Greene County’s Kale Petersen celebrates his Class 2A 120 pound state championship Saturday, Feb. 19 in Des Moines, defeating Webster City’s Cam Phetxoumphone, 8-5. The victory was Petersen’s second title, first with Greene County.  BRANDON HURLEY | JEFFERSON HERALD

STATE WRESTLING: Petersen upsets two-time state champ in Class 2A final, claims ‘best in the state’ crown

“1A, 2A, 3A, it doesn’t make a difference. I know who I am. I believe I am top three in the country.” - Greene County's Kale Petersen

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DES MOINES - For as little time Kale Petersen has spent as a Greene County wrestler, one thing is obvious even for the most casual observer – he doesn’t lack confidence.
It’s perhaps why the junior transfer made upsetting a two-time defending state champion in a 2A final look relatively routine. Petersen knew he’d come out victorious, punctuating his second career state championship, this time in Class 2A at 120 pounds.

The West Fork High School transfer defeated Webster City’s Cam Phetxoumphone in the Feb. 19 championship match, stonewalling Phetxoumphone’s bid for three titles, while simultaneously putting the state on notice. Petersen tallied an impressive 8-5 win over a wrestler who’d lost once in the last three years prior to Saturday night. His 158 career victories did little to faze Petersen. Nothing would stand in his way of another championship.  
“No one can hang with me, no one can handle my pace,” Petersen said mat-side at Wells Fargo Arena in downtown Des Moines, cherishing his championship victory.
After winning a 1A state title at 106 pounds as a West Fork High School sophomore last winter, Petersen was one of two Greene County wrestlers to reach the state final in 2022, joining classmate McKinley Robbins, who finished second at 132 pounds.

Petersen’s gamble paid off in a big way.  
He chose to move to Jefferson at the conclusion of last year’s academic calendar, committed on transferring into the Greene County High School despite his 1A 106 pound title last year, focused on training year-round and taking a shot at the Class 2A bracket.

He’s a member of the Sebolt Wrestling Academy in Jefferson, and instead of making multiple two-and-a-half hour round trip drives per week to and from Sheffield to attend practices, which is 25 minutes south of Mason City, he decided to leave his family at home and make the move to Jefferson.
Petersen said his last visit to the West Fork area prior to his state championship win was the day after Christmas. Since then, he was focused on training, away from his family and childhood friends. The sacrifice would be worth it.

“West Fork was a good school, good people, great coaches. I loved my team,” Petersen said. “But I decided to do what was best for me. I didn’t really think living in Sheffield was doing anything for me.”
Petersen said, T.J. Sebolt, head of Sebolt Wrestling Academy pushed him to become the best in the country, and invited him to move to Greene County.

“I believe it’s showing profits,” Petersen said, who shared a heartfelt embrace with his mom after receiving his gold medal.

The step up in competition combined with folding himself into a new school system and athletic atmosphere did little to deter his competitive drive. Petersen blitzed his way through the state tournament, capturing an opening round pin 78 seconds in over Crestwood’s Kole Johnson, followed by three straight victories by a combined score of 34-9 – a 16-1 tech fall of South Tama County’s Amare Chavez in the quarterfinals, a decisive 10-3 win over previously undefeated Lane Scorpil of Columbus Junction (45-2) in the semis before capturing his state title by sending Phetxoumphone to his first loss of the year (41-1). Petersen’s four state tournament foes were a combined 147-24, but looked to a point, rather inefficient when matched against the newly-minted champion.

You see, there’s very little nuance to Petersen’s dominance. He knows he’s good, and isn’t afraid to let anyone within shouting distance know. He opened each state tournament match with some combination of a somersault flip on his way to the center of the mat. He let fly an emphatic flex after winning his semifinal match and capped it all by flashing two fingers on the medal stand in honor of his two state titles. Petersen backs up his arrogance with ease, noting he believes his second state title not only asserts him as one of the best wrestlers in Iowa, but in the entire nation.

“1A, 2A, 3A, it doesn’t make a difference,” Petersen said. “I know who I am. I believe I am top three in the country.”
Two titles, Petersen said, aren’t the end goal. He wants one more, though he hopes to pursue many other opportunities outside of the high school realm. The chance at becoming a three-time state champion, two with Greene County, is what he’ll be focused on throughout the offseason. It’s perhaps why, despite his arrogance on the mat, Petersen didn’t necessarily elicit any over-the-top celebration Saturday night. The second championship was just another piece of the massive wrestling jigsaw puzzle.

“This means something right now for today, maybe tomorrow, but after that, I’m looking for the next best thing,” Petersen said. “I’m looking to make a World team (for) freestyle.”
Petersen’s quickness is what stands out when watching him wrestle. He’s tough to grab ahold of, and can wriggle free of almost every move. He was only taken down once in the entire tournament. That’s a testament to his agility and his technique.

“He’s so fast that it’s really hard to respond to,” Greene County head coach Zach Beekman said. “He’s got good hands. He knows where he needs to be.
Our message to him was ‘just let it go.’ He (had) everything he needs to win that match, we just let him go and do his thing.”

After a 27-year drought prior to 2021 without a state champion, dating back to 1994, the Rams have won two titles in the last two years, thanks to Robbins’ title at 120 pounds last winter. There’s a chance the pair could add two more next winter, likely cementing their place among the greatest duo in school history. If either one, or both, win another title, they’d become the first athlete(s) to win two state titles as Rams.
Though Petersen may seem as if he only cares about garnering accolades for himself, he gets plenty of joy from others as well. He was the first one to greet Robbins with a massive smile across his face when the junior won his semifinal match last week, while coach Beekman said Petersen provides a lot of energy in the wrestling room.

“He doesn’t like to sit still very long,” the coach said. “He’s really good with the young kids. He’s got a lot of experience, especially on the big stage. He helps out a lot and they work together.
He takes time to break down things. Having him in our program this year has made those guys that are freshman take all kinds of strides.”
Robbins’ ploy for back-to-back state titles was stopped short in the 132 pound final Feb. 19, losing to Burlington-Notre Dame’s Blaine Frazier, 5-3. Greene County, thanks to state-qualifier Gavin Scheuermann in addition to Robbins and Petersen, finished 10th overall in the 2A team standings, securing 47.5 points. Notre Dame won the team championship with 109 points thanks to two state titles and a silver medal, narrowly out-pacing Osage (108.5 points). West Delaware finished third (80.5 points), followed by Sergeant Bluff-Luton (79) and Vinton-Shellsburg (75).
More Greene County wrestling coverage, including a breakdown of Robbins’ third trip to the state finals, can be found in the Jefferson Herald sports section.

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