Wrestling: A VETERAN PRESENCE
By BRANDON HURLEY
Wrestling requires a certain amount of mental fortitude.
Physicality, while nice in theory, doesn’t quite prepare an athlete for the rigors of high school grappling.
There are the brutal practices and the constant weight monitoring, that’s all before spending an entire Saturday on the mat. Oh, and there’s just a bit of precise technique involved as well. So many factors make wrestling one of the toughest sports in the world.
Those factors alone are why Greene County will lean heavily on a core of veterans this winter to push them toward the prestigious state tournament.
Combine that with a jolt from one of the state’s top freshman and the Rams should trot out a well-rounded and talented squad, a team that has a chance to make some significant noise.
Greene County head coach Zach Beekman, entering his second year at the helm, realizes the Rams, despite having some significant holes to fill, has a shot at doing some special things. With guys like Will Hansen (170 pounds), Gage Michaelsen (220), Brenner Gallagher (113 pounds), Garret Tasler (132 pounds), Brandon Hoyle (285 pounds) and Chance McCollom (132) returning a bevy of experience, Greene County shouldn’t have much trouble competing. Most of those guys have been with the varsity program for several years, and have witnessed what it takes to compete with the best.
“The potential’s there, if we hold them to a high standard and work hard. If you don’t accept anything less than that, they’ll meet your expectations,” Beekman said. “And sometimes, they’ll they’ll surpass them.”
The head coach admits he placed lofty goals on his guys in a transition year last winter, despite that, the Rams still managed to qualify a pair of guys for the state tournament – Brock Wuebker and Bryce Hoyle. But more than their experience and talent, the Rams will miss their leadership most. Regardless, their success alone should generate a decent spark among Greene County throughout the 2019-20 season.
Hansen and Michaelsen, two guys that were instrumental in Greene County’s success on the gridiron this past fall, hope to carry that over onto the wrestling mat. Hansen was one of Greene County’s top wrestlers as a junior, while Michaelsen came on strong, late. Their strength and technique has seen significant growth in the last year. Add in senior Brandon Hoyle, who’s making his return to the mat after a few years hiatus, and that’s a solid core seniors to lead the way.
“Gage had a really good football season, and he had some success (wrestling) last year,” Beekman said. “He’ll hopefully see even more success this year on the mat. A lot of the guys know (Brandon Hoyle). He hasn’t been wrestling for a few years but he’s giving it a go and I tell you what, he looks like he hasn’t missed much.”
That aforementioned experience is where Beekman feels the Rams can feed off of most. Yes, they may be light in a few weight classes, but the Rams won’t ever get out-worked in a match, the coach said. They’ll be ready to battle to the final bell each time out.
“Our conditioning will be there. We’ve got some really good senior leadership, guys that have been in the program for years,” Beekman said. “We’re going to lean on them to really take it. We have a few juniors that have been wrestling since they were really young, ones that can step up in a leadership role.”
One guy that should help shore those depth issues arrives in the form of a highly-touted freshman. The anticipation is palpable for McKinley Robbins, and he’s wasted little time flaunting his tremendous skills. The 106-pounder announced his arrival during a much-anticipated varsity debut Tuesday in Ogden, securing a trio of pins while barely working up a sweat. Robbin recorded each pin in less than a minute’s work, pinning Ogden’s Levi Russo 41 seconds into the match, PCM’s Alex Courtney also 41 seconds in and Van Meter’s Easton Padilla 58 seconds into the first period.
Robbins, wrestling at 106 pounds, enters the 2019-20 season as one of IA Wrestle’s top rookies to watch thanks to his prestigious prep career. He was 35-12 as a youth wrestler (According to TrackWrestling) and won the Iowa AAU middle school state championship. He also captured the 2019 Winter Nationals title and was second at the middle school Fall Nationals. Robbins placed third at the 16 and under Iowa State freestyle championships, highlighting a monster 2019. The freshman’s sheer talent and determination has already rubbed off on his older teammates early into the season.
“He’s in a good place at 106 coming in as a freshman, not that he’s not going to wrestle tough competition, but I think the field that he is in looks good,” Beekman said. “He just pushes us in the wrestling room. And that’s really where is his presence is felt right now.
He’s got so much wrestling experience under his belt. He has stepped up and is really pushing. He pushes the guys hard because he knows what it takes to get to a certain level.”
One thing Beekman hopes to key on this fall as the Rams dig deep into the winter schedule is precision. Greene County can’t merely really on pure talent, they have to work at growth each and everyday and show immense attention to detail.
“When we go over drills or we do technique in practice and then you say ‘Yep, I got it, I can do that,’ and you go release them to go practice it, they’re not paying attention to the little things,” Beekman said. “It’s the little details. If you want to be highly competitive, your technique has to be top notch.”
Greene County opened the 2019-20 with a pair of wins over PCM (51-30) and Ogden (42-36) Tuesday, Dec. 3 in Ogden while also falling to Van Meter/Earlham (48-29). Greene County is next in action Saturday, Dec. 7 at the DC-G tournament in Grimes.
The Rams will head to the southeast when sectionals roll around Feb. 8. They’ll compete in Adel in Class 2A, District 1, section 3 against ADM, Atlantic, Creston, Kuemper Catholic, Panorama and Winterset. Winterset is ranked third in Class 2A, according to IA Wrestle, having received four first place votes in the preseason. Districts will be held in Atlantic the following Saturday, Feb. 15.
The 2020 Iowa High School state tournament is set for Feb. 20-22 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.