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Phetxoumphone hopes everyone knows his name by Saturday night

Webster City state qualifiers Cam Phetxoumphone (left) and Nick Gasca (right) will compete at 1:30 p.m. today in the Class 2A first round at the state wrestling tournament in Des Moines. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

WEBSTER CITY — Here comes the chuckle and eye roll, followed by a whisper sigh — clear signs he’s had to broach this topic many, many times before.

The last name — it’s the first thing people talk about when they see the name Cam Phetxoumphone on a bracket sheet.

If you’re new to the wrestling scene, well, here you go — it’s pronounced pet-sum-pawn.

“I get asked about it all the time and it gets annoying, but I’m just trying to live up to my last name,” Phetxoumphone, Webster City’s top-ranked (Class 2A) 106-pound grappler, said with a laugh. “I don’t pay attention to it a lot, but it ticks me off a little bit when (announcers at tournaments) say it completely out of rhythm of when they completely butcher it.”

If everything goes according to plan though, everyone will be able to pronounce it perfectly by Saturday night.

Cam Phetxoumphone, 38-0 at 106 pounds. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

Phetxoumphone heads to the state tournament inside Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines today on a mission that has only one acceptable goal — a state championship medal around his neck. He’s been the best in his weight class all season and now he has to prove it on the biggest of stages.

“I’m going to do everything I can to make it to the finals and win it,” Phetxoumphone, who, at 38-0, is one of just 14 unbeaten wrestlers among the 224 2A grapplers in the field, said. “I just want that main goal.”

Only five Lynx wrestlers — Bart Chelesvig, Erik Stroner, Jamie Taxted, Gavin Dinsdale and Drake Doolittle — have won state titles. Chelesvig is the only unbeaten champion, a feat he pulled off three times from 1985-87.

Phetxoumphone will be joined by teammate Nick Gasca (145 pounds) when the 2A competitors hit the mats for the first round at 1:30 p.m.

The only returning state medalist at the lightest weight — Phetxoumphone was fifth a season ago — the WCHS sophomore knows the bull’s-eye has been painted squarely on his chest. But this is what he’s trained for. This is what he eats, sleeps, lives and breathes. Not just during the prep wrestling season, but 365 days a year.

Cam Phetxoumphone and younger brothers (bottom to top) Kendrick, Adrian and Linden pose together inside the WCHS wrestling room. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

“It’s my lifestyle,” Phetxoumphone said. “Everything that motivates me in life is from wrestling.”

Since winning his state medal 12 months ago, Phetxoumphone has taken a grand total of one week away from the mats, that coming in the days immediately following the 2019 state tournament. Then he went back to work, traveling all across the country — Washington, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and North Carolina are the states he can remember — to face the best of the best.

It has paid off. He’s used the 2019-20 prep season as his personal playground with seven wins over his fellow 2A qualifiers, all of whom are seeded, and 10 total victories over state qualifiers among all classes.

But what’s done is done, Phetxoumphone knows that. None of his past successes will help him when he shakes hands this afternoon with West Delaware’s Carson Less (24-10) in the opening round. The two have never met, but Less is a part of the best team in 2A, so Phetxoumphone knows he can scrap.

“I don’t know anything about him and it’s been a while since I’ve wrestled somebody new,” Phetxoumphone, who is 78-6 in his career, said. “I’m just going to keep everything the same.”

Nick Gasca, 25-10 at 145 pounds. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

A win could potentially set up a sixth meeting with North Central Conference rival and eighth-seeded Cole Nelson of Humboldt in Friday’s quarterfinals. Phetxoumphone is 7-1 all-time against Nelson, including a 14-5 major decision in the first round of the 2019 state tournament.

“I always look forward to our matches,” Phetxoumphone said. “I get better in those matches.”

Along for the ride this week will be the entire Phetxoumphone family — parents Enoi and Tina, as well as little brothers Linden (sixth grade), Adrian (fifth grade) and Kendrick (second grade). The younger Phetxoumphone boys have already been bitten by the wrestling bug, something Cam didn’t experience until he was in the sixth grade. He says his siblings are already a step ahead of him too.

“They’re way better than I was at their (ages),” Phetxoumphone said. “Hopefully they see me as an idol in wrestling.”

For Gasca (25-10), the state tournament hoopla is all new. The junior clawed his way back from a district semifinal loss to qualify and he sees this as an opportunity to test himself against elite competition.

“I’m just happy to be there and I’m going to go out and give it my all,” Gasca said. “I’m pretty pumped to get some good matches in and hopefully I can scrap with them.”

Gasca drew third-ranked Jack West (38-2) of Winterset in the first round. A four-time state qualifier, West is a two-time state medalist with 150 career victories.

Gasca knows he’s an underdog and that’s fine.

“Rankings don’t matter,” he said. “It’s about who wants it more on the mat and who has more heart. I’ll just go down there and wrestle my match. I don’t really care who I’m wrestling.”

Gasca’s side of the bracket reads like a Who’s Who of wrestling royalty. Also in his quarterfinal draw is returning state champion Jack Thomsen of Union, and in the semifinal draw is another 2019 gold medalist in Solon’s Hayden Taylor.

All first-round winners will advance to tomorrow’s quarterfinals, while first-round losers will be forced to wrestle again this afternoon.

State Wrestling Tournament

Today’s Schedule

9 a.m. — Class 3A first round and consolation first round.

1:30 — Class 2A first round and consolation first round.

6:00 — Class 1A first round and consolation first round.

First Round Pairings (of note)

Class 2A

106 Pounds — Cam Phetxoumphone (38-0), Webster City vs. Carson Less (24-10), West Delaware.

145 Pounds — Nick Gasca (25-10), Webster City vs. Jack West (38-2), Winterset.

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