UNDERWOOD, Iowa — When the season changes from quantity to quality, Underwood coach Joe Stephens' juices start to flow.
"All the not-so-high-scoring guys aren't wrestling here," he said. "It becomes the best of the best of the best."
On Saturday, Underwood's best was good enough. The Eagles sent four wrestlers on to state-including three champions-and claimed the Iowa Class 1-A district crown with 91.5 points, just ahead of Logan-Magnolia (89), Missouri Valley (84) and AHSTW (82) in front of about 1,000 at Underwood High.
"I knew we could come out, even after getting third at sectionals, and be right in the race for this," Stephens said. "But my thoughts always are with the guys that did not get through. It's kind of a thorn in my side a little bit."
Logan-Magnolia had the most qualifiers with five, while Underwood, Missouri Valley and East Mills advanced four apiece. AHSTW moved on three, while Riverside, Treynor and Woodbine sent on two and Audubon and Exira-EHK added one each.
There were five meetings of state-rated wrestlers among the 14 district championship matches.
At 113, seventh-rated Remington Meeker (37-7) of Logan-Magnolia earned his first career victory over No. 5 Tatem Bluml (52-6) of Riverside, pinning him in 2:40.
Meeker lost 15-13 in their district match two years ago, and Bluml had beaten him by eight points and four points this year.
"Every time I wrestle him I give up back points a lot," Meeker said. "I didn't see a pin coming, but it happened. It made my day."
At 152, No. 4 Josh Hopkins (46-0) of East Mills decisioned No. 9 Brady Wilson (46-4) of Logan-Magnolia 11-5. At 160, No. 8 Nathan Haynes (54-5) of Missouri Valley pinned No. 7 Dustin Engel (34-4) of AHSTW in 34 seconds. It was their first meeting.
"I just went out there and wrest led my match and set up my shots," Haynes said. "My goal was to make it to state. Now we're probably going to up there and try to get up toward the top of the podium."
At 170, No. 6 Timmy Barr (51-1) of AHST Whandled No. 8 Riley Wohlers (17-3) of Logan-Magnolia 11-4. In the wrestle back for second, unrated Sam Gregory (40-5) of Treynor edged Wohlers 8-4. He had lost to Wohlers by the same score at sectionals.
Gregory said he needed to staymore patient in the rematch and rely on his conditioning.
"Everybody on our team's got a pretty big tank," he said.
Gregory joined older brother Steven (46-2), the 182-pound champ, at state.
"He's put a year into this," Treynor coach Dean Leaders said of the younger Gregory. "Last year, when he didn't get out of districts and had to watch his brother at state, Sam literally went to working out the next day, going on runs, just getting ready for this."
At 220, No. 5 Tom Rief (52-3) of Missouri Valley pinned No. 7 Nick Perkins (39-9) of East Mills in one minute.
Underwood's champions were senior Marshall Rasmussen (106), sophomore Alex Thomsen (126) and senior Tom Jennings (138). Freshman Michael Baker (120) moved on as a runner-up.
"Our program's different from everybody else," Stephens said. "Everyone else has dual teams, and that's great if you've got a lot of numbers. But if you don't, then you have to develop what you have and get them as good as possible. That's what I like about the postseason on the individual side."
The Eagles will have high hopes in Des Moines.
"We expect to do well," Stephens said. "We've got four guys, and we want four medals when we come back. We want four champs. Will that happen? Probably not, but that's the goal."