Wrestling: Greene County not satisfied with runner-up HOIC finish despite four champions
By BRANDON HURLEY
JEFFERSON - The state’s top-ranked wrestler found time on the mat in any form he could last week.
McKinley Robbins, now a back-to-back Heart of Iowa Conference champion, was happily cleaning the wrestling surfaces mere moments before his conference semifinal match Jan. 22. The casual fan wouldn’t have noticed this charming act of charity. Though Robbins is an absolute monster in action, he’s not exactly the most physically imposing athlete. He likely fit the description for many of the volunteers that help run a tournament of the Heart of Iowa Conference’s magnitude.
As it seemed, the pre-match cleaning only boosted Robbins’ confidence. The young teenager craves the competitiveness of wrestling, and strives to be great, as evidenced by his perfect 25-0 record this winter. He picked up two victories with ease en route to his Heart of Iowa Conference title in Jefferson, one of Greene County’s four individual champions last week.
Despite eight wrestlers reaching their respective bracket final, which led to an additional four silver medals, Greene County’s overall second place finish did not quite satisfy the Rams. The wrestlers felt, as a collective, they should have won the HOIC tournament outright. Instead, West Marshall took home the championship, scoring 197 points thanks to four individual titles of their own, a runner-up finish and a trio of bronze medals, outlasting Greene County who put up 180 points.
The difference, Greene County head coach Zach Beekman said, was a matter of missed opportunities as well as a handful of wrestlers who didn’t enter the tournament in the proper mindset. A team title requires exactly that, an immense dedication all the way through the lineup. There was no excuse to finish with a silver medal, short of the ultimate goal. Beekman didn’t hesitate to let his general frustrations be heard, either.
“The team was disappointed,” the coach said. “We were shown once again that it takes everyone to win dual meets and tournament titles. We should have won that tournament hands down, but because we have team members who are only partially committed to the team, we ended up with the result we did. Second place with this caliber of team is truthfully disappointing. The guys who are all in work really hard and deserve to have teammates they can trust.” In addition to Robbins, fellow 2020 state qualifier Brenner Gallagher also picked up an individual title, securing a pin and a major decision at 113 pounds. Seniors Brady Stauffer (138 pounds) and Sawyer Schiltz snagged conference championships with little opposition to help pad Greene County’s point total. Freshmen Jackson Turner (132 pounds) and Gavin Scheuermann (145 pounds) in addition to Nathan Black (152 pounds) and Noble Hoyt (160 pounds) each captured silver medals.
Greene County should have walked away a perfect eight-for-eight showing in the championship round, Beekman felt, it’s what the Rams have come to expect. The Rams were riding high after the semifinal round, leading by 20 points in the team standings with eight guys ready for action in the championship bouts. But, overall glory never arrived.
A string of top-tier individual performances were a shinning light, though there’s still work to do as a whole. The Rams left the high school gym last week with an underwhelming taste in their mouths. The elusive team title remains a mystery for a program that has has snatched runner-up honors twice in their last three HOIC tournament appearances.
“Our individual performances did not disappoint, but that performance did not boost our confidence,” Beekman said. “As a team, we underperformed based on the goal we set for ourselves.
We have really high expectations because we know we are capable of great things. We also know that anything that we have accomplished before the postseason makes no difference when it comes to sectionals and districts.”
VETERANS MAKE NOISE
A pair of program mainstays flexed their wrestling prowess last week. Senior Sawyer Schiltz, wrestling at 285 pounds, secured his second straight HOIC title while fellow classmate Brady Stauffer (20-4) achieved a pair of milestones as well. The 138-pounder picked up a trio of victories en route to his first-ever individual conference title, punctuated by his 100th career victory in the semifinals. He opened the HOIC tournament with back-to-back pins before evading Saydel’s Austin Chally by an 11-2 major decision.
