What To Watch For Opening Weekend In Iowa High School Wrestling

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High school wrestling is finally back in Iowa! After a long offseason, we won’t have to wait long for an action-packed weekend. 

Headlining the weekend will be the Cliff Keen Independence Invitational. Other events include the Dan Hill Invitational in Harlan, Keith Young Invitational in Cedar Falls, and the Sergeant Bluff-Luton Tournament. 

Cliff Keen Independence Invitational

This tournament is absolutely loaded. Some of the top teams include class 3A #1 Fort Dodge, class 1A #2 Lisbon, and Minnesota’s class AA #1 Simley. 

A total of 75 ranked wrestlers will be in attendance. Each weight class includes at least one ranked wrestler, and 195 leads the way with 10 ranked guys. Iowa will have their P4P #1 Drake Ayala in action. Other P4P guys include #3 Cael Happel, #6 Robert Avila, #7 Hayden Taylor, #10 Caleb Rathjen, #13 Eli Loyd, and #20 Carter Fousek. Joining them will be Minnesota P4P #2 Ryan Sokol, #8 Chase DeBlaere, and #18 Bennet Tabor. 

A weight class that has serious P4P implications is 138. Happel, Taylor, and Rathjen are all defending state champs and the #1 guy in their respective class, so this bracket will decide who the best 138-pounder in the state really is. Robert Avila vs Ryan Sokol at 132 and Drake Ayala vs Chase DeBlaere at 120 are both Iowa vs Minnesota P4P matchups that could potentially take place. 

Dan Hill Invitational

This tournament won’t be as stacked with star power as the Cliff Keen Independence Invitational, but if you’re from southwest Iowa, this is one you might want to get to. The team race will probably come down to class 2A #3 Winterset and Logan-Magnolia. Perry, Harlan, and West Central Valley all have solid teams as well.

Thirteen ranked wrestlers will be at this meet. The weight to watch is 145 as class 2A #10 Jacob Nelson and class 2A #5 Jack West will likely have to battle it out with the winner getting two-time finalist class 1A #2 Briar Reisz.

Keith Young Invitational

Cedar Falls will be home to a hotly contested tournament as well. The most intriguing aspect of the Keith Young Invite will be the team race. The number one team in both 1A and 2A, Don Bosco and Union LaPorte City, will be in attendance. Other frontrunners include 3A #2 Waverly-Shell Rock, 3A #3 Bettendorf, 3A #4 Mason City, and 1A #4 Denver. 

Sixty ranked wrestlers will be headlined by the state’s P4P #2 Cullan Schriever. Every weight class has at least three ranked wrestlers. The weight to watch should be 145, as seven ranked wrestlers will here including defending state champion class 2A #1 Jack Thomsen. Class 3A #2 Colby Schriever, class 3A #3 Deven Streif, and class 1A #3 Cael Rahnavardi should all be contenders at 145 as well. P4P #11 Griffin Liddle and P4P #16 Adam Ahrendsen will be in attendance as well. Liddle could be pushed this weekend by class 3A #2 Josh Vis, and Ahrendsen’s toughest test will probably be class 3A #3 Evan Yant.

Sergeant Bluff-Luton Tournament

The northwestern part of the state has historically been known for hard-nosed, fundamentally sound wrestling programs and that will be on full display at this event. Class 1A #3 Underwood will be the favorite coming into the tournament, but they could be pushed by some of the traditional northwest powers like Woodbury Central, Akron-Westfield, or Sergeant Bluff-Luton. 

There will be 26 ranked wrestlers at this one, along with a handful of kids who just missed out on being top-10 guys. P4P #15 Wade Mitchell will have his hands full with a tough early-season test in class 1A #3 Blake Thomsen. Other P4P guys in attendance include #12 Nick Hamilton and #18 Jack Gaukel. 

No matter where you are in the state, you’re close enough to make it to one of these events or maybe a different tournament. Regardless of where you end up this weekend, let’s just be thankful wrestling is back in the best wrestling state in the country.

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There may be a ban of on-campus recruiting until July 31, but that doesn't mean the recruiting process has stopped completely. Over the past two months, some of the top uncommitted wrestlers in the class of 2021 have shared with myself and the Wrestling Nomad the schools they are considering to continue their academic and athletic careers. Not only will you find school lists for 13wrestlers on the Junior Big Board, but you will also find in-depth roster breakdowns for each school they are looking at. 

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You always hear college coaches and fans discuss how important in-state recruiting is. I crunched the numbers to find out which states have done the best at retaining the top talent and which schools have been the best at getting it done within those states. I along with the Wrestling Nomad, Andrew Spey, and Brock Hite discussed this topic, and what else needs to be taken into consideration, in the latest episode of Who's #1 the Show, which can be viewed HERE.

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