WILTON, Iowa — It’s no surprise.
West Liberty High School wrestling coach Jeff Wiele knew at the start of the season that Wilton would likely win the River Valley Conference in its inaugural season. He also knew that might have been just that start.
He was right.
“I really believe that they really have a shot at a [state] trophy,” Wiele said prior to the season. “They’re really good.”
High school wrestling fans will get to see just how good the Beavers (21-3) are Wednesday when they take to the mat at the 2014 Class 1A Iowa state dual team wrestling tournament after qualifying Tuesday, Feb. 8, by winning seven straight matches to beat Lisbon at home.
Wilton, ranked fifth by the Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association, will square off with fourth-ranked Clarion-Goldfield (14-3) in a quarterfinal contest at 9 a.m. The winner will face the winner of No. 1 Alburnett/No. 8 Logan-Magnolia at 1 p.m. in a semifinal.
The experience of this dual tournament will be new in many ways for the Beavers, who haven't participated in the tournament since 2011 when it was still in Cedar Rapids and after the individual tournament, and that begins with its first-round opponent.
“I just know who they’ve got at certain weights and who they’ve got ranked,” Dohrmann said of the Cowboys. “It’ll be a dogfight.”
Both teams will have five ranked wrestlers on the mat Wednesday.
Clarion-Goldfield sophomores Justin (106 pounds) and Josh (113) Portillo are both ranked second at their respective weights, junior Joel Haberman is fifth at 126, Taylor Lehman is fifth at 138 and Mitch Gambrill is fourth at 285.
Only Wilton’s No. 1 Brady Ruden, a senior, will see a ranked foe, grappling with Haberman at 126 pounds. The Beavers’ other ranked wrestlers are junior Logan Mays (6th at 132), junior Zach Keppy (7th at 138), senior Kaleb Schmidt (5th at 152) and senior Koy Snider (4th at 170).
The success of the Beavers' seniors has been beneficial all season long and Dohrmann doesn't expect that to stop Wednesday.
“It can set the tone if they’re handling it well. It really gives the younger guys something to look at,” he said. “It’s just nice that they’re wrestling well because it is their last go around.”
With just three seniors, though, the Beavers will rely upon some less-experienced wrestlers Wednesday on the big stage.
Freshman Bryce Oveson, who is 37-11 at 160 pounds this season, has some experience in Des Moines but knows what’s waiting isn’t something he’s seen before.
“It feel good, obviously,” Oveson said after the Beavers knocked of Lisbon to clinch a state dual tournament berth. “Last year, in eighth grade, I went to AAU state, which is in Des Moines, and that felt pretty good as well. So, I’ve got a little experience what it’s going to feel like, but this is high school now. I can only imagine what it’s going to feel like.”
Getting the chance to experience the atmosphere at Wells Fargo Arena is something Oveson and seven other teammates can use to their advantage when they participate in the individual state tournament Thursday through Saturday.
Not only that, it’s an extra day of high level competition that could prove beneficial the rest of the week.
“I think it helps us,” Ruden said after Saturday’s district tournament. “Our team’s No. 1 goal right now is to win the state because we know we can. We have the people. We’re pretty deep. For the individuals that made state, that’s like another practice match like right before. That’s state-level competition you’ll be wrestling there. It gets you ready.”