UNDERWOOD, Iowa — On a day with no major individual upsets, Riverside and East Mills reveled in postseason breakthroughs for their wrestling teams.
Both schools qualified five grapplers to next weekend’s Iowa Class 1-A district meet in Corning. The efforts helped Riverside to its first sectional crown since 2009, while East Mills celebrated its first regional duals berth in program history at Saturday afternoon’s eight-squad sectional at Underwood High School.
“We just wrestled tough,” Riverside coach Casey Conover said. “We had a little bit of a chip on our shoulders. A lot of teams didn’t predict us winning it, so the kids wanted to prove people wrong.”
The Bulldogs (30-10 dual record) improved by 17 wins from a season ago. Of their 12 returning starters, nine bettered their individual win total by double digits. Tucker Bluml (120 pounds), Clay Harris (132) and Payton Housman (170) each won their sectional weights, while 10th-ranked Jacob Vogel (113) and Brandon Paulsen (182) make districts as runners-up.
East Mills scored 173.5 points — well behind Riverside’s 204 but ahead of Griswold’s 158 — to continue its best season in seven years as a program.
Josh Hopkins (152) and seventh-ranked David Howell (285) went unbeaten Saturday, and Lane Stortenbecker (138), Colby Jennings (170) and Colton Story (195) also moved on.
“I’ve never been a part of regional duals in wrestling or coaching,” East Mills coach Claude Lang said. “Everybody knew their matches were big, even if they weren’t in the finals. Every point was going to count. We’ve put emphasis on it all year that everybody matters, and it paid off today.”
Riverside will face No. 12 Guthrie Center at 6 p.m. Tuesday in a double dual at Guthrie Center that also includes No. 6 Audubon and Panorama. East Mills will square off with Logan-Magnolia at Woodbury Central, where the No. 2 host school will take on Westwood.
Underwood qualified a meet-high six wrestlers to next Saturday’s district competition. Last year’s Class 1-A state dual runner-up has dealt with open weights all season and had five Saturday to end its three-year run of appearing in a regional dual.
Four Eagles won their weights. They were No. 2 Taylor Curtis (106), No. 9 Riley Klein (113), No. 1 Andrew Foutch (126) and Cody Kingery (145).
Klein, who beat Riverside’s Vogel 8-2 in the finals in the day’s only matchup of ranked wrestlers, said his teammates were ecstatic with the outcome despite the overall finish. After ignoring team scores all winter, Underwood considers the postseason a welcome sight.
“Before the season, we thought we could either try to get some more people to come out (for wrestling) or we could focus on individuals,” Klein said. “We chose to focus on individuals, and I think it’s starting to pay off this time of year.”
Griswold and Council Bluffs St. Albert each got five through to districts, while two wrestlers advanced from Southwest Iowa, a joint effort of Sidney and Fremont-Mills. Griswold’s lone champ was No. 10 Tanner Potter (138), while St. Albert had three — No. 10 Wyatt Lewis (160), No. 7 Jake Lewis (182) and Sean O’Neill (195)
“It was an up-and-down day,” St. Albert coach Al Lewis said. “We were real close on a couple other matches, and it would have been nice to get everybody through.”
St. Albert senior Nate Dunning bagged career win No. 100 in his semifinal match before ultimately taking second. Andy Kouri (220) extended his season with a 5-2 win in the final wrestleback of the day.
O’Neill edged East Mills’ Story 4-2 with a takedown in overtime, but only after having his head wrapped before the third period because of a cut above his left eye.
“I took a shot, came up and bonked his head,” O’Neill said. “I didn’t realize I was bleeding until I saw it on my nose.”
Team scoring: 1, Riverside 204; 2, East Mills 173.5; 3, Griswold 158; 4, Underwood 156.5; 5, St. Albert 136.5; 6, Southwest Iowa 109; 7, Treynor 72.5; 8, Clarinda Academy 37.
District qualifiers: 106: 1, Taylor Curtis, Underwood; 2, Craig Rice, Southwest Iowa. 113: 1, Riley Klein, Underwood; 2, Jacob Vogel, Riverside. 120: 1, Tucker Bluml, Riverside; 2, Tom Jennings, Underwood. 126: 1, Andrew Foutch, Underwood; 2, Zach Vance, Griswold. 132: 1, Clay Harris, Riverside; 2, Austin Dollen, Griswold. 138: 1, Tanner Potter, Griswold; 2, Lane Stortenbecker, East Mills. 145: 1, Cody Kingery, Underwood; 2, Josh Metheny, Griswold. 152: 1, Josh Hopkins, East Mills; 2, Nate Dunning, St. Albert. 160: 1, Wyatt Lewis, St. Albert; 2, Trevor Hough, Underwood. 170: 1, Payton Housman, Riverside; 2, Colby Jennings, East Mills. 182: 1, Jake Lewis, St. Albert; 2, Brandon Paulsen, Riverside. 195: 1, Sean O’Neill, St. Albert; 2, Colton Story, East Mills. 220: 1, Mark Hall, Southwest Iowa; 2, Andy Kouri, St. Albert. 285: 1, David Howell, East Mills; 2, Jacob Steinbeck, Griswold.