11th member of the NCC 4-timers family??That’s Phetxoumphone’s goal Saturday

Webster City senior 120-pounder Cam Phetxoumphone will attempt to become the 11th four-time NCC wrestling champion on Saturday in Fort Dodge. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

WEBSTER CITY — Before his first trip to the state tournament, before the first state title, before the second state title and before wrestling tournament announcers knew how to pronounce his last name, Cam Phetxoumphone sat inside the Clarion-Goldfield-Dows gymnasium on a cold January afternoon in 2019 and watched his teammate take his spot amongst the North Central Conference legends.

Drake Doolittle, then a Webster City senior, stood and quickly acknowledged the crowd as it gave him a standing ovation for becoming the league’s ninth four-time champion. He was the first Lynx wrestler to join the club, but his expression gave nothing away. There was a slight grin, but no celebration. It was just another day, another gold medal.

And Phetxoumphone took notice.

“Drake seemed like it didn’t mean much to him,” Phetxoumphone said.

Phetxoumphone is right. Well, sort of.

Drake Doolittle wraps up his fourth NCC wrestling title in 2019. He was the 10th member of club and the first WCHS wrestler to join. DFJ file photo/Troy Banning

In that moment, Doolittle didn’t feel any different. But now, several years older and several years wiser, he has a different take on the accomplishment.

“At the time it probably didn’t mean as much to me because I had bigger goals,” Doolittle, who went on to accomplish those bigger goals with a Class 2A 120-pound state championship in 2019 before embarking on his current journey at Duke University, says now. “But now I realize that winning four is a big accomplishment because the NCC is known for tough wrestling. I think back to when I was a senior, four of our conference champs were state champs in 2A. That exemplifies how tough our conference can be and it’s always been that way.”

Phetxoumphone — 23-0 with 16 pins this season, 100-1 since the start of his sophomore campaign and 140-7 in his career — will attempt to become the 11th member of the four-time champions club on Saturday when the 55th NCC wrestling tournament is held in Fort Dodge. Ranked No. 1 (2A) at 120, the two-time state champion will no doubt be favored to receive his own thunderous applause at the end of the day, but he’s taking nothing for granted.

As he sees it, he has a job to do … six minutes at a time.

“It’s just a business trip right now,” Phetxoumphone said. “I have a lot of confidence going in and that’s how it’s supposed to be. I’m just looking forward to having a good match, someone that won’t back down and will just wrestle me.”

WCHS senior Cam Phetxoumphone (top) looks for the fall against Humboldt’s DJ Muir last week. Phetxoumphone owns a career record of 140-7. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

Phetxoumphone had to work for his first and second NCC titles. He pinned Hampton-Dumont/CAL’s Jakyb Kapp — the 2021 league champ at 132 — in the 106-pound final in 2019 and then fended off Humboldt’s Cole Nelson, 6-4, at 106 in 2020. The two rivals met again at state, another Phetxoumphone triumph on his way to his first state crown.

His third league gold medal was forgettable though, in his eyes anyway. The 2021 113-pound bracket cleared out, if you will, probably because of who resided at the top of it. And so Phetxoumphone won a pair of matches in just 2:05, took his bracket and quickly walked away.

“Last year it didn’t feel right at all. I didn’t like it,” he said. “I enjoyed the first two titles because they were tough.”

To win No. 4, Phetxoumphone will have to bring his best to the mat. His bracket could include No. 6-ranked Ethan Traub of CGD and No. 12 Tyce Clarken of Humboldt. Tate Slagle, an Algona freshman who is ranked No. 9 at 126, has been down at 120 in recent weeks as well.

Doolittle has been in Phetxoumphone’s shoes. He knows all eyes will be on the WCHS senior on Saturday, but the only thing that matters is what happens inside that circle.

DFJ photo/Troy Banning

“I would tell him to not put too much pressure on himself,” Doolittle said. “He knows what he’s capable of and he wrestles his best when he’s relaxed and going after a guy. There’s no reason why he shouldn’t be on top.”

The Legends

Paul Martin. Kevin Dresser. Justin Hanson. Mark Kist. Jacob Colon. Kaden McClintock. Joel Haberman. Ryan Faught. Drake Doolittle. Eric Faught.

That’s it, that’s the list. NCC royalty, all of them.

Martin was the first to accomplish the four-peat from 1971-74 for Algona, and Dresser — now the head wrestling coach at Iowa State — matched him from 1978-81 while at Humboldt. Together, they combined to win five state crowns.

