THE EARLY LEAD: A wrestling youth movement sets up Ram wrestling program
By BRANDON HURLEY
Imagine this not-that-crazy scenario in the near future – a handful of Ram wrestlers, each gracing the state tournament podium, with one or two even grasping a championship trophy.
A record-setting dual season certainly points toward a bright future. But so does an incredibly talented crop of junior high wrestlers, itching to make their presence known on the high school stage.
It’s been 26 years since a Jefferson wrestler won a high school state championship. With the oncoming influx of incredibly talented youth, are we in store for a new-age dynasty?
The explosion of Greene County wrestling isn’t that far off. The Rams very well could become a powerhouse. It certainly seems to be trending in that direction. And the opposing talent doesn’t seem to be making much of a threat, either. The Heart of Iowa Conference isn’t exactly a hot bed for talent (More often than not, you’ll see more forfeits than intense matches during conference duals).
Certainly, newly minted AAU champion Michael Rumely will have little trouble transitioning to the high school ranks once he graduates the eighth grade. He’s already spent time working out and practicing with the local Greene County squad, and he has developed a relationship with 2020 Iowa state high school runner-up, McKinley Robbins. Rumley held his own this winter with students a few years older – and more developed – than he. The experience proved pivotal, as he secured an elusive AAU title in his final try.
In total, six Greene County middle schoolers qualified for the AAU state tournament, with five of them capturing at least one victory in Des Moines. The future is bright for a local wrestling program hungry for sustained success.
Greene County set a school record with 23 dual wins this past winter while Robbins became the first freshman in Jefferson or GCHS history to reach the state title match (According to Doug Rieder, Raccoon Valley Radio).
A local youth movement has the Greene County wrestling program set up for a long run of success.
Robbins was the last local athlete to capture an AAU state title, back in 2019. That only seemed to be a warm up, as he went on to place second this winter at the Iowa High School State tournament in Des Moines. The freshman was 37-2 at 106 pounds with his only two losses coming at the hands of the eventual state champion. Robbins and Rumley should join forces to produce one heck of a tandem the next three years. Rumely already has began developing relationships with the varsity squad, which has him psyched for what the future holds.
Let’s not forget Brenner Gallagher, who not only qualified for the state tournament as a sophomore, but also won a match down in Des Moines in his first year of varsity wrestling. There’s also numerous other youngsters on the Greene County squad that could play pivotal roles. Junior Sawyer Schiltz qualified for the district tournament, while sophomores John Sprague and Nate Black were welcome surprises winning more than 20 matches apiece. Additionally, juniors Brady Stauffer crossed the 30 win plateau by finishing the year at 39-8 and just a hair short of districts.
For any premier athlete these days, it seems the work begins at an early age. Rumley started wrestling competitive in second grade, touring the youth and AAU circuits. Class 2A state runner-up and Greene County freshman McKinley Robbins was a highly-touted wrestler even before stepping foot in the halls of Greene County High School.
Current middle school student Brent Dennhardt shows promise, too, as he snagged a third place finish at the AAU state tournament, finishing the year at 19-8. Dennhardt won his third place match by a 5-3 decision over Koy Davidson. He also won a 5th/6th grade AAU state title back in 2018. As we’ve witnessed the last few years – primarily in the football and soccer programs – a strong feeder system, a.k.a the youth programs, must be strong.
Wrestling continues to possess a stranglehold throughout Iowa. The state tournament sells out each and every year. The fans are raucous and parking is horrendous. There’s something special building at Greene County, and I for one can’t wait to see where the ride takes us.