Senior No. 1-ranked Lawson ready to prove he belongs at top of podium
Lynx send 7 into today's traditional state tournament
DES MOINES — Cooper Lawson believes in his heart and mind that he’s the best heavyweight wrestler in Class 2A.
He’ll spend the next three days trying to prove it. And one thing is certain: if he stands at the top of the podium inside Wells Fargo Arena late Saturday night, he will have earned it.
Lawson, No. 1-ranked at 285 pounds, and six of his Webster City teammates will begin their quests for state tournament hardware this morning at 9 a.m. The first round and consolation first round will run until noon. It will take one win to advance to Friday’s 9 a.m. session.
Second-ranked Drake Doolittle (120), seventh-ranked Carson Hartnett (132), 10th-ranked Luke Rohmiller (152), eighth-ranked Zane Williams (170), Caleb Olson (195) and seventh-ranked James Cherry (220) will also be in the massive field.
Lawson (46-0), the 2016 state silver medalist at 285 and one of only nine unbeaten wrestlers in 2A, will open up against Mitchell Huisenga (29-6) of Washington this morning. Huisenga has sat outside the top 10 all season and three of his losses have come against sixth-ranked Brendon Lunsford of Fairfield, who resides on the bottom half of the bracket.
Lawson will no doubt be the favorite, but he won’t overlook anybody.
“I think I have a good opportunity and I’m excited for it,” Lawson, who has 55 consecutive wins under his belt, said. “There’s only one person in each weight class that goes home happy and I want to be one of those guys.”
A win would potentially set Lawson up for the bout that everyone expected to see Saturday night. But because of the random draw he’s on the same quarterfinal line as second-ranked and 2017 state runner-up John McConkey (53-1) of Atlantic. McConkey will wrestle collegiately at UNI.
Even before he knew of the potential early match-up against McConkey, Lawson said the draw meant nothing to him.
“I don’t care honestly,” he said. “I’m going to have to wrestle tough kids eventually, I might as well do it now.”
Doolittle (44-3) will be looking to get back to the state finals for the second straight year. The two-time state medalist will get his state meet started against Tyler Landgrebe (41-11) of Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont.
Doolittle could also face a monumental quarterfinal-round battle on Friday against third-ranked Kaden Anderlik (39-2) of Crestwood should both win. Top-ranked Aden Reeves (46-0) of Albia is on the other half of the bracket.
“We’re all going in there to take of business,” Doolittle said. “The Well is the best venue to wrestle in. It’s crazy when you go down on the mat and it’s something you never forget.”
Reeves got the better of Doolittle, 8-7, in last season’s 113-pound title match. Would Doolittle like another crack at the Campbell University commit?
“I’ll wrestle whoever steps on the line across from me and if he’s there, I’ll be ready to go,” he said. “Sure, I want to get that match back.”
Hartnett (40-5), a two-time qualifier, will tie up with Dyersville Beckman’s Grant Hoeger (31-10) in today’s first round. Awaiting the winner will potentially be third-ranked Gable Sieperda (38-1) of Central Lyon/George-Little Rock. Hartnett and Sieperda were expected to tangle at last week’s regional duals, but Sieperda was not in uniform.
Olson (20-12), last season’s eighth-place state medalist at 195, is paired with fourth-ranked Nick Smith (23-1) of Central DeWitt in the opening round. Olson knows plenty about being an underdog; he trailed highly-ranked Seth Moore of Ballard 14-1 in last year’s opener and rallied to win by fall on his way to the podium.
“You never know what’s going to happen down there,” he said. “You never know when a match is over.”
Williams (41-7), also a two-time qualifier, drew the toughest first-round match with top-ranked Lucas Roland (45-1) of Prairie City-Monroe. Roland placed fifth at 160 in 2017.
Rohmiller (29-7), who is creeping up on 100 career victories, will be an underdog as well against fourth-ranked Mitchel Mangold (34-5) of West Delaware. Mangold was the bronze medalist at 145 a season ago.
Cherry (35-5), like Rohmiller a state-tournament rookie, will tie up with third-ranked Dakoda Powell (37-4) of Spirit Lake Park. The two met back in December at the Don Miller Invite in Fort Dodge; Cherry held a big lead, but faded late and lost, 15-13.
“James will wrestle anybody that comes out there,” WCHS head coach Chad said. “He’s the one kid that doesn’t get caught up in (rankings) and that stuff.”