Stauffer wasn’t quite done with his weekend, pulling off a massive first round upset at the absolutely loaded and 3A-heavy Ed Winger Classic Saturday in Urbandale. Stauffer pulled off a decisive, 7-0 victory over Class 3A’s eighth-rated wrestler, Caleb German of Urbandale, eventually leading to a sixth-place finish.
Schiltz also solidified his place among recent Ram standouts, securing three wins en route to his second straight HOIC title. Schiltz opened his night with back-to-back pins as well before staking his claim of another championship with a dominant, 20-3 tech fall in last week’s HOIC final against Nevada’s Camdan Vincent. Schiltz (15-7) rode his hot-streak to a seventh-place finish at the Ed Winger Classic, defeating Southeast Polk’s C.J. Simmons in the opening round before getting bounced from the winner’s bracket by Class 3A’s top-ranked wrestler, Griffin Liddle in the second round. Schiltz recovered to win two of his next three matches, including back-to-back pins to secure seventh place. The senior’s pair of wins in the consolation bracket lasted a total of 87 seconds, punctuated by a pin of Easton Eledge in the seventh-place match.
Robbins was once again the standout in Saturday’s trip to Urbandale, wasting little time in a follow up to the prior night’s title with a dominant championship victory at the Ed Winger Invite. The sophomore took down a pair of Class 3A-rated wrestlers en route to the 120 pound title, proving his elite standing within the state of Iowa. Robbins has won 25 straight matches this winter, thanks to back-to-back overtime victories in his final two matches Jan. 23. Robbins edged past Class 3A No. 5 Rheiner Stallbaum in the semifinals, 8-6 and proved his stamina is among Iowa’s best, regardless of class, securing another stirring victory in the title match, knocking off Bettendorf’s Jayce Luna, ranked 10th in Class 3A, 4-2 in overtime. Robbins secured four victories in all Saturday, including a pin of Dallas Center-Grimes’ Carson Springer and narrow, 7-6 win over Norwalk’s Trent Harper.
If Robbins’ No. 1 ranking in Class 2A entering the weekend didn’t already suggest it, the sophomore is clearly a cut above the rest of 2A. He’s certainly the state championship favorite after his latest sprint through the competition.
Junior Nate Black (21-3), who was blocked from by an HOIC title by a 17-2 tech fall from third-ranked Colby Tool of PCM, bounced back to secure a fourth-place finish in Urbandale the following day. The junior won his first two matches by fall, highlighted by a quarterfinal upset of Class 3A No. 9 Sam Zindel of Johnston, 42 seconds into the match. before once again running into Tool. This time, the battle was a little closer, but with PCM’s top wrestler again coming out on top with a 9-2 victory in the 152 pound semifinals. Black recovered to pin Bettendorf’s Nick Matthys in the third round of the consolation bracket before losing to Class 3A No. 6 Colin Driscoll of Waukee by a 15-4 major decision in the third place match.
THE BIG BOYS PREVAIL
The Ed Winger Classic was the premier wrestling tournament in all of central Iowa Feb. 23, boasting five of Class 3A’s top 10 teams.
Despite little time to rest following their HOIC showing, Greene County finished a fairly impressive 11th out of 14 teams in action Jan. 23 with 70.5 points, one of just three non-Class 3A squads to place. Class 3A second-ranked Southeast Polk was upset by third-ranked Waukee for the team title, scoring 217.5 points to the Rams’ 212 points. Fifth-ranked Bettendorf secured third place with 149.5 points followed by eighth-ranked North Scott (126.5 points), who edged out 10th-ranked Norwalk by 3.5 points. Greene County edged out Class 1A No. 5 Underwood for 11th place, winning by 6.5 points.
While the Rams’ performance Saturday was a bit more encouraging, Beekman knows there’s quite a bit of work left as Greene County prepares for their 2A sectional meet Saturday, Feb. 6 in Granger.
“We will continue to refine our technique,” Beekman said. “Each wrestler has something that they need to improve upon, so we will spend the next couple weeks drilling towards perfection and increasing our conditioning so we can push the pace of the match in the third period.”