31-13). The winner takes on the winner between Linahon and Leek, and the losers of the two matches face in the consolation first round.
It is the first state meet for Rhone (182) and Gulling (195).
“At districts, I beat Colt Carpenter of Indianola in the semifinals then I kind of figured I’d lose to (top-ranked) Joe Shapiro (Valley) in the finals because he is really good. I felt good going into all my matches,” Rhone said.
Rhone said he has been looking forward to qualifying for the state tournament all his high school career. He lost his wrestleback district match a year ago in overtime and didn’t qualify.
“I really wanted it my senior year, like everyone wants it,” Rhone said. “It was exciting on Saturday to know I’m going to state. Coach Swede has been working us really hard in wrestling room. This is awesome.”
In the opening round of the 182-pound division at state, Rhone (30-13) has drawn Dubuque Senior High senior Mike Koch (8-5). Win or lose Rhone will be up against either No. 3 Brandon Tessau of Waukee or No. 6 Collin Hondred of Ankeny Centennial in his second match of the tournament.
Gulling has had a strong junior season at 195 for Newton. Four of his 10 losses have come against eighth-ranked Reese Bowlin of Indianola, who beat him 5-3 in the district championship match. Gulling regrouped and had a major decision win in his wrestleback match.
“I was leading Bowlin 3-1 then I lost my aggressiveness,” Gulling said. “I was not happy after that loss and I was tired, but I was ready to win the wrestleback match. It was a great feeling to know I was going to state after I got over the ‘oh, I’m tired’ feeling.”
Gulling said it took awhile to sink in for him as he waited for the state tournament brackets to come out. Gulling (31-10) opens the state meet against second-ranked Iowa City High senior Jacob Dykes (41-1).
“It’s a tough one. I’ll do what I do and see how it goes,” Gulling said of the Dykes matchup. In the corresponding opening match are senior Dakota Wright of Davenport North and junior Nate Heckart. Win or lose, Gulling will be taking on one of those wrestlers in his second match.
“I like our draws for the state tournament,” Newton head coach Andy Swedenhjelm said. “I tell our guys they have to go out and initiate the action to win a match. At the state level, nobody is going to give you matches. They are all good wrestlers.
“You have to go out and execute your game plan each time on the mat. We’re looking to get our guys wrestling with a lot of confidence and have them be aggressive in the state matches.”
Contact Jocelyn Sheets at
641-792-3121 ext. 6535