Wrestling: Led by Hoyle’s perseverance and title, Rams send five to districts
By BRANDON HURLEY
He’d come too far to fall short.
After a surprising march to the sectional title match, Greene County’s Bryce Hoyle was dragging.
And for good reason.
A month-long battle with Mono followed by a dislocated rib had allowed the senior to wrestle just 10 matches entering the Feb. 2 meet in Ida Grove.
Significant fatigue was excused. But that wasn’t enough.
Hoyle refocused and shook off exhaustion as he continued his miraculous run by pinning OA-BCIG’s Devin Behrendsen in the third period of the 195-pound championship match, securing the Class 2A, sectional 8 title.
The three pin day not only secured Hoyle triumph, but placed him in this weekend’s Class 2A district tournament, keeping his state hopes alive.
“I knew because I hadn’t wrestled all year, I had nothing to lose. I just let it fly,” Hoyle said. “It was crazy. I’ve never won sectionals, and being the way it was this year, it was just a great feeling. Knowing that I put the time in and worked hard enough to get where I was supposed to be.”
Not only was Hoyle battling fierce competition on the mat Saturday, but he was tussling with his own beat-down body and emotions that were trying to get the better of him. Hoyle missed the opening month of the year because of Mono, then 10 matches later, suffered a dislocated rib. What a way to spend your final season in the red and black, huh?
Hoyle refused to allow his misfortune to keep him from his goal. He’d need to train harder while focusing his mind. At the same time, the window toward the state tournament began to close. A sense of urgency was of the utmost importance.
“I kept telling myself that it’s going to take everything I have to get in shape and come back,” Hoyle said. “(After my rib injury), I had about a week to get in shape. I knew every day I had to come here (to the wrestling room) and prepare myself for a full match. That’s what it was going to take.
I’d pick the best partners in the room, going against the toughest people, which usually meant the coaches because they could push me the hardest. Leaving it all out on the mat ever day. I knew that’s what it was going to take.”
After a few tense moments of anticipation, Hoyle went to work in the opening round Feb. 2, pinning Atlantic/CAM’s Sam Martin almost two minutes into the second period. He followed that up with a resounding upset of top-seeded Gabe Warren of Sergeant Bluff-Luton (32-12), securing a third period pin.
Though he was dominating opponents on the mat, Hoyle’s stamina was quickly dwindling. He’d trained for moments like these, now was the time to tap into his mental fortitude.
“I was absolutely gassed. I had no oxygen flowing into my muscles,” the senior said. “I’ve never been so tired. I came off the mat during my second match and looked at the coaches. But I told myself it’s all or nothing right now.”
Hoyle was not alone in his success last week, as he was just one of five Greene County wrestlers to advance in Ida Grove, as the Rams trudged through a tough sectional featuring a load of ranked wrestlers. Braden Gallagher (106 pounds), Joel Ward (160 pounds), and fellow seniors Brock Wuebker (170 pounds) and Clint Dennhardt (182 pounds) will join Hoyle at the Class 2A, District 4 tournament Feb. 9 in Harlan.
Though first-year Greene County head coach Zach Beekman had set a high bar of 10 district qualifiers entering the season, five was quite satisfying due to the Rams’ continual battles with sickness and injury.
“When you look at our sectional, and it was a tough sectional with the teams that were there. I couldn’t be happier,” Beekman said. “If you don’t set goals really high for yourself, you’re shooting really low and then you’re happy with just whatever. Ten was a lot, especially when we ended up not having a full line up. We took 12 guys, and to have five of those 12 is pretty good.”
With Wuebker (22-2) securing district placement from his second place match pin of Atlantic’s Chase Mullenix and fellow senior Clint Dennhardt capturing a sectional championship in just his second year of varsity wrestling, in addition to Hoyle’s banner day, it sets a mark of excellence for younger Rams to look to, Beekman said. Gallagher and Ward’s second place wins were extra icing on the cake.
“One of the reasons we took everybody with us to sectionals was that they can see it,” the coach said. “If you never go and watch, then you don’t know what it takes. I thought having those three seniors go through really makes a statement. They’ve put in a lot of hard work and it shows that it doesn’t matter how many years they’ve wrestled.
Beekman continued, “I challenged our guys, I told them if you don’t want to be here, you have to let me know. Otherwise, go out and compete, because this is going to be tough.”
Dennhardt’s title, securing pins in both his matches, including a championship-clinching pin fall of Sergeant Bluff-Luton’s Tristan Navrkal, was especially exemplary for the simple notion the senior had not wrestled since middle school prior to his return last winter. This weekend’s tournament will be a testament to Dennhardt’s sheer athleticism and dedication.
“That’s hard to do (to take a couple years off),” Beekman said. “You’re out of it, you’re mind’s out of it. Wrestling is one of those sports, once you’re out for too long, you lose some of your technique and your drive.
For him to be a district qualifier last year and to get here again and have a really solid performance in sectionals, (that says a lot). When you’re trying to turn the program around, you can’t ask for much more.”
The District 4 tournament begins Saturday at 12 p.m. at the Harlan Community High School. The Rams will compete in four-person brackets comprised of wrestlers from Red Oak, Harlan, Clarinda, Creston/Orient-Macksburg, Sergeant Bluff-Luton, Winterset and Harlan.
The top two place-winners in districts advance to the 2019 state wrestling tournament, set for Feb. 14-16 in downtown Des Moines.