Wrestling preview: Led by a returning state qualifier, Greene County poised for another breakout
By BRANDON HURLEY
A promising youth movement has transformed into reality.
A core of experienced and talented wrestlers could elevate Greene County to a rare level of greatness this winter, but it certainly won’t come easy.
Anchoring that experience is a state runner-up as well as a highly-touted sophomore who finished runner-up at state as a freshman.
Seven of Greene County’s returning wrestlers captured victory in at least 20 matches a season ago, solidifying a unit which won 23 dual matches last winter and placed fourth at the Heart of Iowa Conference tournament.
Greene County’s McKinely Robbins yet again enters the season with quite a bit of fanfare. The sophomore dominated from the moment he laced up the Greene County varsity singlet last winter. The Predicament’s second-ranked wrestler at 113 pounds and No. 2 at 120 pounds by IAWrestle captured a handful of titles during his rookie season. The sophomore won a Heart of Iowa Conference title, a 2A sectional championship and a district title en route to 37 wins. Robbins’ only two losses during his freshman season were to Webster City’s Cam Phetxoumphone, who defeated Robbins at the Dallas Center-Grimes tournament last December and again outlasted him, 5-0 in the Class 2A state title match at 106 pounds. Phetxoumphone finished the year 40-0 with a 5-0 win over Robbins. He’s lost just six matches in his career, posting a 82-6 record through two years and has secured the preseason No. 1 spot at 113 points this winter. So, Robbins definitely didn’t lose to a fluke opponent. In fact, more impressive feats are in store as Robbins continues his trek to a state championship as he moves up to the 120 pound weight class. And if you ask the sophomore, one championship won’t be enough, he wants to bring home multiple gold medals. Greene County head coach Zach Beekman knows his sophomore is inches away from a title, and last year’s experience will only boast Robbins’ chances.
“McKinley is a tough kid. Where he has grown the most, is those big stage matches. He’s wrestled big name kids, he’s got that big game experience under his belt,” Beekman said. “I think he’s a little more focused in the room. He’s looking at it as he hasn’t won a state title yet.”
Robbins jump two weights up doesn’t concern Beekman much. He’s confident the sophomore will be more than able to handle himself with bigger kids.
“His competition at 120 will be more consistent. A lot of teams, if you have a 106 pounder, they are lucky,” Robbins said. “But, the top guys at 120 wont be any different than at 106. He’s a strong, solid 120 pounds.”
Greene County’s Sawyer Schiltz was one of four district qualifiers in 2020 and begins the season as the Rams’ most veteran presence. The senior tallied 26 wins en route to a conference title and his district appearance, only distracted by 13 losses. The then junior was pinned by Clarinda’s Crew Howard 1:27 into the 2A district semifinals. Howard was undefeated at the time, later finishing fourth at the 2020 state tournament.
“Sawyer has a taste of districts. He knows what it takes,” Beekman said. “He was wrestling really well at the end of last year. Our seniors will lead our team, It’s going to take everybody to pull together some team victories.”
Brady Stauffer was quite the standout as well last winter, compiling a team-best 39 wins with just eight losses, aided by a silver medal at the HOIC tournament. Nate Black will provide a formidable boost at the middle weight, tallying a 25-8 last year at 145 pounds. John Sprague broke out as a sophomore at 126 pounds last winter, tallying an impressive 23-3 record, securing a third place finish at the HOIC meet. Chance McCollom won 20 matches (20-16) as a junior, continuing a steady stream of improvement during his career.
The Rams will also welcome in a crop of highly-touted newcomers, anchored by Michael Rumley, who won an AAU state title last winter. Rumley blitzed his way into the Greene County varsity defensive line this fall, securing 15 tackles, a sack and 3.5 tackles for loss. He certainly possesses the size and skill to make an immediate impact at the upper weights, where he’ll begin at 220 pounds.
Greene County opened the 2020-21 season with a road triangular Tuesday in Iowa Falls. The Rams endured a delayed start, postponing a pair of meets last week due to a lack of practice time. The Greene County School District transitioned to a two-week, online only course plan, halting all athletics at the tail end of November. The pause pushed back the start of Greene County’s wrestling practices, and out of an abundance of caution, the Rams delayed the start of the season.
Greene County heads to Carroll next Saturday, Dec. 19 for a tournament at Carroll Community High School, competing against teams from Ames, Clarinda, Denison-Schleswig and Kuemper Catholic, among others.
Greene County will wrestle in Jefferson just twice this winter, with the home-opener set for Jan. 14 as a quadrangular with PCM, South Hamilton and Pocahontas Area. The Rams will host the Heart of Iowa Conference tournament Friday, Jan. 22.
The biggest concern for a talented Greene County squad is trying to overcome a string of open weights. Dual matches will likely have several forfeits, and that’s due to a variety of factors, including COVID-19 concerns and usual yearly turnover. Beekman will call on many of the Rams’ underclassmen to step up as well.
“We are going to lean on everybody, they’ve got to be ready to go,” Beekman said. “We don’t have enough guys. It’s a day-by-day type of thing.”
Class 2A sectionals are set for Feb. 6. The Rams will compete in sectional 2 at Woodward-Granger High School competing against teams from ADM, Gilbert, Perry, Van Meter-Earlham and the hometown Hawks. The district tournament will be held the following weekend, Feb. 13 in Adel. The 2020 Iowa High School traditional state tournament is set for Feb. 18-20 at Wells Fargo Arena in downtown Des Moines.