BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
DES MOINES – They’ll both tell you it’s not the results they wanted, and in the same breath with little emotion, they’re proud of what they’ve accomplished.
Harlan and Ryan Steffensmeier, cousins born within a day of each other, will each take a podium spot Saturday night at the IHSAA State Wrestling tournament held in Des Moines’ Wells Fargo Arena Thursday through Saturday.
Harlan took 3rd place in a physical match against Gabe Kjeldgaard of Council Bluffs. Steffensmeier had the match under control most of the way until midway through the 2nd period Kjeldgaard wrenched Steffensmeier’s knee. The hold was broken up by the referees and Steffensmeier shook it off and got back into the match at 6-0.
“It’s a little sore right now,” he said. “I had my legs in and he would take my leg and pull it different directions. It doesn’t feel injured its just a little sore right now. It hurts a bit.”
Starting the third period, Steffensmeier again had the upper hand and was moving his opponent around the mat and seemed moments away from being able to pull Kjeldgaard in and lock his hands for a possible cradle, but Kjeldgaard was able to escape and roll on top of Steffensmeier, who found himself on his back. Kjeldgaard then created a wide base, with his back laying on top of Steffensmeier and had him almost pinned down sliding his feet and trying to keep Steffensmeier from escaping. With Head Coach Ryan Smith shouting “Get out of there, Harlan!” almost on command the junior rolled over on his belly and rode out the next 20 seconds for the win.
“There are defensive flaws. He was getting too close for my comfort,” Smith said. “But he’s good at that position and he knew what he was doing. But you don’t take a chance when you’re up by 8. So bail out.
“It was a solid match. He was a tough kid. That was a tough bracket for him and to finish 3rd after losing is a good sign for him. So he goes 7th as a freshman, 5th last year, 3rd this year so the plan is No. 1. next year. Yeah…so he’s on track.”
Steffensmeier said he wasn’t fearful of losing in the third, but he wasn’t expecting that turn of events.
“I was a little concerned. But I’ve been in that position quite a bit,” he said. “You just gotta be careful. You can’t sit there… you have to keep moving and you have to keep him off your shoulder and keep him from holding you on that.”
The two worked together in other wrestling formats so they were familiar with each other.
“We were on the team together and we’re drill partners for Greco. Me, him and a couple other guys would switch off so we knew each other from that.”
As far as following the pattern and shooting for the top spot next year…
“That’s the plan,” he said.
For the tournament, Steffensmeier defeated Bryce Murano, in a 19-4 technical fall at 4:24 in the first round on Thursday. Then on Friday beat Mason Morris 6-0 in the quarterfinals in the morning session. He then ran up against No. 1 Triston Lara of Fort Dodge who scored a 10-2 major decision over Steffensmeier sending him to the third round consolation bracket where, again he beat Murano with a fall at 2:38 setting up the 3rd-place match with Kjeldgaard.
RYAN STEFFENSMEIER GETS 8TH PLACE
In a rematch from the Urbandale Invitational this year, Ryan Steffensmeier was up against Jakey Penrith of Cedar Falls for 7th place. Penrith came into the match 34-14 as a sophomore. The match was close in the first period as Penrith got the first take down but Ryan was able to escape for a 2-1 deficit. But Penrith was able to ride Steffensmeier for most of the rest of the first period and the second period recording another take down in the process.
The third period began with both wrestlers getting to their feet quickly. After a bit of a slap match, Steffensmeier moved Penrith around the mat and shot at him and was able to get on top, but Penrith lifted Steffensmeier off the ground and was able to spin him back to the mat and regain position and ride it out until the match ended.
“I thought it was a good match. It definitely didn’t end the way I wanted it to. I think I worked hard and gave it everything I had,” Steffensmeier said.
“He’s beat me before, but by more than he did here. I thought..I mean he’s a tough kid, good opponent and I respect him. But I’m gonna come back next year and get him.”
Smith agreed and said Steffensmeier now has an opportunity to move forward.
“He closed the gap from where he wrestled him about a month ago in Urbandale,” Smith said. “He’s on the podium and he’ll get a chance now to climb the ladder as well. Great end to his season. He’s come a long way through hard work.”
Ryan said although he was upset with the finish, he has more to do.
“I thought it was a good tournament. My goal was just to get to state, but now I placed, so I reached past my goals so next year I can look to getting better and moving on,” he said.
For the tournament, Steffensmeier started on Thursday with a win over Keano Roberts in a fall in just 32 seconds. Then he to ran into the No. 1 113 lb. wrestler in the state in junior Drew Bennett who was 42-1 going into the match. Bennett scored a 16-1 technical fall sending Steffensmeier into the consolation bracket where he faced Carter Logue a 27-15 sophomore. Steffensmeier recorded a fall at 1:08 to put him on the podium. Kobey Pritchard, 44-6 junior sent Steffensmeier to the 7th place match when he pinned the FMHS junior at 1:14 setting up the match with Penrith.