MONROE — Every year in which Prairie City-Monroe junior Lucas Roland doesn’t win a state wrestling title, is a lost season.
He expects to compete for the top prize. And while he has fallen a bit short in his first two seasons, Roland hopes this is his year to climb to the top of the podium.
“I am not going to be satisfied until I am at the top of that podium. It’s as simple as that,” said the second-ranked Roland. “Every year is a lost chance. You only have so many years to win a title.”
Five of Roland’s teammates at PCM also hope this season is one that ends in a gold medal for them.
A program-record six Mustangs will scour their way through the eight mats at the Iowa High School State Wrestling Championships at Wells Fargo Arena starting Thursday morning.
Roland and junior teammates Wes Cummings and Jarron Trausch are all highly ranked. And all three have been on the big stage before.
Joining the junior trio this season are senior Chase Shirk and freshmen Landon Fenton and Colby Tool.
“I think we got pretty good draws for the most part,” PCM coach Jeff Nicholson said. “Everyone that is still wrestling is tough, but I think we match up pretty well with everybody.”
Roland placed seventh at 138 pounds his freshman season. He moved up two spots to fifth at 160 last year. To climb to the top of the mountain in 2018, Roland knows he has to wrestle hard for six minutes.
He held a lead in the third period against top-ranked Kolton Bartow of Dubuque Wahlert in both of their state tournament matches last year. Bartow ended up rallying for wins in both.
“I was all but there last year,” said Roland, who is 124-5 in his almost three-year career. “I got a little complacent. I got a little relaxed and sat on my heels. That lost me a few spots on the stand. Just like that, (another shot at a state title) was gone, two different times to the exact same kid.”
If Roland and Bartow meet up for a third time in the state tournament, it wouldn’t be until Saturday’s Class 2A 170-pound championship match.
Roland (45-1) opens the state tournament against No. 8 Zane Williams (38-7) of Webster City. A matchup against a wrestler with double-digit losses awaits both Roland and Williams in their second matches no matter what happens in their opening-round match.
Roland could potentially face third-ranked Tristan Westphal-Edwards in Friday’s semifinals. Those two met in last year’s state tournament, which resulted in a 3-1 win for Roland. Facing Bartow in the finals would give Roland a chance at redemption.
“There is a little bit of a grudge. It would be nice to face him in the finals. That would be great,” said Roland, who has won 28 straight matches and owns the single-season school record for takedowns. “My first reaction to the bracket was that I am going to the finals, and I am going to be a state champ. I don’t really care who is in my path.”
Cummings is ranked second at 160. Trausch comes into the week ranked seventh at 182.
Cummings (46-1) enters the state tournament with 36 straight wins and a single-season school record 33 pins.
He opens the tournament with what is expected to be his toughest match before the finals. Cummings meets third-ranked Luke Hageman (40-3) of Dyersville Beckman right out of the gate.
Cummings wouldn’t face No. 1 Josh Ramirez (9-2) of Dubuque Wahlert until the finals.
The only other ranked wrestler on his half of the bracket is sixth-ranked Zach Williams of Osage. Roland defeated Williams by fall in last year’s state tournament.
“I figure I would have to face one of the two higher-ranked guys eventually anyway. It may be better to get him over with early,” Cummings said.
Cummings went 1-2 at 152 pounds as a freshman. An injury prevented him from qualifying for last year’s state tournament.
“I learned that I can’t take anything for granted,” said Cummings, who is 115-9 in his prep career. “When I went 1-2 the first time, I got done and just felt like I didn’t do the best I could. I knew I could have done better. The nerves got the best of me. I wasn’t ready as a freshman. Watching from the stands last year fueled me.”
Trausch (43-4) also has one state tournament win to his name. He was 0-2 as a freshman at 170 and then finished 1-2 last yeat at 170. He’s up to 182 this season and draws unranked Jackson Gingerich (41-16) of West Liberty in the opening round.
A quarterfinal matchup with sixth-ranked Thomas Bentley of Red Oak is a possibility. Trausch defeated Bentley 6-4 at the regional duals last week. Also on Trausch’s side of the bracket are second-ranked Kyler Fisher of Southeast Valley, fifth-ranked Mike Hoyle of Solon and 10th-ranked Conner Huss of MOC-Floyd Valley.
“I am on the better side to be on. There are a lot of good wrestlers in the bracket, but I am in a good spot,” Trausch said.
Trausch is 124-18 in his career. He takes a 23-match win streak into the state tournament.
“I feel really good about my draw and feel good about where I am at,” Trausch said. “My confidence is at an all-time high.”
Shirk (29-10) makes his only state appearance at 126 pounds. He opens with fifth-ranked Kayden Kauzlarich of Centerville. Win or lose, Shirk will face another ranked foe in his second match. Six ranked wrestlers are on his half of the bracket.
“I am a little bit nervous, but I will go into the week with an open mind and do the best I can,” Shirk said. “I am satisfied that I made it, but I am not done yet. I still want to get as far as I can and hopefully end up on the podium.”
Fenton (38-8) opens his 106-pound bracket with 10th-ranked Mason Hill of Cherokee. Another ranked wrestler awaits Fenton in his second match. Fenton’s side of the bracket includes five ranked wrestlers.
“Obviously, I want to win, but winning a medal my first year would be great,” Fenton said. “This year has been really fun. Let’s win a few matches while I am there.
“This is what we have been working for all season. I need to stay focused on my first match, take it one step at a time.”
Tool (32-8) fought off a shoulder injury to advance to the state tournament as a freshman. He beat two seniors in his 138-pound sectional and districts brackets to advance.
Tool opens the week with eighth-ranked Matthew Doyle of Independence. A potential matchup with top-ranked and nationally ranked Michael Blockus of New Hampton in the semifinals has Tool’s attention, too.
“I have been training for this all year. I need to wrestle good and wrestle smart,” Tool said. “I may get a chance to wrestle a nationally-ranked kid in the semifinals. I hope to come home with a medal.”
The Class 2A portion of the state wrestling meet starts at 9 a.m. Thursday at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
“We are going in there expecting all six guys to win matches,” Nicholson said. “We are hoping we can bring home a lot of hardware. I don’t think any of our guys will be intimidated.”