COLFAX — Not since 2014 has a wrestler from Colfax-Mingo competed at the Iowa High School State Wrestling Championships.
Senior Chance Rice and junior Cauy Fitch ended that drought this past weekend.
And both feel like it’s just the beginning of what’s to come for a Tigerhawk program that won the South Iowa Cedar League dual and invitational titles with ease this season.
“I think this is just the beginning. This school will just continue to have more and more wrestlers I think that will make it,” said the sixth-ranked Rice, who takes a 46-3 record into this week’s state tournament at Wells Fargo Arena.
Rice and Fitch are both seeking their first state tournament wins. To do that, Colfax-Mingo coach Erin Hume feels they have to take it one match at a time.
“We aren’t going to put the cart before the horse. We’ll prepare for our first match and win or lose, we’ll prepare for our next one,” Hume said. “It’s tough to not look ahead. But it’s just what you have to do. They have to stay focused on that first one.
Rice opens his second tournament against unranked freshman Elijah Wagner (39-14) of Lake Mills. He could face No. 2 Ryan Schott (44-2) of Iowa City Regina in the quarterfinals and No. 1 John Henrich (40-0) of Akron-Westfield in the semifinals.
Rice was 0-2 at the state tournament during his sophomore season at Manson-Northwest Webster. An injury during his junior year at Saydel prevented Rice from qualifying last season.
“I just have to take it match by match. I was looking ahead too much when I was there the first time,” Rice said. “I have to take a step back and realize that it has to be one match at a time.
“My first goal is to get to the medal stand. Then, I want to just keep climbing and get as high as I can.”
Two of Rice’s three losses this season came by decisions to Class 2A No. 2 Wes Cummings of Prairie-City-Monroe and 1A No. 8 (170) T.J. Dierking of Southeast Warren.
Rice defeated fifth-ranked Jacob Steinlage of Interstate 35 in the championship match at sectionals and districts.
Fitch clinched his first state tournament berth with a pin in the first round of the district tournament last weekend. He’s 47-6 this season and 107-12 in his career.
“I am nervous,” Fitch said. “I just want to get a win. That’s my goal this year.”
Fitch opens the 1A 120-pound bracket with third-ranked Blake Thomsen of Underwood. He’ll get either fourth-ranked Daniel Meeker of Wapello or seventh-ranked Isaac Schimmels of Denver in his second match.
“You can’t avoid a bad wrestler,” Hume said. “There is a reason it’s called the state tournament. If you want to win a state championship, you have to beat them all anyway.”
Hume has spent the last few seasons building a program that is prepared to wrestle on the state’s biggest stage. Some of his wrestlers were close last year.
Sophomores Cyden Fitch and Trystin Ross were both a few points away from qualifying this season with Rice and Cauy Fitch.
“We are an up-and-coming program,” Hume said. “And getting a few state qualifiers shows that they are getting rewarded for the hard work they are putting in.
“It’s good that we have someone who will be back next year and bring that information back with him.”
The 1A portion of the state wrestling tournament begins at 6 p.m. Thursday in Des Moines.