But it was 23 years before another conference wrestler reached their level. Hanson, a two-time state champion at Humboldt, started his journey with NCC gold at 103 in 2001. He won at 112 in 2002, 125 in 2003 and 135 in 2004. All four of his league titles came against eventual state medalists, including Clarion-Goldfield’s Brock Woodin in 2004, who had handed Hanson his one and only conference dual loss earlier that season.

“I knew there weren’t very many four-timers and once I won my first two or three, it was on my mind a lot more,” Hanson, who went on to win a Division III national title at Wartburg in 2009, said. “I always got up (for the conference tournament) and I knew how competitive it was in the NCC. So it’s special to be a part of that group.”

Mark Kist, who is now a good friend of Hanson’s, followed in his footsteps with his fourth NCC title in 2006. He was a three-time state champion.

In fact, the 10 current members of the club have combined to win 14 state crowns. Eight of them have at least one, and that includes Doolittle. But his membership would never have materialized without a freshman year 11-9 upset of No. 1-ranked and eventual two-time state champion Justin Portillo of CGD in the 113 final.

It’s the conference match that Doolittle most remembers. And outside of his state gold medal, it might be the bout that most shaped his career.

“The biggest thing I remember is looking up in the stands and seeing everyone on their feet and going crazy,” Doolittle said. “That was definitely one of the top matches of my high school career. At the time it was just another match because of the rivalry we had. He was just my next opponent. But looking back, I would say it means a lot more now.”

Fourteen. Phetxoumphone perks up when he hears the number, signifying the state titles won by the four-time champs. That number will jump to 16 if he finishes the mission on Saturday.

“Wow, that’s a lot,” he said. “Yeah, if or when I get the fourth, it will be cool. Knowing that I’m one of the best to ever come out of this conference and knowing that future kids will look on the wall and say, wow, he won it four times, that would be a big deal for me.”

He’s starting to get it. The NCC has long been one of Iowa’s toughest, most prestigious conferences. And he wants his final chapter to end with his arm raised.

“This conference has had a lot of great wrestlers that weren’t four-time champions, guys like Bart Chelesvig and Tony Ersland,” WCHS head coach Chad Hisler said. “So it’s definitely saying something if you can pull it off.”


Ten individuals have won 4 North Central Conference wrestling titles.

Paul Martin, Algona (1971-74)

•Won at 126 lbs in 1971, 132 lbs in 1972, 138 lbs in 1973 and 155 lbs in 1974.

•3-time Class AA state champion: 132 lbs in 1972, 138 lbs in 1973 and 155 lbs in 1974.

Kevin Dresser, Humboldt (1978-81)

•Won at 112 lbs in 1978, 119 lbs in 1979, 126 lbs in 1980 and 132 lbs in 1981.

•2-time Class 2A state champion: 126 lbs in 1980 and 132 lbs in 1981.

Justin Hanson, Humboldt (2001-04)

•Won at 103 lbs in 2001, 112 lbs in 2002, 125 lbs in 2003 and 135 lbs in 2004.

•2-time Class 2A state champion: 125 lbs in 2003 and 135 lbs in 2004.

Mark Kist, Eagle Grove (2003-06)

•Won at 103 lbs in 2003, 103 lbs in 2004, 112 lbs in 2005 and 112 lbs in 2006.

•3-time Class 1A state champion: 103 lbs in 2004, 112 lbs in 2005 and 112 lbs in 2006.

Jacob Colon, Clear Lake (2008-11)

•Won at 103 lbs in 2008, 112 lbs in 2009, 119 lbs in 2010 and 125 lbs in 2011.

•Class 2A state champion at 125 lbs in 2011.

Kaden McClintock, St. Edmond (2011-14)

•Won at 103 lbs in 2011, 106 lbs in 2012, 113 lbs in 2013 and 120 lbs in 2014.

Joel Haberman, CGD (2012-15)

•Won at 113 lbs in 2012, 126 lbs in 2013, 126 lbs in 2014 and 138 lbs in 2015.

•Class 2A state champion at 132 lbs in 2015.

Ryan Faught, Clear Lake (2013-16)

•Won at 120 lbs in 2013, 132 lbs in 2014, 145 lbs in 2015 and 152 lbs in 2016.

Drake Doolittle, Web. City (2016-19)

•Won at 113 lbs in 2016, 120 lbs in 2017, 120 lbs in 2018 and 120 lbs in 2019.

•Class 2A state runner-up at 113 lbs in 2017.

•Class 2A state champion at 120 lbs in 2019.

Eric Faught, Clear Lake (2016-19)

•Won at 106 lbs in 2016, 113 lbs in 2017, 126 lbs in 2018 and 132 lbs in 2019.

•Class 2A state champion at 132 lbs in 2019.


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