BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
DES MOINES – It was a rough start for the contingency of wrestlers from FMHS Thursday afternoon as four of the five state qualifiers from Fort Madison lost in opening round action at the IHSAA state wrestling tournament in Des Moines.
The Hounds dropped eight of nine matches on the day in the Class 3A brackets. Senior Harlan Steffensmeier came out on top at 152, when he was able to get Dallas Center-Grimes’ Luke Fistler into a cradle quickly into the match. Steffensmeier, who hadn’t wrestled Fistler before, took control of the action quickly and had Fistler on the run and on his back in less than :30 before being able to leverage into the pinfall.
“I expected to go out and put my best effort forward and finish him as fast and hard as I could,” he said.
Up next for Steffensmeier is Class 3A’s top-seed at 152 Grant Stotts out of West Des Moines Valley. Stotts is 27-1 with his only loss coming to Steffensmeier, who now stands at 40-2 in his senior year. The two will square off as part of the Class 2A – 3A quarterfinals session which starts tomorrow at 9 a.m. with Class 2A up first.
“Tomorrow I just go out and fight my butt of and come out on top,” he said.
At 120 lbs, Dayne Cordray suffered the first loss of the day in a 0-8 decision against 33-7 Keegan Schultschik, a senior out of Cedar Rapids Xavier.
Schultschik got a takedown in the first period and was able to ride the two points through the first period. Schultschik was warned for stalling in the 2nd period, but no points were scored by either wrestler. Cordray got more aggressive in the final period trying to make up the points, but Schultschik was able to spin on a shoot by Cordray and leverage him to the ground for a 4-0 lead with just 1:27 left in the match.
Schultschik then was able to twist Cordray under him to the mat and got two near falls for four additional points, before recording the pin right before the final buzzer at 5:59.
In the consolation round, Cordray was pitted against Cole Kraklio (24-17) from Linn-Mar Marion. Kraklio got a takedown and a near fall in the first period for five points which is all he would need in the 5-3 decision. Kraklio was warned for stalling in the final period and Cordray was able to get an escape with 1:26 left in the match and then scored a takedown before time ran out on the match.
“I needed to come up here and wrestle like I did all season and I just didn’t get that done today,” Cordray said. “It was nobody else but me. I wasn’t wrestling like I know I can. I wasn’t taking shots and was just getting stuck on the bottom,” Cordray said.
At 126 lbs, senior Ryan Steffensmeier dropped a 2-9 decision to Evan Yant of Waverly-Shell Rock. Most of the points were scored in the first period when Yant scored a takedown at 1:21, but Steffensmeier got a reversal with :51 seconds left in the period.
Yant got out of the reversal for a 1-point escape, then scored another quick takedown with :40 left in the first period and recorded a near fall right before the buzzer to be up 7-2 Yant got another takedown with 1:04 left in the third period after a scoreless second and then was able to hold on for the win.
In the consolation bracket against Tanner Higgins of Lewis Central, Steffensmeier recorded two takedowns in the first period that Tanner was able to slip out of to set the score at 4-2 after one period. The two both carded reversals in the second period with Steffensmeier leading 6-4 going into the final period. Then Higgins went on the offensive in the third with a reversal and two nearfalls to overtake Steffensmeier, ending his tournament.
“Last year went a lot better than this year. I think I just came out flat and wasn’t ready to go, I don’t know really what else to say.” he said.
He said last period of the second match was just a matter of one move.
“He got a me in a turn and I should’ve got better hand control but I didn’t.”
Aaron Steffensmeier was shut out in his first match with Gabriel Kjelsgaard. Kjelsgaard scored a takedown with just :35 left in the first period to hold a 2-0 lead going into the second period. The senior from Lewis Central put up six on Steffensmeier in the second period with an escape, a takedown that almost became a pin, and set the score at 7-0 going into the final period of action. Steffensmeier couldn’t get anything going in the third period as Kjeslgaard went into a defensive posture and both wrestlers went scoreless.
In the 145 lb consolation, Steffensmeier went up against Elijah Demmer of West Dubuque. Steffensmeier had the match tied in the first period 2-2 when he recorded an escape at the 1:44 mark and then again just before the buzzer after a Demmer takedown. The two were locked up for most of the third period, but Demmer was able to escape just before the two rolled out of the mat on the right side for 1-point and then locked up with Steffensmeier before releasing and playing stay away.
Steffensmeier said he was disappointed in the loss, but hoped he wasn’t done wrestling, saying he’s spoken with a couple of colleges.
“I just didn’t score any points, to put it bluntly, I just couldn’t get anything going,” he said, “Going into the period we were tied and then he went down and got out and I couldn’t score on him. But I really hope it’s not over, I’d like to go on to wrestle in college.”
Danen Settles, who made the tourney with a dramatic run at state where he upset two wrestlers from Burlington and Muscatine, who had previously pinned him, dropped his first round match to North Scott senior Zach Peterson 33-8. Peterson and Settles measured each other up for about a minute before Peterson was able to get a hip in and muscle Settles to the mat and squeezed his shoulders to the mat at 1:26 in the first period.
In consolation, Settles battled back in the third period against Cam Jones of Cedar Rapids Kennedy. Jones had a 6-2 lead in the first after Settles put Jones on the mat early in the period, but Jones was able to escape, then flip Settles over and get a near pin for 5 points. Settles, who won at districts with back to back 5-4 upset wins had another dramatic win on his mind as he pulled a 4-2 second period to close the gap to 8-6. Settles scored an escape six seconds into the third period to make it 7-8 after a caution on Settles and stalling on Jones. Jones was able to get a takedown with just :12 seconds left to seal the win.
“He just got the best of me,” Settles said of the last match. “I don’t know – right when he got me in a headlock, I got wore out, I was fighting and fighting and trying to get the win, but I just didn’t get there. I mean its not too bad of a season, but I just have to come back next year and work even harder.
Head Coach Ryan Smith was saddened with the first day’s action.
“It’s tough…when they lose I lose.”
The Hounds brought five to the tournament for the first time since the 2014-15 season.
“I don’t know if that’s a consolation prize or not,” he said. “It’s rough, I’m not going lie. It hurts for them not to get farther than they are capable of. It hurts for me to see them go through that. And when that happens four times it’s not a good feeling, when they lose I lose.”
With both Ryan and Aaron Steffensmeier wrestling in their final tournament, Smith said he was hoping for more.”
“They’re great kids but you hope to see it end in better fashion. But that doesn’t take away from everything they’ve accomplished.”