WCHS, CGD the favorites at NCC?tourney

Webster City junior Drake Doolittle eyes his opponent prior to the start of a match earlier this season. Doolittle, ranked No. 3 at 120 pounds, will try to become just the fourth Lynx wrestler to win three NCC tournament titles on Saturday in Humboldt. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

WEBSTER CITY — Cooper Lawson doesn’t get rattled, it just doesn’t happen. So forgive him if he’s not quaking in his wrestling shoes as he prepares for what is sure to be a monumental test at Saturday’s 51st North Central Conference tournament.

All eyes will be on the biggest of boys when the eight schools convene at Humboldt High School. It’s the heavyweight bracket that should feature three ranked wrestlers (Class 2A), all of whom are former league champions, that has drawn the most interest and with good reason.

Lawson, Webster City’s top-ranked 285-pounder, last won NCC gold in 2016 and a month later he reached the state finals. A shoulder injury kept him out of the 2017 league tournament and he watched as Clarion-Goldfield-Dows’ fifth-ranked Spencer Trenary landed on the top of the podium.

Throw in fourth-ranked Dominick Etherington of Algona, last season’s 220-pound conference champion, and Justin Jones of Humboldt who has spent time in the rankings and it’s easy to see why so many are anticipating the fireworks.

As for Lawson, he’s just excited for the challenge.

Webster City head coach Chad Hisler questions a call at the Perry Invitational last Saturday. He says it will take all 14 of his grapplers scoring points if the Lynx want a chance to defend their NCC tournament title on Saturday. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

“It’s going to be awesome and I’m pumped for it,” he said. “Obviously there are some ranked kids and I’m looking forward to scrapping with them. It should be fun.”

Lawson will take a 37-match winning streak into the tournament. He’s a combined 5-0 all-time against the three challengers, with one win each over Etherington and Jones this season. Lawson and Trenary haven’t met since the 2015-16 season; Lawson won the two battles, 6-2 and 5-3.

But you can go ahead and throw previous head-to-head results out the window. When a NCC title is on the line, anything can happen.

“We can’t have a letdown and we can’t overlook anybody,” WCHS head coach Chad Hisler said of the 285-pound bracket. “I assume that Cooper should get the No. 1 seed … if Cooper stays in position and wrestles the way he’s capable of, we should be fine.”

Lawson’s success would be Webster City’s success, as the Lynx will attempt to win their second straight league tournament crown and fifth in the last eight years. But CGD will no doubt be breathing down their necks. The two loaded squads are expected to be in a day-long tug of war for the top spot while the other six teams fight for the scraps.

WCHS junior Caleb Olson (front) will be one of seven returning North Central Conference individual champions in Humboldt on Saturday. He won the 195-pound crown last season and he’ll be at that weight again. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

“It should be a good test for us,” Hisler said.

WCHS could have as many as eight wrestlers that generate Nos. 1 or 2 seeds — Chase Rattenborg (113), third-ranked and two-time defending champion Drake Doolittle (120), 2017 champion and 10th-ranked Carson Hartnett (132), Luke Rohmiller (152), seventh-ranked Zane Williams (170), 2017 champion Caleb Olson (195), sixth-ranked James Cherry (220) and Lawson.

While the Lynx appear to be loaded with gold-medal chasers, the same could be said for CGD, which returns three champions in Tanner Abbas (145), Mason Carpenter (170 or 182) and Trenary.

Hisler says it could very well come down to what the two teams do on the back sides of the brackets that is the difference.

“We need to score on the back side,” he said. “If we get beat, we’ve got to come back and get third or fifth and score as many points as we can. We have to try to score at every weight if we want a chance to win.”

There are also some unknowns in the hours leading up to the tournament.

CGD recently added a new piece to its lineup in freshman and 10th-ranked Remington Hansen (113), who began the year at Belmond-Klemme where he put together a 20-2 record. Will he be in the Cowboys’ lineup and where? The logical choice would be at 113 rather than 120 where Doolittle is expected to win.

There could be some other movements as well. CGD’s Connor Johnson is ranked No. 9 at 126, but does he stay there and face a bracket that includes two-time NCC champion and top-ranked Eric Faught of Clear Lake, or does he move up to 132 to challenge Hartnett? Humboldt junior Joey Busse is ranked No. 7 at 145, but there’s a possibility he could bump up to 152. Carpenter is No. 8 at 170, but he could also move up a weight class to 182.

