BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
DES MOINES – Bloodhound wrestling will add one more name to the list of grapplers who’ve wrestled for a state title.
On Friday night, senior Harlan Steffensmeier, who wrestles for Fort Madison out of Central Lee High School, advanced to the state title match with a 9-4 decision over Jacob Herrmann of Waverly-Shell Rock.
Cayd Lara of Fort Dodge and Steffensmeier will clash in Saturday night’s finals, which start after the grand march at 6 p.m. He’s the first wrestler to make it to the title match since 2014 when FMHS’s Bryce Meyer wrestled on Saturday.
It took Steffensmeier about 15 seconds to get a hold of Herrmann’s leg in the first period. With Herrmann hopping around trying to get out of the hold, Steffensmeier was able to twist him to the ground for a quick take down just :25 seconds into the match.
Steffensmeier kept trying to hook Herrmann’s leg while staying on top of him after the takedown and roll him into a cradle and :40 later got a 2-point near fall and kept Herrmann under wraps for the rest of the period.
The two started neutral in the 2nd period with both standing. Steffensmeier was able to score another takedown for the only points of the period, as Herrmann was not able to get untangled from Steffensmeier the whole period.
Head Coach Ryan Smith had Steffensmeier start down in the 3rd period and he was able to register an escape just :21 into the period. But then Herrmann took to the offensive and was able to get the Bloodhound on two separate takedowns for four points.
“I got a little sloppy in my shots there at the end,” Steffensmeier said. “I got in, I just didn’t capitalize and finish.”
Steffensmeier escaped from each takedown to score two of his own, with the last one coming at :29 left in the match, to set the final score at 9-4.
Smith said Steffensmeier’s first win in the morning session, a 6-2 decision, against West Des Moines Valley’s top-ranked Grant Stotts was almost perfect.
“That first match, it was just excellent. Harlan had perfect execution on his feet, on top, on the bottom. He gave up a little bit of a sloppy reversal, but other than that it was pretty much picture perfect.”
Steffensmeier, who scored three points in the second and third period while giving up just a reversal, said he likes to get out and set the pace of a match.
“That’s just good to go out and set the pace and let the other kid know I’m in charge here and then set a good tone,” he said. “I knew I could beat him if I just went out there and wrestled my match.”
It was the second time Steffensmeier had beaten Stotts during the year.
He said, with this being his fourth year at the state tournament, the nerves are present, but once the whistle blows the match open, it’s just the two of them.
“Before the match you’re a little nervous and I try to get that out, but I know once I step on the mat it all goes away.”
Lara is the younger brother of Tristin Lara, who knocked Harlan out in the semis last year at 138 lbs. Lara has won every match at the tournament by pin, but the two met early in the season and Lara scored a decision over Steffensmeier, one of only two of the senior’s losses on the year.
“I wrestled him once this year during the season and once during the offseason,” Steffensemier said. “They were both pretty close and I have to go out and wrestle and get to my stuff.”
Smith said the environment of wrestling for the state title can be tough just considering the competition, but with Steffensmeier’s experience at trips to Wells-Fargo, he’s zoned in.
“He’s got that all nailed down, it’s just full steam ahead,” Smith said. “I liken it to the fact that he wants to be a fighter pilot. It’s kind of like that. You have to be zeroed in on your task. It will be a tough one, but he’s capable. They’re all tough there, but it’s a good place to be.”