Swenson, Thompson and Willis give SH three cracks to end state wrestling drought

South Hamilton 170-pounder Lane Swenson (170) takes a 36-3 record into Saturday’s Class 1A district tournament at Pleasantville. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

JEWELL — The drought has been long and frustrating. But if everything goes according to plan, it should be over soon enough.

It’s been three years since the South Hamilton wrestling team has been a part of the state tournament when Luke Peters and Keaton Hetland both qualified in 2017. Peters placed eighth at 160 pounds in Class 1A, the last moment of celebration for the program inside Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.

Two years ago the Hawks failed to make it out of sectionals. One year ago only Trevor Thompson reached districts, but was stuck in a loaded four-man bracket.

Thompson returns to districts alongside teammates Lane Swenson and Colton Willis on Saturday, and the trio gives South Hamilton its best crop of state hopefuls since Peters and Hetland left the program.

“We feel that if we wrestle our best, there is a lot of opportunity on Saturday,” South Hamilton head coach Dan Brodie said. “We have to have our heads on straight, go out and take care of business.”

DFJ photo/Troy Banning

The 1A district at Pleasantville High School will begin at noon. The first- and second-place finishers at each weight will advance to next week’s state tournament.

Swenson (36-3), ranked No. 8 by The Predicament at 170 pounds, has put together a dominant junior season. He avenged one of his losses to claim a Heart of Iowa Conference crown in January, and his other two setbacks came against ranked foes.

Swenson will open up against Curtis Jacobe (19-20) of I-35 on Saturday and he’s considered the favorite in his bracket. Brant Looney (19-9) of East Union and Justus Rude (15-12) of Ogden sit on the other side of the bracket.

Thompson (33-8) will take on Louis Gonzales (5-18) of East Union in the semifinals at 195 with the potential for a championship-round bout against Brock Thompson (33-6) of I-35.

Brodie says Swenson and Thompson have spent the entire season preparing for these upcoming challenges.

DFJ photo/Troy Banning

“They both know what’s ahead of them,” Brodie said. “They know who their first-round guys are going to be and they have a good idea of who they could potentially see. Their focus is putting together their best matches and not really thinking about anything else.”

Willis (24-12) faces the stiffest challenge at 220 where he’ll face Sam Vonnahme (15-5) of I-35. With third-ranked Blake Haub (34-3) of Ogden also in the bracket, Willis knows he likely needs to get by Vonnahme to have a chance to advance to state.

Brodie says he has continued to stress the mental aspect of the postseason to his pupils in the lead-up to the district tournament. Swenson, Thompson and Willis all have the physical tools to reach their goals. But believing is just as important.

“You have to be mentally ready for the challenge and emotionally you have to stay in the moment,” Brodie said. “Whoever is the toughest upstairs is going to have the advantage.”

Class 1A District Tournament

Saturday at Pleasantville

District Semifinals of Note

(Ranked wrestlers by IA Wrestle)

170 — Lane Swenson (36-3), South Hamilton vs. Curtis Jacobe (19-20), I-35; Brant Looney (19-9), East Union vs. Justus Rude (15-12), Ogden.

195 — Trevor Thompson (33-8), South Hamilton vs. Louis Gonzales (5-18), East Union; Brock Thompson (33-6), I-35 vs. Alex Swanson (8-12), Pleasantville.

220 — Colton Willis (24-12), South Hamilton vs. Sam Vonnahme (15-5), I-35; Donovan Morales (23-12), Mt. Ayr vs. No. 3 Blake Haub (34-3), Ogden.