DES MOINES — Alex Thomsen continued to look right at home at the state tournament. Nathan Haynes and Tim Barr had never wrestled there before this week.
The three western Iowa products navigated different paths this season and this week at the Class 1-A meet. But their destinations will be identical Saturday night: competing for a state championship at sold-out Wells Fargo Arena.
Thomsen — an Underwood sophomore — continued his dominance while moving to 49-0 this winter and 93-0 for his career. On Friday, the top-rated 126-pounder posted technical falls of 21-6 and 21-5 against Moravia’s unrated Nicholas Martin and Emmetsburg’s No. 7 Tanner Lundgren.
It sets up a clash of unbeatens Saturday evening as Thomsen meets No. 2 Drew West (52-0) of Highland Riverside. West gave Thomsen his toughest challenge in last season’s quarterfinal round before losing 5-4.
“That match last year, it looked close, but it was not,” Thomsen said. “I felt like I was in control the whole time, and this time we’ll put more points on the board and prove that we’re No. 1 in the state.”
Barr, an AHSTW senior rated No. 6, pinned his unrated quarterfinal opponent in 5:06, then recorded multiple takedowns to top No. 7 Jared Johnson of West Marshall 7-3 in the semis at 170. Afterward, he reflected on how he evolved from someone who started grappling in junior high to a state finalist with a 54-1 record.
“I was probably an under-.500 wrestler going into high school,” Barr said. “My freshman year I didn’t know anything and barely knew what a state tournament was. Then I kind of got the hang of it and started falling in love with it. I started wrestling in the summer and loved it ever since.
“Physically, I might be outmatched in some of these matches, but mentally I like to think I have an edge going in believing in myself and believing I can do it.”
The journey ends against Alburnett’s No. 1 Tanner Sloan (40-3). Barr will vie to become the program’s third state champ and first since 2003.
Missouri Valley’s Haynes, a 160-pound sophomore, took perhaps the most thrilling route to the finals. Rated No. 8, he converted a takedown with 30 seconds left against Wapello’s No. 10 Rogan Pforts to win 3-2. In the semis in the afternoon, he opened the second period of a scoreless bout against Hudson’s No. 2 Taylan Entriken by catching the junior in a headlock and pinning him for his first defeat in 50 matches this season.
“I was so tense last year, worrying about everyone and what their record was and everything,” said Haynes, who owns a 57-5 mark. “This year I went out thinking that doesn’t matter, and it’s proven to work pretty well.”
Each of Missouri Valley’s four qualifiers survived enough wrestlebacks Friday to guarantee themselves top-eight medals Saturday. Connor Lange (120) and Tom Rief (220) will each end no worse than sixth and Jack Kyle (132) will wrestle for seventh.
Haynes can become the second Big Red to capture state wrestling gold. His final challenger will be Interstate 35’s No. 3 Sal Arzani (50-1).
Two other area 1-A contenders fell one point short in the semis. Underwood’s No. 7 Tom Jennings led 6-5 with half a minute left against Iowa Valley-Marengo’s No. 2 Jacob Krakow at 138, but surrendered a takedown to seal it. At heavyweight, Maple Valley-Anthon-Oto’s No. 6 Cole Jensen (47-1) suffered his first loss of the season by a 3-2 decision to Manson Northwest Webster’s No. 3 Tim Butcher.
In all, western Iowa reps secured 17 medals Friday. Others were OA-BCIG’s Kurtis Krager (106), Riverside’s Tatem Bluml (113), Nodaway Valley’s Ben Freese (126), West Monona’s Braiden Tank (145), AHSTW’s Dustin Engel (160) and Treynor’s Steven Gregory (182). Logan-Magnolia added Garret Thompson (126) and Brady Wilson (152).
Team scoring leaders: 1, Alburnett 88.5; 2, Lisbon 87; 3, Mason City Newman 46; 4, Highland 44.5; 5, Missouri Valley 40.5. Also: 6, Underwood 39.
Western Iowa semifinals — 126: Alex Thomsen, Underwood, tech. fall Tanner Lundgren, Emmetsburg, 21-5. 138: Jacob Krakow, Iowa Valley, dec. Tom Jennings, Underwood, 7-6. 160: Nathan Haynes, Missouri Valley, pinned Taylan Entriken, Hudson, 2:31. 170: Tim Barr, AHSTW, dec. Jared Johnson, West Marshall, 7-3. 285: Tim Butcher, Manson-NW, dec. Cole Jensen, Maple Valley-Anthon-Oto, 3-2.
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