WCHS senior 220-pounder James Cherry celebrates a consolation-semifinal pin over OA-BCIG’s Tyler Anderson at the state tournament in Des Moines on Saturday. He went on to place third. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

WEBSTER CITY — The 32-ounce blue lemonade never stood a chance, not when James Cherry ripped it out of assistant coach Billy Bertran’s hands and guzzled it down faster than some of his matches lasted this season.

And that’s saying something considering the Webster City senior 220-pounder had pins of 10, 11 and 13 seconds on his resume.

Next came a basket of chicken fingers and french fries from assistant coach Tyler Patten, the perfect ending to what had darned-near been a perfect state tournament.

State medal? Check.

Saying goodbye to the dreaded weigh-in? Check again.

Lynx senior 220-pounder James Cherry carries Spirit Lake Park’s Dakoda Powell before dumping him to the mat for a takedown in the third-place match on Saturday. Cherry won the bout, 12-9, to earn the Class 2A bronze medal DFJ photo/Troy Banning

“Oh, I won’t ever see the 220’s again,” Cherry said as the meal awaited inside Wells Fargo Arena Saturday afternoon. “Never.”

Cherry earned the meal and plenty more after he wrapped up a third-place finish in the Class 2A bracket and handed the Lynx their highest placing of the week. He won 5 of 6 matches, avenged a pair of losses during the regular season and whipped a pair of ranked foes on his way to the bronze.

And he did it with a smile on his face from beginning to end.

“I’m ecstatic right now. I’m in the top three in the state,” Cherry said before he bellowed at WCHS head coach Chad Hisler to stay away from his food. “I didn’t want to think about what place I was going for, I just wanted to win as many matches as I could.”

To understand Cherry’s elation, you first have to understand what it took just to get him to the state tournament.

James Cherry (center) hugs WCHS head coach Chad Hisler as they celebrate with assistant coach Joel Kennedy following Cherry’s 12-9 win over Dakoda Powell of Spirit Lake Park in the 220-pound third-place match on Saturday. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

An all-district nose tackle on the gridiron, Cherry played football at 250 pounds. Trimming 30 pounds off his frame in a short period of time to wrestle wasn’t exactly easy. In fact, he almost threw in the towel.

“It took a lot to get down to 220 and at the beginning of the season I was honestly doubting myself,” he said. “I actually went to turn my stuff in because I was done, but the coaches helped me through that rough spot. I powered through it and got where I am now, third place at state. That makes it all worth it.”

Cherry (40-6) paid homage to WCHS head coach Chad Hisler by donning a Lynx singlet from 1992, the year Hisler graduated high school, for Saturday’s consolation semifinals and finals. And Hisler was the first person Cherry ran to after his hand was raised.

“I wanted to give it back to Hisler,” Cherry said. “He and all the coaches got me here and I did the best I could to make them proud. I’m pretty happy and I think so are they.”

You better believe they were.

DFJ photo/Troy Banning

“It’s awesome for James,” Hisler said. “He struggled early with the weight, but he made a commitment and got locked in over the last month. It’s the best he’s ever wrestled.”

Cherry’s lone loss came against top-ranked and eventual state champion Boone McDermott of Dubuque Wahlert in Friday’s quarterfinals. But he quickly shrugged it off and threw Williamsburg’s Isaac Maser all over the mat for four takedowns in a 12-6 consolation win that assured him of a medal. A tight 4-3 win over Lake Stahlberg of Monticello later on Friday pushed him even higher on the podium.

And then he owned Saturday.

Tyler Anderson of OA-BCIG, who pinned Cherry at the Norsemen Duals last month, was the first victim. Cherry recorded a takedown in each period and the final one put Anderson on his back for the fall in 4:42.

Facing Spirit Lake Park’s Dakoda Powell for the second time in the tournament in the bronze-medal bout, Cherry connected on a double underhook throw to build an early 5-0 lead. Most comfortable on his feet, Cherry tacked on two takedowns and a two-point near-fall in the second period to jump ahead 11-4 and then withstood a tough ride in the third to win, 12-9.

DFJ photo/Troy Banning

His carefree attitude no doubt aided his run through the bracket. So did his refusal to get caught up in rankings.

“The first time I looked at the rankings was the day before I got here,” Cherry said. “I don’t care about that … they’ve got to wrestle me too. Yeah, I lost to McDermott, but he’s really good and I went out and did the best I could. But I showed everyone else who’s better.”

Completely satisfied, Cherry then turned his attention to the chicken and fries. Yet another opponent that was destined to lose.