FORT MADISON – The Fort Madison boys' wrestling team still has about 10 days before the season kicks off officially, but the Hounds are laser focused on a sixth straight conference title and the IHSAA state meet in February.
Head Coach Ryan Smith said Fort Madison is once again bringing in a lot of experience, including five qualifiers for last season’s run at Wells Fargo Arena.
The Bloodhounds sent seven to the tournament last year including Nolan Riddle, Logan Pennock, Teague Smith, Ike Thacher, Noah Swigart, Daniel Sokolik, and Aidan Pennock. Sokolik and Aidan Pennock were lost to graduation. Senior Henry Wiseman was figuring to be part of the mix this year as well, but an ACL injury in the latter half of the football season has him sidelined in his final year.
Senior Ike Thacher captured fourth place last year and was the only Bloodhound to take the podium after a disappointing second day of wrestling where Fort Madison lost seven matches in one day.
“We definitely have some really good experience. And not just experience, but success back with multiple state qualifiers and a state place finisher,” Smith said.
“We were counting on Wiseman being a big part of that, he did win some matches against Pennock, but Pennock got the spot. Henry was right there.”
Logan Pennock is hoping to hold down the 132 lb. spot. Pennock is wrestling in his junior year after qualifying last year and just missed as a freshman in a wrestle back at districts. Pennock is described by teammates as a funky wrestler, who rarely finds himself out of any match.
“I can’t really put a name on my style,” he said Thursday. “Whenever I’m wrestling, I come with my own moves and I start throwing things together. Things that don’t work for everyone else, I can make happen. I can go high and nobody else likes to wrestle from there. Anything and everything that is funky, I do it and I enjoy it a lot.
"I get in awkward situations and a lot of people get nervous in those, but I can sit in those and wrestle out of it.”
Pennock said he wants to help the Bloodhounds win another conference title, while moving up in the rankings. Then he wants to get on the podium as one of the top eight wrestlers in his class in 3A. He wrestled at 126 most of last season.
Senior Teague Smith said his goal is to dominate conference and not allow a single point to opponents.
“We want to just dominate our conference. We don’t want to give up a single point this whole year. We have a lot of guys with that mentality,” he said.
Smith said Riddle and Thacher will be hammers for the Bloodhounds this year.
Thacher secured his first-ever place finish when he lost to eventual state champion Dreshaun Ross at 195 lbs. in the third round. This year Thacher will be looking for another district championship and third trip to the state tournament.
Riddle wrestled at 145 last season and really came into his own going 38-10. He went 1-2 in Des Moines last year, winning his first round match as the 11th seed, but then falling in the next round and losing a heartbreaker in consolation wrestling 12-9 after getting a late 3-point nearfall, but couldn’t secure the pin.
Smith said it was too early in the season to point to any particular wrestlers who could play a large impact this year.
“We’ve only had about four practices, so it’s a little early to really gauge the other wrestlers, but we’re going to be there again,” he said.
Districts will be held at Bettendorf this year on Feb. 10. Fort Madison is in Class 3A’s District 2 with Bettendorf, Burlington, Clear Creek-Amana, Davenport Central, Davenport West, Muscatine, and Iowa City High.
The top three wrestlers in each weight class qualify for state, which this year begins on Valentine’s Day, Wednesday, Feb. 14, with Class 3A wrestling taking place in the second session daily at 1:30. All title matches are Saturday night with consolation semifinals and consolation finals Saturday morning starting at 9 a.m.
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