DES MOINES - James Dean - better known as JD - Rader now has three medals from the Iowa High School State Tournament that he can look at every day. But none of them are the medal that he covets.
And therein lays the rub.
Undefeated and in position to contend for the Class 1A title at 132 pounds entering Friday night's semifinal session, the South Hamilton junior ran into a buzz-saw in wunderkind Carter Happel of Lisbon and, just like that, Rader's life-long ambition of standing at the top of the medal podium was put on hold for at least 12 more months.
DFJ photo by Troy Banning
South Hamilton 132-pounder JD Rader picks up and tosses Audubon’s Jake Mulford hard to the mat during the Class 1A consolation finals on Saturday in Des Moines. Rader won the match,
5-1, to place fifth.
"It's pretty tough to swallow," Rader, ranked third, said after Saturday's consolation rounds wrapped up with him in the fifth-place position. "I really thought I was going to win it coming down here, but I made some mistakes and came up short. That's life I guess."
The 10-1 major decision loss to Happel (53-0), a sophomore who went on to win his second state championship, was followed by a 6-5 setback against fifth-ranked Blake Meyer (48-3) of Sumner-Fredericksburg in the consolation semifinals Saturday morning. Rader (40-2) rebounded 90 minutes later and salvaged a positive conclusion to the three-day tournament with a 5-1 victory over Jake Mulford (30-10) of Aububon.
Rader - sitting at 114-14 in his career leading up to his senior season next winter - didn't shy away from his frustration. A third state medal is great, but he's put the headgear on far too many years to simply be content.
"It's a little bitter," he said. "I just have to accept it."
Rader blasted through Tucker Blumi (35-17) of Riverside in Friday afternoon's quarterfinals, 15-5, by piling up seven takedowns. It gave him a surge of confidence entering the bout against Happel, but the Lisbon star hit a throw-by in the blink of an eye and put Rader on his back to build a 5-0 cushion after one period.
"I wasn't expecting that (the throw-by), which is kind of stupid because I hit that all the time on kids," Rader said. "Carter is a tough kid."
Rader got in deep on the legs of Happel on three occasions, but was never able to finish. The same problem crept up against Meyer, who scored both of his takedowns on low shots by Rader.
"If you don't bring your best match every time down here you're going to find it hard to win and that was a frustrating match (against Meyer)," South Hamilton head coach Dan Brodie said. "We were in deep on several shots and if you don't finish you're not going to win."
Rader - sixth at 113 as a freshman and seventh at 120 during his sophomore campaign - finished those shots against Mulford in the fifth-place match, at one point hoisting the Audubon grappler high into the air before sending him crashing to the mat.
The week wasn't a setback by any means; it just wasn't what Rader envisioned. But that doesn't mean he's about to throw in the towel. He knows next year could be his year.
"I know last year really pushed me (in the offseason) and this year will do the same," he said.
"This was a good week," Brodie said. "We gained some valuable experience and this isn't the final year. We've got one more."