BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
CEDAR RAPIDS – The Fort Madison Bloodhounds didn’t come away with a title at the district state qualifying meet on Saturday, but the Hounds will be sending Elton Kruse, Sam Hayes, and Danen Settles to the state tournament next week.
Fort Madison had three others capture 3rd place and two fifth place finishers for a total of 147 points and a fourth place finish overall at the Class 3A District wrestling tournament at Cedar Rapids Prairie High School. The top two finishers in each division get to participate in the state tournament.
Senior Elton Kruse will represent Fort Madison at Wells-Fargo by knocking off Iowa City West’s Parker McBride in the 113 lb. semifinal match.
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Kruse got a bye in the first round and ended up facing McBride in the semifinal match.
Kruse was then pinned by top-seeded Austin Kegley of Prairie at 1:09 in the title match sending Kruse to the 2nd place match where McBride had slipped into the wrestle back by beating Iowa City High’s Reese Hayden. But Kruse had already beaten McBride, so by rule, he was awarded 2nd place.
“This was great making it there, but now I want to go up there and do something.
Senior Sam Hayes, who’s been hampered by injuries most of his career including a fractured back as a freshman that cost him his sophomore year, and then a troubled shoulder his junior year kept him out of district action.
But the senior said he’s just smiling now that he’s finally punched a ticket to the Wells-Fargo arena.
“This is great. All I can do is just smile,” Hayes said after wrapping up second place with a first period pin over Elias Cordero in the wrestle back for second place.
During his freshman year he fractured his back after an awkward land in a match which cost him districts and his sophomore year. He then tore the labrum in his shoulder, sidelining him for the last half of his junior year.
He injured the other shoulder this year and has been wearing protective gear on the shoulder, Hayes said he and the coaches agreed to forfeit the title match against Prairie’s Ashton Stoner-DeGroot, and slide to the 2nd place match.
“I’ve beat that kid before,” Hayes said. “I majored him last year, but it was just a precautionary thing for us. Say I lose that match and then I have to come back and wrestle another match and I’m sore… so I was like, make the tournament and then I can wrestle him at state and beat him there. But this feels great to get that stress of my back.”
Settles was seconds away from taking the heavyweight title against top-seeded Jacob Murry of Iowa City High. The two went into overtime at 1-1. Settles scored an escape from the down position in the tiebreaker with four seconds left and flipped Murry to the mat but outside the circle.
Head coach Ryan Smith asked for an explanation, and then Murry took down in the tiebreaker rotation and was able to escape with :22 left in the period. He then got Settles in a headlock and was able to pull him to the ground with just :02 left on the clock for the win.
Settles would go to the wrestle back and take on Burlington’s Julius Harris and won with a 3-0 decision to take 2nd place.
Settles said he had to take a different tact with the bigger Murry in the title match.
“I didn’t want to square up with him and go upper body. I wanted to defend his style. When he got me in the headlock I just tried to keep my hips up so I could get two, but it just didn’t happen,” Settles said.
Smith said he was proud of the kids’ effort and couldn’t really ask for much more.
“I can’t fault our effort tonight,” Smith said. “It goes back to what I said before districts, we needed good attitude and good effort and I think we saw that about 99% of the time today,” Smith said.
He said Cordray’s match was one of the tougher one’s on the night.
“He was down by like 5 with about half a minute left and just gave it everything he had and tied it up at 9 to force the overtime. That was a tough one,” he said.
Freshman Gavin Wiseman came up short in a wrestle back with Clear Creek Amana’s Sam Stevens 15-3 for third place. Wiseman won his first match which pitted him in the semifinal against 126-lb top-seeded Keaton Speicher of Iowa City West. Speicher rolled Wiseman to the mat at the 1:34 mark and was able to seal the pin two seconds later, forcing Wiseman to wrestle back.
Wiseman pinned Iowa City High’s Michael Santoro in the 3rd place match but fell to Samual Stevens in the 2nd place match by an 18-5 major decision.
Wiseman said it would be have been nice to go to Des Moines, but he said he’s learned a lot and enjoyed the atmosphere of districts.
“It was pretty nice, the excitement, the crowd,” he said. High school is a whole new level with wrestlers but the experience was great. I’m not happy, but I’m content. It would have been better if I had won and went to state, but overall, I did decent today,” Wiseman said.
Senior Dayne Cordray also finished third after falling in sudden victory 11-9. Cordray, who qualified for state as a freshman and a junior said he knew he was going to have pull something off in the waning moments of the 2nd place match.
“The last match going into the third period I knew I was down by quite a bit and had to pull something big. I saw the opportunity for the cradle and hit it but I couldn’t get his shoulder to the mat. It was setting on my shoulder and, looking back, if I had adjusted I could have gotten it,” he Cordray said.
“He’s a really good kid, but I just left my shoulder up in the extra period and didn’t get squared up, that’s all it was. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but just like cross-country, I got a lot out of it.”
Junior Diego Lozano also captured a third place in the 182 bracket. Lozano won his first match and then had to forfeit his semifinal match after injuring his right shoulder in the middle of the match with Logan Andeway of Prairie. The loss dropped him into the wrestleback bracket, where he downed Iowa City’s Gavin Luze to get to the second place match. That match however was against Andeway and by rule, Andeway got the win from already winning over Lozano earlier.
The Hounds got fourth place finishes from freshman Owen Kruse at 106, and senior Alex Lauber at 220 lbs. Junior Nathan Steffensmeier captured 5th place at 138 while Will Larson took 5th at 132 lbs. Chance Hocker earned 6th place at 170 lbs. to round out the place finishers for Fort Madison.
The state tournament starts on Thursday night, Feb. 14 in Des Moines at the Wells-Fargo arena.