WEST BRANCH, Iowa — Postseason wrestling is a bittersweet experience. Unlike the other sports, teams gradually get picked away as the competition whittles down.
Most of the bitter moments are obvious. Teams get smaller round by round.
But then there’s what happened to Wilton’s Cory Anderson, whose promising senior season ended not with a loss, but with a broken jaw at last week's River Valley Conference tournament.
Those fortunate enough to advance tend to lean more and more on their team as they find themselves increasingly alone among the competition.
Asked if losing someone like Anderson makes the experience just a little bittersweet, Beavers head coach Gabriel Boorn simply proclaimed, “It sure does.”
That, however, doesn’t take away from the sweet.
Wilton qualified five wrestlers for the district meet on Saturday at the Class 1A sectional in Kael Brisker (106 pounds), Zach Delever (152), Coy Baker (182), Calib Lilly (220) and Briggs Hartley (285).
The Beavers finished second behind Highland in the team competition and qualified for Tuesday's regional duals. They face Maquoketa Valley at 6 p.m. in Lisbon.
“We’ll surround ourselves with the team, around the five that are heading into districts next weekend," Boorn said. "We’ll be ready to go.”
Wapello coach Rocky Hamilton, whose squad is also sending five wrestlers to the district meet in Wilton, shared much of the same sentiment.
“Today is great, but there’s still kids that are being left behind, and I don’t like it.” Hamilton said. “You spend a lot of time with kids and when you get a kid that gives everything he can and doesn’t qualify it hurts.”
For the Indians, all five wrestlers moving on — Colton Meeker (113), Mitchell Moore (120), Daniel Meeker (126), Christopher Ewart (132), and Evan Ross (145) — wrestle at, or under, the median weight class.
Asked if the cluster of lighter weights on the team feed off each other, Hamilton affirmed just that.
“Most of those kids have been wrestling together for several years,” Hamilton said. "They all know each other and support each other.”
Of the five moving on, Colton Meeker is the only senior.
“(Being a young team is) good and everything, but the end goal is ultimately the state tournament,” Hamilton said.
The Durant Wildcats saw a member of their young team move on in Ethan Gast. Despite the 113-pounder being just a sophomore, coach Casey Strub noted that he hasn't shied away from a leadership role.
"Ethan's been a great leader all season and is someone that the rest of the boys look up to," Strub said. "We are all excited to see what next week brings and, even more ... what the next three years have in store for (the team)."
Perhaps more than any other year, it has taken a community to raise a wrestling team. The weather over the last couple weeks has been less than cooperative.
“With parents understanding the situation and being supportive of their kids and doing what it takes to get to the state tournament," Hamilton said. "We were fortunate to have that.”
The District 8 meet will be at noon on Saturday at Wilton High School.