BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
DES MOINES – For FMHS junior Harlan Steffensmeier, the state wrestling tournament is, as Head Coach Ryan Smith said on Wednesday “old hat”, but for his cousin Ryan, also a junior, the tournament is new and fresh.
Surrounded by the energy of Wells Fargo Arena and the smell of sweat, rubber and popcorn, Ryan Steffensmeier, wrestling at 113 lbs., got onto Mat 5 about 10 minutes into the start of the tournament. Thirty-two seconds later his day was over and he was on his way to the quarterfinals. Butterflies…check.
Harlan took a bit longer to get a technical fall over Bryce Murano of Dallas Center-Grimes, 19-4 sending him into the quarterfinals as well.
Ryan shot at freshman Keano Roberts of Bettendorf and lifted Roberts over his back from a squatted position and rolled him onto the mat and climbed on top. After a short ride, Steffensmeier slid to the side and got hold of Roberts left leg and pulled him up and cradled him for the pin.
“Umm, I was a little nervous, yeah. Being it was my first time I had a case of the butterflies,” Steffensmeier said after the win. “But Harlan took me aside and talked me down and told me to just think one match at a time.”
Steffensmeier said his game plan was to be aggressive.
“I wanted to get to my attack and then just go for the fall,” Steffensmeier said. “Then just go rest.”
Smith said he thought Steffensmeier was handling the jitters.
“We really thought he was good to go in that respect,” Smith said. “Then he got out there and saw an opportunity and didn’t give the kid a chance to do much.”
Steffensmeier now faces the No. 1 ranked 113 lb. wrestler in the state in Drew Bennett of Fort Dodge. Bennett is 39-0 and sent Glenwood’s Dalton Book to the consolation bracket with a fall at 1:12.
“That’s a tough kid,” Smith said. “We’ve seen him at a couple of tourneys and Ryan may have wrestled him in Independence. For sure he’s a tough opponent.”
Steffensmeier said he’s aware of Bennett.
“He’s No. 1 in the state. He’s a tough kid.”
Harlan, wrestling at 138, ran up against Bryce Murano of Dallas Center-Grimes. Early in the match Murano took an arm to the face and the match was stopped at three separate times to address a bloody nose and clean up the mat.
But Murano kept the pressure on Steffensmeier, currently ranked 3rd in the state. Harlan nearly had Murano pinned early in the 2nd period, but Murano was able to squirm out. At that point, Harlan was up 11-3. After the third stoppage, Steffensmeier was able to rack up points quickly and getting the technical fall at the 4:24 mark.
Smith said Steffensmeier was off tactically at the outset, but then settled in and took advantage of his opportunities.
“He wasn’t really using his feet very well,” Smith said. “But after a couple minutes he was ready to go. He started scoring points and only gave up four points.”
Harlan said he was getting agitated with the stoppages, but was able to refocus.
The break-ups were making me a bit angry,” he said. But once we got going his low singles were pretty good. But by the time we got into it I got it figured out.”
Steffensmeier now faces junior Mason Morris of Bettendorf. Morris is 31-10 and recorded a 9-2 decision over Ryker Kurimski of Epworth. Steffensmeier and Morris have not gone head to head, but they have wrestled at tournaments together. Smith said they had an opportunity to see Morris at the Urbandale Invitational earlier this year.
Class 3A quarterfinals followed by 2nd round consolation matches will take place starting at 9 a.m. Friday. The semifinals and 3rd round consolation matches will take place during the afternoon session which starts at 2:30.
Third round consolation games and 3A finals take place starting at 10 a.m. Saturday with awards and presentations beginning at 5:45 Saturday.