MOUNT VERNON– Seven Solon wrestlers have advanced to compete at the district meet Saturday at Marion, the last step toward a berth at state.
Solon’s varsity wrestling program placed third at the sectional meet held Saturday, Feb. 8, at Mount Vernon, with a score of 218 points, just off the pace set by sectional champ Mount Vernon (242) and second place Williamsburg (227).
But more importantly, seeding was decided for the sectional meet, with the champion and runner-up advancing to the district tournament.
Louis Gnida (120 pounds), Kade Steuhm (132 pounds), Cole Fritz (138) and Lance Evans (220) all placed first for the Spartans, while Trevor Nelson (152), Danny Whitmore (195, wrestling up a class) and Logan Linderbaum (285) claimed second place.
“I was pleased with how well our kids wrestled on Saturday,” said head coach Brooks McLaren. “They performed the way we would expect them to, and some of them were able to take some of the little changes we made during the week in practice into their match. It was great to see their hard work during the season pay off on Saturday.”
Evans continued to dominate, pinning AJ Schropp of Clear Creek Amana 43 seconds in to the semifinal match.
“There was a lot of build-up of his match with (Mount Vernon’s) Josh Cannon who is ranked No. 2 in the state,” McLaren said. “All of the hype and excitement was settled pretty quickly as Lance got an early takedown and turn to pin Cannon in the first period.
“We train and prepare to be strong in the postseason,” McLaren continued. “Lance is definitely hitting his stride at the right time of the year.”
One of the brighter spots for the Spartans, McLaren noted, was the emergence of Fritz, seeded third to start the day at Mount Vernon. Fritz pinned the No. 2 seed, Colin Conway of Marion at the 4:30 mark of the semifinal, and then won a 9-5 decision against the No. 1 seed, Ryan Muller of Mount Vernon.
“He was in a back-and-forth match and then late in the third period, Cole got a five-point move to end the match,” McLaren said. “It was a huge boost for Cole and the team seemed to feed off his win early in the tournament. We knew he was capable of winning matches like he did on Saturday. It was great to see him get the championship.”
Another boost for the team came from Steuhm at 132 pounds. Steuhm advanced to the finals with a relatively quick pin against Jose Maldanado of Williamsburg and then won a 9-2 major decision over Charlie Engelbrecht of Mount Vernon. “We knew Kade was capable of winning when he entered the lineup and he hasn’t disappointed,” McLaren commented. “I am proud of the way he has wrestled this second half of the season.”
Gnida also pinned his first opponent and won an 8-0 major decision in the finals over Tony Garcia of Mount Vernon.
Nelson lost on a late takedown in the finals, but McLaren said he bounced back in a wrestle back for second place, taking an 11-2 major decision over Mitchell Stahl of Williamsburg.
In the upper weights, Whitmore had two pins wrestling at 195 pounds after competing the rest of the year at 182. “We feel he is the strongest at 195,” McLaren said. “Danny had a little slip-up in the finals against a kid from Tipton– it was a learning moment for him and I’d rather he learn from his mistake at sectionals than deal with a setback at districts.”
Perhaps the closest match of the day came at 285, where Linderbaum dropped a 6-5 ultimate tie breaker in the first place match after pinning his semifinal opponent in 27 seconds. “Logan will rebound this week and be ready to get after it again next week,” McLaren promised.
The district tournament will begin at noon Saturday at Marion, with the state wrestling tournament to follow Feb. 20-22 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
“I am excited for all of the kids as they all have a great chance to make state,” McLaren said. “We didn’t achieve some of the team goals that we had set, but I am extremely excited to take seven kids– half the team– to districts.”