A total of seven individual champions and 17 finalists from a year ago are expected to be in action.

North Central Conference Tournament: The Things You Need To Know

When: Saturday, 10 a.m.

Where: Humboldt High School

2017 Tournament Summary

Standings: 1. Webster City 1991⁄2; 2. Clarion-Goldfield-Dows 190; 3. Algona 169; 4. Humboldt 144; 5. Iowa Falls-Alden 1351⁄2; 6. Clear Lake 110; 7. Hampton-Dumont 93; 8. St. Edmond 34.

2018 Tournament Outlook

Returning champions: Eric Faught, Clear Lake (2-time champ); Drake Doolittle, Webster City (2-time champ); Carson Hartnett, Webster City; Tanner Abbas, Clarion-Goldfield-Dows; Mason Carpenter, Clarion-Goldfield-Dows; Caleb Olson, Webster City; Dominick Etherington, Algona; Spencer Trenary, Clarion-Goldfield-Dows; Cooper Lawson, Webster City (champ in 2016, didn’t wrestle in 2017).

Returning runners-up: Jack Ites, Iowa Falls-Alden; Cole Nelson, Humboldt; Parker Allen, Hampton-Dumont; Joey Busse, Humboldt; Mitchell Priebe, Algona; Reymundo Vasquez, Clarion-Goldfield-Dows; Dalton Chipp, Hampton-Dumont; Noah Murphy, Algona; James Cherry, Webster City.

Ranked wrestlers (all Class 2A): 106 — (8) Sam Nelson, fr, Clear Lake. 113 — (10) Remington Hanson, fr, CGD. 120 — (3) Drake Doolittle, jr, Webster City. 126 — (1) Eric Faught, jr, Clear Lake; (9) Connor Johnson, sr, CGD. 132 — (10) Carson Hartnett, sr, Webster City. 145 — (2) Tanner Abbas, sr, CGD; (7) Joey Busse, jr, Humboldt. 160 — (8) Reymundo Vasquez, sr, CGD. 170 — (7) Zane Williams, sr, Webster City; (8) Mason Carpenter, sr, CGD. 220 — (6) James Cherry, sr, Webster City. 285 — (1) Cooper Lawson, sr, Webster City; (4) Dominick Etherington, sr, Algona; (5) Spencer Trenary, jr, CGD.

Webster City’s expected lineup: (103) Reece Sadler, 13-18; (113) Chase Rattenborg, 24-8; (120) Drake Doolittle, 27-3; (126) Nick Gasca, 11-17; (132) Carson Hartnett, 23-5; (138) Brady Auderer, 6-21; (145) Daltyn Peck, 3-23; (152) Luke Rohmiller, 13-5; (160) Harrison Hayes, 9-18; (170) Zane Williams, 25-5; (182) Hunter Collicott, 9-11; (195) Caleb Olson, 6-5; (220) James Cherry, 20-3; (285) Cooper Lawson, 28-0.

NCC Tournament History

Team titles won: Algona 9, Clear Lake 7, Humboldt 7, Webster City 6, Iowa Falls-Alden 6, Clarion-Goldfield-Dows 3, Hampton-Dumont 2, St. Edmond 0.

Last 5 team champions: Humboldt 2013, Webster City 2014, Clarion-Goldfield-Dows 2015, Clarion-Goldfield-Dows 2016, Webster City 2017.

NCC Fun Facts

•Humboldt has had at least one individual champion in each of the last 29 league tournaments. The last time the Wildcats failed to produce an individual winner was 1988.

•Webster City has crowned 78 individual champions, the fourth most among NCC schools.

•Only three Webster City wrestlers have ever won three league titles — Bart Chelesvig, Jason Dillingham and Connor Larson. Drake Doolittle will look to become the fourth.

•Only eight wrestlers have ever won four NCC titles — Paul Martin of Algona, Kevin Dresser of Humboldt, Justin Hanson of Humboldt, Mark Kist of Eagle Grove, Jacob Colon of Clear Lake, Kaden McClintock of St. Edmond, Joel Haberman of Clarion-Goldfield-Dows and Ryan Faught of Clear Lake.