WEBSTER CITY - As a dual wrestling team, Webster City had its most successful season in program history this past winter.
But change is coming. Most likely anyway.
With a fifth-place finish at the Class 2A state duals and a school-record 21 dual-meet victories still fresh on the minds of the Lynx faithful, head coach Ted Larson confirmed on Tuesday that the program is likely headed up a classification to join 3A and the state's largest schools.
DFJ file photo by Troy Banning
Members of the Webster City wrestling team accept the fifth-place trophy at the state duals in Des Moines in February. A Class 2A program last season, the Lynx would move to 3A if they opt to share the program with Northeast Hamilton.
The jump would happen if Northeast Hamilton sends athletes to Webster City to wrestle in 2012-13. The sharing agreement, recently adopted by both schools, says that athletics will be kept separate. But because Northeast Hamilton does not offer wrestling, the door has been left open for Webster City to allow potential grapplers from the neighboring district to join the Lynx program.
Larson says he's already spoken with officials at the Iowa High School Athletic Association and they confirmed that Webster City would bump up should it take on Northeast Hamilton's enrollment numbers.
"It's not official yet, but if we do share then, yeah, we will be in 3A," Larson said.
Larson admits that possibly going head-to-head with wrestlers from national powers such as Bettendorf, Southeast Polk and Iowa City West will be a tougher road to hoe, but he says those difficulties pale in comparison to the opportunities that kids from Northeast Hamilton would have if they joined his Lynx family.
"I will never turn away kids that want to be a part of the wrestling program, and this will give the Northeast Hamilton kids an opportunity to be a part of something," he said. "We can't be so selfish as a wrestling program to not look at the bigger picture. Anytime that we can bring in more students that are interested in participating in wrestling, that's great."
One other benefit would be the elimination of sectionals in the quest to reach the individual state tournament, as 3A schools only compete in districts.
"I like the fact that you have to get up for only one weekend to get (to state)," Larson said. "We've been (in 3A) before and it seems like we've always done well at qualifying more kids, but then it's tougher to get somebody on the podium."
State duals staying with current format
Also on Tuesday, the IHSAA confirmed that the state dual tournament will continue to take place on the Wednesday leading up to the traditional state tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
Prior to this season, the state duals had always been held on the weekend following traditional state. The change to move it forward caused statewide controversy with coaches and fans alike who didn't approve because of the potential conflicts - injury and fatigue, for starters - for wrestlers that qualified to compete in both.
Southeast Polk, the top-ranked 3A dual team in the state leading up to the 2012 state duals, sat all 11 of its traditional state qualifiers and went on to finish last in the eight-team field. West Des Moines Valley reached the state duals final, only to send all of its individual qualifiers home and the end result was a 75-6 beating at the hands of Bettendorf in the championship.
Larson used his full arsenal at the state duals, including his three traditional qualifiers Royce Nessa, Luke Shannon and Dylan Fielder; they combined to go 9-0. He says he's in the minority, but he has no problem with the change becoming permanent.
"It's going to be tough to please everybody's pallet, but, in my opinion, I'd rather have it this way than the way we used to have it," he said. "I like that it's one week that you're asking families to take time off and spend money on hotel rooms, and I like the fact that it allowed us to stay together as a team before we broke off and concentrated on the (traditional) state tournament."
The controversy didn't deter fans from coming to watch the state duals. The one-day tournament drew 7,432 fans - 1,630 more than the 2011 state duals that were held at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids.
But will it continue to be a watered down field? Larson says that will probably always be a possibility.
"The biggest problem is the big teams that have 10 or more qualifiers for individual state," he said. "They don't value the team dual fight the way they do the state individual fight.
"I hope that's a problem that we have in the future with 10, 11 or 12 guys qualified."