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No. 1 Phetxoumphone favored, four other WCHS grapplers underdogs at district wrestling

Top-ranked 106-pounder Cam Phetxoumphone (left) looks to score during an early-season match-up against second-ranked McKinley Robbins of Greene County in December. Phetxoumphone, a Webster City sophomore, takes a 36-0 record into Saturday’s Class 2A district tournament at Algona. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

WEBSTER CITY — Cam Phetxoumphone is a lock for the state wrestling tournament, right? He’s unbeaten, he’s ranked No. 1 at 106 pounds in Class 2A and he’s a human wrecking ball whenever he steps onto the mat.

That may be what wrestling enthusiasts believe, but inside the Webster City wrestling room this week, the Lynx star grappler and his coaches have taken a different attitude.

In the sport of wrestling, nothing is a given. Ever.

And that’s why Phetxoumphone (36-0) will approach Saturday’s district tournament at Algona High School just like he has the entire season — one match at a time.

“Too many strange things can happen to say he’s going to make it no matter what,” WCHS head coach Chad Hisler said. “It’s hard to qualify for state and it should be hard to qualify for state. Cam is ready to go, but he knows it’s not going to be easy.”

WCHS 145-pounder Nick Gasca (top) rolls up Ballard’s Wyatt Borg for the fall during a December dual. Gasca will face eighth-ranked David Cornejo of Hampton-Dumont/CAL in a Class 2A district semifinal on Saturday at Algona. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

Phetxoumphone and teammates Chase Rattenborg (132), Nick Gasca (145), Evan Estlund (152) and CJ Hisler (170) will all be in the field when wrestling gets underway at noon. The first- and second-place finishers at each of the 14 weights will advance to next week’s state tournament.

Phetxoumphone, who will open on Saturday against Zach Feld (17-24) of Garner-Hayfield/Ventura, has been at the top of the 106-pound rankings since the beginning of the season and he’s only cemented his status as the guy to beat over the past three months. He owns six wins over top-5 individuals, four of them over third-ranked Cole Nelson (28-6) of Humboldt, who will also be in the four-man bracket on Saturday.

Phetxoumphone, who is 76-6 in his career, placed fifth at state a season ago. He’s accustomed to all of the eyeballs trained on him. The moment has never been too big for him either.

A district title would likely give him the No. 1 seed in the 16-man state tournament bracket. Heck, he could even lose to Nelson on Saturday and probably still hold onto the top seed. But Hisler says none of that matters until he locks up his state spot.

“Cam is No. 1 and he’s got the target on his back, but he’s dealt with it all year,” he said. “He’s ready to wrestle, he’s focused and he’s trained all year for this moment.”

WCHS junior Chase Rattenborg (facing) has 97 career victories entering Saturday’s Class 2A district tournament in Algona. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

While Phetxoumphone is considered a favorite, the remainder of the WCHS contingent falls into the underdog category.

Rattenborg (29-9) has been at his best in recent weeks, including at the sectional when he dropped 2019 state qualifier Blake Abrahamson of Okoboji in the championship bout. Rattenborg will face familiar foe Conner Morey (29-10) of Clear Lake in the district semifinal round with No. 8-ranked and returning state medalist Averee Abben (14-1) of Osage likely awaiting the winner.

Rattenborg pinned Morey in December, but the Clear Lake grappler returned the favor with an 11-3 major decision win in the rematch at the North Central Conference tournament in January.

“I think (Rattenborg) is confident and feels like he can wrestle with anyone in his bracket,” Hisler said. “I think he’s in a good spot and has as good a shot as anybody.”

Gasca (23-9) will open up against No. 8-ranked David Cornejo (27-5) of Hampton-Dumont/CAL. Cornejo is 2-0 against Gasca this season, the most recent encounter a 14-8 win at the Norsemen Duals late last month.

Estlund (22-17) will also need to turn around a previous battle in his opener on Saturday. He’ll tackle Forest City’s Kristian Gunderson (38-13), who pinned Estlund at the Dick Kennedy Memorial Duals in early January.

CJ Hisler (27-12) faces arguably the toughest draw. Second-ranked Spencer Mooberry (31-1) of Osage awaits him in the semifinals, while seventh-ranked Mason Griffin (20-2) of Emmetsburg sits on the other side of the bracket.

Mooberry and Griffin were both state medalists a season ago, and Griffin topped Hisler, 10-1, at the sectional last week.

Still, Chad Hisler says his son is capable of staying with anyone — something he’s proven time and time again this season — but he has to believe he can do it.

“CJ knows both of those guys are good and returning (state) place winners, but we feel like he can wrestle with anybody when he’s mentally ready to do that,” Chad Hisler said. “He’s got to believe he can do that. I mean, there’s no pressure on him, there’s pressure on the other guys because they’re expected to go through. So he just needs to go out there and let it hang free.”

Class 2A District Tournament

Saturday at Osage

Semifinal Pairings of Note

(Ranked wrestlers by IA Wrestle)

106 — No. 1 Cam Phetxoumphone (36-0), Webster City vs. Zach Feld (17-24), GH/Ventura; Jake Sabka (28-9), Algona vs. No. 3 Cole Nelson (28-6), Humboldt.

132 — Chase Rattenborg (29-9), Webster City vs. Conner Morey (29-10), Clear Lake; No. 8 Averee Abben (14-1), Osage vs. Blake Abrahamson (28-9), Okoboji.

145 — Nick Gasca (23-9), Webster City vs. No. 8 David Cornejo (27-5), Hampton-Dumont/CAL; Luke Brown (44-10), Garner-Hayfield/Ventura vs. Brad Wirtz (30-9), Emmetsburg.

152 — Evan Estlund (22-17), Webster City vs. Kristian Gunderson (38-13), Forest City; Luke McKenna (23-14), Algona vs. Bret Hoyman (35-6), Emmetsburg.

170 — CJ Hisler (27-12), Webster City vs. No. 2 Spencer Mooberry (31-1), Osage; Adam Heflin (38-19), Garner-Hayfield/Ventura vs. No. 7 Mason Griffin (20-2), Emmetsburg.

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