DES MOINES - Ted Larson calls the state wrestling tournament a vicious beast; one that sometimes chews up and spits out its entrants just for fun.
Not every grappler falls prey though.
Webster City had its share of ups and downs during the opening Class 3A session Thursday afternoon, as third-ranked junior 182-pounder Dylan Fielder and senior heavyweight Landon Johnson conquered the beast in their first-round matches.
DFJ photo by Troy Banning
Webster City senior heavyweight Landon Johnson (top) works for the fall against Waukee’s Ryan Glenn during the Class 3A first round of the state wrestling tournament Thursday afternoon at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. The three near-fall points he earned broke a 2-2 tie and sent Johnson onto the quarterfinals with a 5-2 decision. He’ll face top-ranked Pedro Gomez of Marshalltown today for a spot in the semifinals.
Juniors Jake Powers (145) and No. 3-ranked Connor Larson (160), as well as freshman Gavin Dinsdale (220) weren't so lucky. All three fell in their opening bouts, and only Larson rebounded to stay alive on the back side of the bracket.
"That's the way this is down here," Ted Larson, the Lynx head coach, said. "I would've liked to have everybody alive (today), but 3A is tough. When you get down here you've got to be ready to wrestle."
Johnson (33-8) was ready to battle again immediately following his 5-2 victory over Waukee's Ryan Glenn, a 265-pound Iowa State football recruit. With the adrenaline flowing, Johnson let loose with a third-period flurry that broke a 2-2 tie.
"I know I can hang with anyone in here and I knew I just had to wrestle my match and beat him physically and mentally," Johnson said with the sweat still dripping off his face moments after the win. "I just wanted to overpower him."
Johnson not only overpowered Glenn, but he broke his spirit.
From the top position in the third period, Johnson repeatedly sunk in a power half and put all the pressure on the left shoulder of Glenn, who eventually succumbed to the torque with 30 seconds to go, as he went to his back for the deciding three near-fall points.
"I was in his head and I wasn't getting out," Johnson said.
Fielder (37-2) was the cool customer he always portrays on the mat; he ripped off four double-leg takedowns in a 14-6 major decision rout of Cedar Rapids Jefferson's Drake Allen. The last takedown planted Allen on his back in the waning moments.
"That's about what I planned on doing," Fielder said. "I love wrestling down here; I love the big stage, and now there's nothing to lose."
Fielder and Johnson will both face stiff quarterfinal matches this morning. Fielder will tackle fourth-ranked Luke Sargent (33-6) of perennial power Southeast Polk, while Johnson will attempt to chop down top-ranked Pedro Gomez (34-3) of Marshalltown.
"I really want to get to the finals this year, so he's just another man that's in my way," Fielder said of Sargent. "But it's just another match. You've got to win three to get to the finals."
Johnson showed no signs of intimidation when asked about facing the popular pick to win gold.
"Let's wrestle," he said. "I'm ready to go."
The words coming out of Connor Larson's mouth weren't nearly as upbeat after his two-match day that included a heartbreaking last-second loss and a revenge victory of sorts.
"I should be in the finals this year, that's the way I feel," he said. "I don't really know what else to say."
Larson (34-6) racked up nearly four minutes of riding time and owned a 4-2 lead late on No. 9-ranked Dillion Chase (32-10) of Clinton in their first-round battle. But a nifty roll by Chase will 12 seconds on the clock got him the reversal to tie the match at 4, and he was able to yank Larson back to the mat to get a two count and earn two near-fall points as time expired for a 6-4 victory.
"I shouldn't have lost that match ... it shouldn't have been that close, but the kid pulled out a move and that's what happens," Connor Larson said.
Larson put the loss aside quick enough to knock off 10th-ranked Mitchell Otto - the same Mitchell Otto that handed him two regular-season losses - of Sioux City East, 8-3, in a consolation match.
Larson put Otto on his back for a four-point move in the second period to break a 3-3 tie.
"I'm really proud of how Connor shook off that loss," Ted Larson said. "He did what he had to do to stay alive."
Connor Larson needs one more victory to clinch a top-eight medal and earn his 100th career triumph, but it will be far from easy. He'll face the loser of the quarterfinal match between No. 1-ranked Tim Miklus (44-2) of Southeast Polk and No. 2 Dalton Witte (36-5) of Burlington in the consolation second round.
"Both of those guys are really good, so I'll have to wrestle tough," Connor Larson said.
Powers (30-12) and Dinsdale (14-11) were both eliminated on the heels of back-to-back losses.
Powers ran into a pair of ranked individuals in No. 8 Josh Davis (31-8) of Des Moines East and No. 7 Corey Abernathy (34-7) of Waverly-Shell Rock; he lost both matches by fall.
Dinsdale had no answers against No. 2 Kaleb Staack (40-6) of Waverly-Shell Rock in a 12-0 major decision setback or Anthony Combs (29-11) of Sioux City West in a loss by fall late in the third period.
Pre-tournament favorite Southeast Polk showed no signs of letting up on the field, as the Rams - the state dual champion on Wednesday - advanced 11 wrestlers to the quarterfinals to build a sizable team lead.
Southeast Polk sits with 33.5 points - 8.5 in front of Cedar Rapids Prairie. Defending state champion Bettendorf is in third with 23.5, but the Bulldogs will need help if they are to catch the Rams over the final two days.
Wrestling will resume this morning at 9 a.m.