Championship Saturday has arrived at state tournaments across the country and the stage is set for a scintillating set of finals.
Iowa’s big-school team race is still up for grabs and a pair of individual showdowns between nationally-ranked competitors could shift the balance of power. One point separates the top two teams in Indiana after Saturday’s semifinal round. A race in Nebraska is headed down to the wire.
Here’s a look at what to watch Saturday night on Trackwrestling:
Drake Ayala’s decision to move up a weight to get another shot at returning state champion Ryder Block has captivated Iowa high school wrestling fans throughout the past week.
No. 6 in the national rankings versus No. 12. A two-time state champ against a sophomore who has yet to lose in high school. Now there’s another layer of intrigue to the story.
Block’s Waverly-Shell Rock squad is in a tussle for the team title. The Go-Hawks enter Saturday night’s finals with a 5.5-point lead over second-place Waukee. Southeast Polk is 11.5 back and still has a mathematical chance, but the Rams are looking at almost lottery odds at this point, needing virtually everything to break their way tonight.
Waverly-Shell Rock has five finalists. Waukee has four. The two teams go heads-up at 182.
Waverly-Shell Rock has an opportunity to put the team race to bed by then, though, beginning with 132.
Ayala, a senior from Fort Dodge, spent most of the season ranked No. 1 at 126, though he moved up on occasion in search of better competition. The Iowa recruit kicked off the season with a major decision win at 132 against Centerville’s Matthew Lewis, who will try to win his fourth state title tonight in Class 2A. In January, Ayala moved up again to take on Block, who went 44-0 last year as a freshman at 106.
Block posted a 9-7 win in a highly entertaining battle in which Ayala nearly scored a tying takedown in the final 10 seconds. It was Ayala’s first loss since the 2018 state finals when he dropped a decision to current Hawkeye Cullan Schriever.
Block outscored his first three opponents of the tournament by a combined 30-3 count. Ayala notched two falls before a 22-8 major in the semis.
The other marquee rematch is at 152, where Waverly-Shell Rock’s Aiden Riggins, ranked 20th nationally, is set to square off with No. 12 Caleb Rathjen of Ankeny. Rathjen is a two-time champ who’s headed to Iowa. Riggins placed third as a freshman and second last year. He’s 33-0 this season with a 9-8 win against Ratjen.
Among the other notable Iowa finals:
— Cascade’s Aiden Noonan takes on Underwood’s Gable Porter in a clash of returning state champs in Class 1A at 132. Noonan, a Wyoming commit, stunned three-time state champion Adam Allard with a last-second turn in last year’s finals. Porter, a sophomore, has yet to lose in high school.
— Lisbon junior Robert Avila is aiming for his third state title in Class 1A at 145. He’ll take on Northern Iowa recruit Cael Rahnavardi of Don Bosco, a returning finalist.
— There’s only been one four-time runner-up in Iowa history. Logan-Magnolia’s Briar Reisz, making his fourth finals appearance, is in search of his first title. He’ll take on undefeated freshman Max Magayna of Waterloo Columbus. Magayna is trying to become Waterloo’s first freshman state champ since Joe Gibbons in 1978.
Indiana’s one-classification system has one again produced a down-to-the-wire team race. Chesterton held a one-point lead over second-place Evansville Mater Dei at the conclusion of Saturday’s semifinal round. Chesterton has eight placewinners and two finalists. Evansville Mater Dei has six placewinners and three finalists.
Chesterton’s Sergio Lemley is wrestling for a title at 120. He won an Illinois state championship last February. To finish on top, Lemley will have to beat Crown Point’s Logan Frazier for the third straight week. Lemley notched 3-2 and 3-1 wins in their previous two meetings.
Two of Saturday night’s showdowns feature head-to-head battles between undefeateds — Evansville Mater Dei’s Brody Baumann against Carmel’s Robert Major at 160 and Indianapolis Lutheran’s Hayden Filipovich versus Greencastle’s Brach Carrington at 195.
Don’t miss Jesse Mendez, either. The high-pace, high-scoring Crown Point junior is must-see entertainment. The nation’s second-ranked 138-pounder handled returning state champ Blake Boarman 11-6 in Saturday’s semifinals. Mendez will face Bloomington South sophomore Delaney Ruhlman in the finals.
Two head-to-head battles between Central City and David City Aquinas could decide Nebraska’s Class C team title.
Central City held a 119-116 lead over David City Aquinas after the consolation semifinals. The two squads go heads up in the finals at 113 and 138. Central City’s Cole Kunz takes on David City Aquinas’s Jakob Cavan at 113 and Central City’s Dyson Kunz battles Hunter Vandenberg at 138.
Bennington’s Kael Lauridsen, ranked 20th nationally at 113, is bidding for his second state title in Class B. He’s 33-1 this season and registered three first-period pins on his way to the finals.