Three young Bloodhounds showing early season promise as Fort Madison program racks up medals
BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Freshmen on varsity sports teams usually are relegated to learning roles and finding their place, but on this year’s Bloodhound wrestling team, three freshman have already landed.
Head Coach Ryan Smith has seen some not-so-unexpected early success from the youngsters, who have put up quite a few points this year.
That’s not to dimiss the work of upperclassman Gavin Wiseman (145), Owen Kruse (126), Emmett Kruse (113), Mason Schau (160) and others. Wiseman and Schau have been knocking on the door to the state tournament the past couple years, and Owen Kruse made the February trip last season.
The Bloodhounds took third place in the talent-rich environment of the Jeremy Fulk Classic in New London two weeks ago to kick off the season, swept a double dual at Mediapolis last week, then took the title at the Liberty Duals in Missouri Saturday.
But standing out at that tourney was gold medalist Henry Wiseman, and two silver medalists Teague Smith and Ike Thacher. All three are in their first year tying things up with seasoned matmen from around the state in varsity action.
Gavin Wiseman and Owen Kruse also silvered at the event.
Henry Wiseman is 9-1 on the year at 106 lbs and said his goal is first to help the team win, and then try to get on the podium at state, which would mean a top 8 finish at Wells Fargo Arena.
Wiseman wrestled AAU last year and had to cut a little weight to make the 106 mark.
Head Coach Ryan Smith said he’s quite a bit bigger than most at 106.
“That was first hurdle – getting down to weight and now that he’s down there he towers over most of his opponents. But he still has good energy and he wrestles very aggressively, Smith said.
Wiseman said wrestling for the Hounds is different than the AAU days of the past.
“I just know that it means a lot more. AAU was preparing me for high school. But now I try to have a chip on my shoulder and go out there and compete with who ever is on the mat with me,” Wiseman said.
He admits nerves were a factor in the first tournament a couple weeks ago, but since then they have settled and he’s not surprised with his, or the Hounds’ success early on.
“I’ve been wrestling for a while. I started in kindergarten and did club wrestling around here,” he said. “The first tournament I had some nerves, but they’ve gone away. Now, I just feel like when I go out there, I’m doing it for my team and we’re trying to win as a team.”
Thacher is 8-2 on the year wrestling at 170 lbs and went 4-1 at the Liberty Duals Saturday and said the competition is more intense than AAU.
“I didn’t expect to start this well, but the competition is definitely different at this level,” he said.
“I just see myself as part of the team. I want contribute my part and do what I can.”
Thacher said his expectations are to help the Hounds keep winning and then personally try to get to state at districts.
Smith said it’s not necessarily the best case scenario to run freshman but he said the three have been wrestling for a long time and he has faith with them on the mat.
“They’ve been doing it for a long time. My thing is not to put pressure on them. Sometimes you have to use freshman and you don’t really want to, but with these three, they’re ready,” Smith said.
“They’re not where they want to be, but they’re holding their own.”
Smith said his priority is for the boys to continue to grow and not let losses linger.
“I just don’t want them to beat themselves up for losses,” he said. “They’re going to take losses – our junior and seniors are taking losses. It’s not that we want to – but it does no good to beat yourself up about it.”
Smith also has the privilege of coaching his son Teague who stands at 7-4 on the year. Smith said the rides home are pretty quiet.
“There’s enough pressure on being the coach’s kid, I don’t need to pile on that.”
Teague said the competition is tougher at the high school level, and he was the only one of the three who didn’t mention going to state.
“I just feel like I could do better than I have so far and I want to keep working hard to improve as the season goes on,” Smith said. “I feel like we’re going to be pretty good.”
He said being a freshman on the mat hasn’t effected his approach.
“It doesn’t effect me a whole lot. It’s just wrestling. I just want to keep improving throughout the year and see what happens. I’ve been around this forever.”
Coach Smith said he’s had many freshman who’ve had success dating back to Gordon Johnson, Russell Weakley and Harlan Steffensmeier, but said he’d have to go back and check his books to see if he’s had three freshman having success all in the same year.
“It’s a little unique,” he said. “You don’t really want to just rely on juniors and seniors, and it helps when you can plug some holes. Usually that happens in the lighter weights, but Teague and Ike are doing well in the upper weights.”
The younger Hounds’ success also helps with the growth and excitement building in the program.
“This shows the program’s benefit to younger kids,” he said. “It shows you can step in and be a contributor and you don’t have to wait around if you’re ready to go,” he said.
“You can get in there and do your thing.”
Fort Madison takes on Mt. Pleasant tonight in a double dual with Mid-Prairie, and then hosts the annual Fort Madison Invitational on Saturday.
School officials are not allowing spectators at the Saturday event, but there will be live streaming of the tournament at the following links. The YouTube channel link is a free stream, but is an overall gym view. The trackwrestle is a stream of each match, but has an access fee: