STATE WRESTLING: All business as Ruth readies for Des Moines
By BRANDON HURLEY
The bright lights and big stage can rattle even the most confident of rookies, but not a veteran like Hunter Ruth.
Missing out on what would have been his second straight trip to state last winter caused a hunger to grow within as the senior re-focused, the thirst for success never wavering.
The magnitude of Ruth’s first trip to Wells Fargo Arena may have thrown him off his game as sophomore (he was bounced in consecutive matches), but the 220-pound wrestler is poised to make an impact the second go-around as he hits the mat Thursday night.
Fresh off a 2A district championship Feb. 11, Ruth takes aim at the Iowa High School Athletic Association state tournament in downtown Des Moines.
The nerves from 2015 have all but gone to the wayside now.
“I feel like my first time, the atmosphere kind of psyched me out,” one of only two Greene County seniors said Tuesday inside the Jefferson Fieldhouse. “But I know what it’s like now and I feel like I have a better opportunity this time around.”
Ruth (30-3) blew through his sectional and district opponents, securing three pins in four postseason matches and a 5-1 decision in the district eight championship. He did not allow a takedown Saturday and for the most part, controlled his opponents, holding the upper-hand and staying on top. With his first round matchup just hours away, it’s time for Ruth to tap into his experience.
“He’s got to be mentally ready to go,” Greene County wrestling coach Mark Sawhill said. “That place down there (Wells Fargo Arena), I’ve seen so many kids mentally break because of the pressure and the atmosphere. He’s been there before and he understands what it’s about. He’ll have to go in there with a mental attitude that he has to be the aggressor and he’ll be fine.”
The unrated senior will face ninth-ranked (IAWrestle.com) Nick Smith of Central DeWitt (37-7) in the first round. The junior is fresh off a second place finish in district six in Maquoketa. Smith picked up a 3-1 decision over Mount Vernon’s Jack Cochrane in the semifinals but fell to top-ranked Noah Broderson of Davenport Assumption in the title match. He bounced back with a 6-1 decision over Dubuque Wahlert’s Dino Onyeukwu in the second place match, securing himself a spot at the state tournament.
The film on Smith is limited, but both Sawhill and Ruth expect him to be a handful.
“We know he’s a big boy, he’s kind of built like Hunter. He’s strong,” Sawhill said. “He’s a running back and loves the double leg. We don’t know too much other than that. He’s a good athlete and he has seven losses. So he’s been beat seven times, he’s not invincible.”
Ruth understands he has to come out the aggressor, like he did in districts, if he wants to come out on top. Get an early lead and keep the match under control.
“It’s just a matter of wrestling him,” the senior said. “Do what I have been but harder.”
If Ruth wins his first round match he could face either seventh-ranked Jordan Baumier of North Fayette Valley (25-4) or Kyle Kucera of South Tama County in the quarterfinals.
If Ruth were to lose his first round tilt, the senior would face off against the loser of the Baumier/Kucera match in the first round of consolations.
“I liked it. I liked the top half of the bracket,” Sawhill said after the 220-pound bracket was released. “He’s got a chance just like anybody else with his record compared to the others. But again, when you get into the state tournament, it’s a brand new ball game. Overall, I love where he is at.”
A potential bout with fourth ranked Dakoda Powell of Spirit Lake-Park (38-2) could await Ruth in the state semifinals. Fifth-ranked Aaron Maloy of Charles City (28-7) and sixth-ranked Blade Durbola of Benton Community (43-3) square off in perhaps the most high-profile first round matchup, with the winner taking on Powell or Clarion-Goldfield-Dows’ Chance Strough (31-11) in the quarterfinals.
Broderson (36-3) sits at the bottom half of the bracket and squares off against Algona’s Dominick Ehterington, who Ruth beat in the district championship.
The bottom portion features no top-10 first round matches but could pit second-ranked Kaden Hulett of Creston-Orient/Macksburg (51-2) against Broderson in the 220-pound semifinals.
Ruth is ready to go once the lights come on Thursday evening.
“He’s looking forward to this,” Sawhill said. “After making it his sophomore year and having a disappointing junior he wants to be on that medal stand no matter what. There are no nerves and he can’t wait to get back on that mat.”
Ruth plans to watch the 1A session Thursday afternoon while he begins to focus on his match that should happen sometime after six. He’s keeping his diet tight, making sure to keep his body in peak form. If he were to win, he would wrestle in the 2A quarterfinals Friday at 2:30 p.m. If he losses, he would wrestle in the first round consolations Thursday evening. State semifinals are Friday night at 8:45 p.m. with the state championships for 1A-3A set for 6 p.m. on Saturday.
“It’d mean a lot (to win a state championship in my senior year),” Ruth said. “That’s the big goal.”
That aforementioned focus is what Sawhill feels could lead Greene County’s lone state qualifier to glory. That, combined with a top-notch stamina he picked up from football and the same game plan that has led him to 30 wins, could pay big dividends.
For now, Ruth and the Greene County coaching staff are keyed in on the old sports mantra of one match at a time.
“[He must] keep wrestling like he is. Keep his head on straight,” Sawhill said. “We want to get him on the medal stand, that would be great. [But] e aren’t looking ahead. We are taking it one match at a time. Hopefully he keeps doing what he is doing because it’s working for him.”
STATE WRESTLING SCHEDULE
Thursday, Feb. 16
• 6 p.m. - 9 p.m. – Class 2A first round and first round consolations
Friday, Feb. 17
• 2:30 p.m. - 5:45 p.m. – Class 2A quarterfinals, Class 3A semis and third round consolations, Class 2A second round consolations
• 8:45 p.m. - 10 p.m. – Class 2A semis and third round consolations
Saturday, Feb. 18
• 10 a.m. - 2:15 p.m. – Class 3A, 1A, 2A consolation semis and finals
• 6 p.m. – Grand marc and finals for all classes