COUNCIL BLUFFS — The winding wrestling paths of Colton Adams and Preston Lauterbach reached a high point Friday night.
Fewer than 12 months ago, Adams was struggling with his academics at Nebraska while Lauterbach continued to rehab from a severe knee injury he suffered competing for UNK. Neither knew if, when or where they might grapple during the next school year.
Both found their way to Iowa Western. Now both are two matches away from securing a junior-college national title.
Fourth-ranked Adams — a four-time state champ from Scottsbluff — landed a pair of decisions in the 141-pound bracket of the NJCAA Wrestling Championships at the Mid-America Center. He decisioned unrated Jake Wilson of Northwest Kansas Tech 7-3 in the quarterfinals after edging unrated Mike Malles of Triton 3-2 in the morning session.
Bellevue West grad and No. 4 Lauterbach had a shorter day, landing first-period pins against unrated Darick Jones of Neosho and Devon Barker of Barton.
"The big thing about those two is they don't fear anybody," IWCC coach Josh Watts said. "They go out there and they do what they do regardless of who they're facing and what's going on."
Both Nebraska natives join Iowa Western teammates Clay Stine (133 pounds), Oscar Ramirez (149) and Chase Lemons (157) as All-Americans by securing top-eight finishes. The total ties the Reivers' high mark set last season, with Stine and Ramirez repeating the feat.
"All-American, can't really complain — but I'm not done," said Lauterbach, who enjoyed a slew of support from family and friends happy to drive a few miles to watch him wrestle. "I wouldn't like it if I wasn't winning on a good team."
Of the Reivers' nine national qualifiers, only the Nebraska duo advanced past the second round. Yet the host school led the team race after the morning session thanks to a strong push in the consolation round. Jhalen Flanders (184) and Stephen Boone (285) each won their second and third-round consolation bouts but fell just shy of All-America status by losing their final matches of the day.
"We're buying into what Coach Watts has been telling us all season: No matter what, you still have to wrestle at the end of the day," Flanders said. "It's a testament to our hard work."
Northeastern Oklahoma A&M (83.5 points) leads the race while defending champ Iowa Central (78) and Iowa Western (69.5) follow in a tight field. Action resumes at 10:30 a.m. Saturday with the championship semifinals and consolation rounds. The title matches are set for 7 p.m.