WILTON, Iowa – The Wapello wrestling program has had its fair share of success under head coach Rocky Hamilton. But, it had been 22 years since the Indians sent more than three wrestlers to the state tournament.
That changed Saturday at Wilton in the Class 1A District 8 tournament, as Mitchell Moore, Christopher Ewart and Daniel Meeker each claimed district titles and Colton Meeker was a runner-up to advance to the state tournament.
Wilton advanced two wrestlers as Kael Brisker (106) and Coy Baker (182) qualified for the Class 1A state tournament. Durant’s lone wrestler, Ethan Gast, lost both matches at 113 pounds.
“This is the most since my senior year in 1997,” Hamilton said. “(It was a) good day for our program. It’s hard to find kids who are tough and will battle through anything but I’ve got a lot of them.”
That toughness was evident on Saturday.
Mitchell Moore controlled nearly the entire district championship match at 126 pounds. Hamilton expected Moore to win the district championship and he wrestled like it early, carrying a 6-0 lead over WACO’s Jalen Collins into the final period.
Then, with under a minute remaining in the match, Moore found himself on his back with the official counting, moments away from being pinned.
“I’m yelling and encouraging him, telling him what to do to not go on his back. But, inside I’m pissed off because I know he should never have been there in the first place,” Hamilton said with a laugh. “That’s a tough spot to be in.”
A year ago, Moore was led in a wrestleback at districts and was pinned to end his season.
He wasn’t going to let that happen this time around.
“Just grit and determination,” Hamilton said. “That’s what that was.”
Moore pulled off a reversal to get back on top and score two points to take an 8-2 lead, which ended up being the final margin.
“I took a breather and knew what I had to do to get out of the situation,” Moore said. “He had me in an arm bar and I got it loose, flipped him over and got my two (points). I worked so hard this year and put everything I had into it and came out on top.
“Coach just kept telling me I was made to be on that podium this year.”
Like Moore, Ewart also fought off a late rally by an opponent. Leading 7-5 for a majority of the third period, Ewart fought through an arm bar to avoid giving up two points to hang on for a district title at 132 and his first state appearance.
“Chris (Ewart) is pretty young and for him to win a district title is pretty special,” Hamilton said.
Despite wrestling through an illness, Colton Meeker gutted out a sudden victory win over Mediapolis’ Quinten Aney before falling in the finals. Daniel, meanwhile, was dominant as ever, winning both of his matches by technical fall to cruise to the state tournament, where he was runner-up a year ago.
“I think he’s looked better in the last few weeks than he ever has,” Hamilton said of Daniel Meeker. “He’s just a gamer.”
For Wilton, the Beavers advanced a pair of wrestlers but coach Gabriel Boorn couldn’t help but be discouraged it wasn’t a few more.
“We just didn’t wrestle up to our abilities to make it in every situation,” Boorn said.
Calib Lily, a state qualifier in 2018, lost his semifinal match at 220 pounds to New London’s Jaxon Allen, an opponent Lily has beaten before, in a 4-3 decision. Briggs Hartley, a freshman wrestling at 285 pounds, was pinned in the second round of his wrestleback.
Still, after a turbulent season full of injuries, Wilton is sending both Brisker and Baker to the state tournament. Brisker, who qualified last year at 106, lost his opening match to New London’s Marcel Lopez but earned a spot in the state bracket by winning an 8-4 decision over Long Tree’s Bryce Thompson in a wrestleback.
“It’s tough back-to-back weekends against the same kid being able to force your offense,” Boorn said. “We knew it was going to be a dogfight.”
Baker, meanwhile, continued his breakout season by rolling to the district title. A first-time state qualifier, Baker won both of his matches in a major decision, including a 10-2 major decision over Van Buren’s Tayton Bartholomew.
“He wrestled wonderfully today,” Boorn said of Baker. “He controlled every situation in the match. He controlled positioning and didn’t force anything.”