COUNCIL BLUFFS — The signs of progress were all over the Mid-America Center. But on Saturday those associated with Iowa Western wrestling were too busy lamenting a painful what-if to notice.
The Reivers and their fifth-year program had plenty to celebrate as the NJCAA Wrestling Championships concluded late Saturday night. A fourth-place tie in the team standings was their best finish ever, and five All-Americans equaled their most in a season. They even hosted the national event for the first time without issue.
Yet the breakthrough IWCC wanted most — its first individual title — continued to elude it. Freshman Colton Adams led after two periods against defending champ Jason Alfau of Iowa Central in the 141-pound final, but a flurry of late action ended with the Triton flexing to the crowd as a 10-4 winner.
“It’s heartbreaking,” IWCC coach Josh Watts said. “You care for these kids; you want them to accomplish their goals and you do whatever you can to help them. It hurts.”
Fourth-ranked Adams led 3-0 after two periods against a foe he’d beaten twice this season, completing a single-leg takedown in the first and escaping in the second. But the Scottsbluff grad and four-time Nebraska state champ saw his lead quickly cut to 4-3 in the third after Alfau escaped, took him down and let him up again. The seventh-ranked Iowa Central sophomore then landed another takedown and back points in the last 30 seconds to complete the torrid rally.
“We let the match get out of hand — it happens,” Watts said. “You’ve got to stay on the offensive and keep attacking. We didn’t do that and it didn’t work out for us.”
The coach shared an embrace with his runner-up in the warmup area afterward. Adams — who spent a year redshirting at Nebraska before transferring because of academics — finishes 15-2 and as the second IWCC grappler to reach a national final. He upset top-rated Braydon Akeo 5-2 to advance to the evening action spotlighted on a single elevated mat.
Redshirt freshman Preston Lauterbach (174) also had designs on a title as the other Reiver to reach the semifinals. But the Bellevue West grad suffered a concussion and was pinned by No. 1 Jacobe Smith of Northeastern Oklahoma A&M and eventually took fourth.
Also earning top-eight All-America status with the Council Bluffs school were Clay Stine (fifth at 133), Oscar Ramirez (seventh at 149) and Chase Lemons (eighth at 157).
“I thought the guys showed a lot of guts this weekend,” Watts said. “We took a lot of really bad losses in the first and second round and we battled back, showed a lot of character, a lot of effort, a lot of heart. I’m proud of this group of kids.”
Northeastern Oklahoma A&M claimed its second team title in three seasons after its program was reinstated from an absence of more than 20 years. The Golden Norsemen accumulated 152.5 team points, ahead of last year’s champ Iowa Central (128), Ellsworth (98) and Iowa Western (90.5) and North Iowa Area (90.5).
Winners for the program based in Miami, Oklahoma, were Dawaylon Barnes (157 pounds), Jacobe Smith (174) and Blake Andrews (285). All three sophomores are considering Oklahoma or Oklahoma State as possible future destinations.
In all, the squad left with a tourney-best nine All-Americans.
“This means the boys work hard,” coach Joe Renfro said. “I didn’t do anything; these guys just bought in really, really well. We just led them down the path and they took it wisely and took care of business. Every one of them is special in their own right.”
Iowa Central added champs in Alex DelaCruz (125), Tyler Hoffman (184) and Alfau (141). Other gold medalists were North Iowa Area’s Shiquan Hall (133), Northwest Wyoming’s John-David Henderson (149), Camden County’s Dymere Rappa (197) and North Idaho’s Dajour Reece (165).
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Team scoring (top 10): Northeastern Oklahoma A&M 152.5, Iowa Central 128, Ellsworth 98, Iowa Western 90.5, North Iowa Area 90.5, Clackamas 77.5, Iowa Lakes 72.5, Nassau 60.5, Northwest Wyoming 52.5, Niagara 47.5.
Championship results: 125 pounds: Alex DelaCruz, Iowa Central, dec. Cole Verner, Western Wyoming, 8-6.
133: Shiquan Hall, North Iowa Area, dec. Zak Hensley, Iowa Central, 5-3 (OT). 141: Jason Alfau, Iowa Central, dec. Colton Adams, Iowa Western, 10-4. 149: John-David Henderson, Northwest Wyoming, dec. Chris Garcia, Clackamas, 3-2. 157: Dawaylon Barnes, Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, dec. Christopher Schmidt, Ridgewater, 5-2. 165: Dajour Reece, North Idaho, dec. Daquon Wilson, Spartanburg Methodist, 7-5. 174: Jacobe Smith, Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, major dec. Jordan Gundrum, Ellsworth, 14-5. 184: Tyler Hoffman, Iowa Central, pinned Wesley Schultz, Iowa Lakes, 4:21. 197: Dymere Rappa, Camden County, dec. John Morin, Clackamas, 4-2. 285: Blake Andrews, Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, pinned Guy Henson, Iowa Lakes, 2:05.
Other Iowa Western placement matches: Third-place matches: 174: Devan Richter, Muskegon, won by medical forfeit over Preston Lauterbach, Iowa Western. Fifth-place matches: 133: Clay Stine, Iowa Western, major dec. Tepra Wright, Ellsworth, 10-1. Seventh-place matches: 149: Oscar Ramirez, Iowa Western, dec. Cody McGregor, Niagra, 6-4. 157: Brandon Murray, Iowa Central, pinned Chase Lemons, Iowa Western, 8:26.
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