BACK TO WORK: With suspension lifted, Greene County wrestlers prepare for HOIC tourney
By BRANDON HURLEY
An infection threatened to derail the season, and though yet another snag arose, a group of local athletes anxiously await their return.
The Greene County wrestling team, set to resume competition Tuesday, Jan. 16 after a 12-day self-imposed suspension, was forced to withdraw from a triangular with AC/GC and South Central Calhoun in Guthrie Center, citing a fear of further spreading a highly contagious skin disease, Greene County activities director Mitch Moore said.
More than 30 days have passed since the Rams last grappled competitively due to an infection commonly known as herpes gladiatorum, or mat herpes. The disease, which infects primarily the head, neck and face area with noticeable lesions, spreads through skin-to-skin contact including towels, mats and gear.
The Greene County season was momentarily suspended Jan. 4. Set to resume competition Jan. 16, the Rams had to postpone their trip to Guthrie Center due to hesitation from the host school.
“They did not want to wrestle us,” Moore said at Wednesday’s school board meeting, hinting it was not by choice to extend the layoff. The wrestlers were set to resume their season before hitting the momentary snag.
“(AC/GC) did not want us to wrestle and have it spread,” Moore added. “Our entire wrestling program has been cleared by Dr. (James) Gerdes. He’s been on top of this thing.”
The Jefferson Herald later confirmed from AC/GC activities director Jake Mohring that Greene County was indeed not going to compete in the meet.
Moore did say North Polk will welcome Greene County this evening for a double dual and the HOIC has given the Rams the OK for Saturday as well.
The Rams last participated in competitive action back on Dec. 16 in the Tiger-Knight Invitational. The Heart of Iowa Conference tournament looms Saturday, Jan. 20 in Story City, throwing the Rams right into the thick of things with little warm up.
The two-week break resulted in the cancellation of senior night, previously set for Jan. 11.
Nearly two weeks without practice and more than four weeks without live competition puts the Rams in a difficult bind. Non-infected wrestlers were allowed to workout, but were banned from the wrestling room, allowing ample time for a deep clean, though the athletic department is certain it did not originate there. Those athletes, along with the guidance of Moore and head wrestling coach Mark Sawhill, altered their training regime to counteract the suspension.
Thanks to the suspension, the Rams are in danger of falling back to square one, re-conditioning their bodies for competition. It’s especially tricky with postseason tournaments looming. But the challenge is something Moore wants his athletes to embrace as strength coach.
“We are taking that into account. That’s something that’s neat. Get them training a little different way,” Moore said. “Adversity strikes, but how are we going to deal with it? Let’s move on and get through it. Bu for wrestling, it’s a different deal because you need to wrestle.”
Ram senior Cayden Gerdes was enjoying a breakout season in his final year before the infection ransacked the wrestling program, compiling an 18-3 record and a Tiger-Knight Invite championship. Bryce Hoyle has tallied the second most wins with a 12-8 record while Wuebker has compiled a 9-3 record.
Ninth-ranked PCM is the top dog at saturday’s conference tournament hosted by Roland-Story. The Mustangs carry with them confidence as defending champions. PCM edged out Saydel last winter by a mere 10 points. Greene County placed fourth as a team at last year’s conference tourney in Alleman, led by Hunter Ruth and Isaiah Yoder’s individual titles. Both were seniors a year ago.
Experience and talent is PCM’s calling card, as three Mustangs have more than 100 career victories and seven ranked wreslers. The trio of eighth-ranked Jarron Trausch (182 pounds), Mike Hoyle and Lucas Roland notched their 100th triumphs just before winter break in Solon. Roland is perhaps the most highly-touted Mustang, sliding in at No. 2 at 170 pounds, already having won more than 20 matches this winter.
PCM sophomore Payton Drake is ranked sixth at 113 pounds while super freshman Landon Fanton is ranked 10th at 106 pounds.
Another Mustang freshman, Colby Tool is ranked ninth at 138 pounds and junior Wes Cummings is ranked third at 160 pounds.
Saydel’s Klayton Keller is the only non-PCM wrestler ranked in the top 10, coming in at No. 8 at 145 pounds
A return to top form for a relatively inexperienced Greene County squad may be a long shot, but if the athletes can shrug off the lull in action, Ryan Tasler, father of sophomore Garrett Tasler and volunteer, sees a strong finish ahead.
“If you can’t get in the wrestling room, you have to do what you have to get better,” he said. “Some of the kids are doing that, working out on their own. It’s still not the same as wrestling contact, but every little thing you do will help you get prepared.”
Following the conference tournament, the Rams travel to Huxley Thursday, Jan. 25 for a triangular with Ballard and Perry.
Sectionals follow a week later, slated for Feb. 3. Greene County is headed to Winterset in sectional seven, along with ADM, Creston/O-M, Woodward-Granger and Clark. The district tournament is the following Saturday in Harlan with the state tournament set for Feb. 15-17 in downtown Des Moines.
The climb to success may be grueling, especially for a team dealing with unusual adversity, but it’s something the Rams will have to overcome.
“Once they get back, it won’t be easy,” Moore said. “Almost like the start of camp again.”