Everybody knows about Creston/Orient-Macksburg this year.
Last year, the Panthers were absent from the Class 2-A state team wrestling ratings the entire season before falling one match short of a team championship. The Panthers settled for a tie for second with Union, three points behind Mediapolis.
This year, second-rated Creston/O-M is among a small group of teams thought to be capable of winning the 2-A team race. The 2-A portion of the traditional state tournament begins at 6 p.m. Thursday at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
"I think it comes down to about four or five teams," said Creston/O-M coach Darrell Frain, mentioning No. 1 Albia, No. 3 New Hampton and No. 8 Davenport Assumption, but not ruling out others. "I think it will come down to Saturday for sure. For us, it's just about each kid competing and hoping they can get their hand raised and get to the next day."
Schools from The World-Herald's western Iowa coverage area have advanced 33 wrestlers in 2-A. Creston leads the way with eight, followed by Glenwood and Atlantic with six and Sergeant Bluff-Luton with five.
Creston is led by top-rated and defending champion Chase Shiltz (39-1), a junior at 170. Wyatt Thompson (138) is rated second, while Seth Maitlen (195) and Kadon Hulett (220) are rated third, and Cameron Leith (160) is seventh.
Thompson and Maitlen appear to have drawn difficult first-round matches. Thompson (48-3) meets No. 5 Kirk Mommsen (33-7) of Davenport Assumption, and Maitlen (513) gets No. 5 Matt McMillan (46-4) of Independence.
"I think we've got a lot of really tough matches," Frain said, "but that's what we expect."
Four of the top six ranked wrestlers at 195 are meeting in the first round. In addition to Maitlen/McMillan, No. 6 Zach Haggstrom (39-8) of Glenwood drew top-rated Izaak Shedenhelm (49-2) of Denver-Tripoli.
Glenwood coach Brad Asche said he gives his wrestlers similar advice each year.
"Just go out and wrestle your aggressive match, your style match and focus on what you do best," he said, "and we'll be fine. You're going to see a lot of fireworks on the first day in all classes, and hopefully we're on the winning side of it."
Glenwood's other rated wrestlers are No. 1MattMalcom (152), No. 2 Anthony Sherry (170) and No. 8 Caleb Sanders (285).
Sherry (44-7), a district runner-up to Creston's Shiltz, drew No. 5 Conner Shaw (40-2) of Garner-Hayfield-Ventura. Sanders (37-8) will meet No. 3 Nathan Heath (40-5) of ADM.
Four of Atlantic's six qualifiers are rated — No. 7 Carter Cox (113), No. 8 Kole Hansen (106), No. 8 Zac Stork (182) and No. 10 Chase McLaren (120).
Creston, which won the 2007 traditional team title and has been second three times, gets a bit of a scheduling break this year as it transitions from Wednesday's dual tournament to Thursday's individual tournament.
"One thing I really like this year is we've got the evening session," Frain said. "We're hoping a little bit of down time on Thursday is going to help us. I totally believe that what controls a lot of those first-round matches is who can control their composure."