MAQUOKETA - With injuries quickly dwindling his team numbers down, Anamosa wrestling coach Bret Jones couldn’t have been happier with the way his Raiders came out and competed at a challenging Zimmerman Invitational in Maquoketa Saturday, Jan. 2.

      “We won the matches we were supposed to win early and got off to a great start, leading in the team scoring after the first round of play,” said Jones, as his team had three wrestlers (Easton Wheeler, Alex Casey and Connor Andresen) reach championship bouts as the Anamosa team finished sixth overall at the end of the day scoring a solid 91 points.

      “After the second round we were in third place and after the third round we were in second. Our kids went out and competed and fought in each and every match. We started out the tournament with only eight guys able to wrestle and when Aaron Casey got hurt, we were down to seven, but that still didn’t stop us from winning a lot of matches and having a great day against some pretty good competition.”

      Wheeler reached the title bout at 132-pounds after opening his tournament with a quarter-final 35-second pin win over Midland’s Jordan Buford before handling Maquoketa’s Hunter Connolly in the semi-final round posting a 4-2 decision. In the finals Wheeler was handed a 10-0 setback against Vinton-Shellsburg’s Damon Swenson.

      “This tournament should be a big confidence booster for Easton,” Jones said. “Making it to the finals at a tournament like this one shows he can compete against anyone. In the finals the only thing that stood out as the difference in that match was the Vinton-Shellsburg kid was an little more experienced and polished wrestler at this point, but I know Easton is going to get there and start beating kids like that real soon.”

      Alex Casey, ranked 10th in the state in class 2A, cruised to the championship match at 152 after pinning Marion’s Stijn DeLand (1:08) and Midland’s Carson Hunter (53-seconds) before coming out on the short end of a 9-4 score against Riceville’s class 1A third-ranked Lawson Losee.

      “Alex just never seemed to get completely settled into that finals match,” Jones said. “But that was a good measuring stick for him. That Riceville kid is state championship good and Alex never backed down from the challenge and just kept coming at him.”

      Andresen, ranked 10th in the state and in a round-robin heavyweight bracket, posted pin wins in his first four bouts (1:25 over Maquoketa’s Will Caes; 2:00 over Davenport Central’s Reyes Lira; 47-seconds over Maquoketa’s Wyatt Schwenker and 1:06 over Marion’s Austin Johnson) before entering the finals against Muscatine’s class 3A fourth-ranked Togeh Deseh.

      “I was really happy with the way Connor went out and wrestled that championship match,” said Jones, as Andresen was handed a narrow 7-3 defeat.

      “Connor never panicked and stuck to the plan and gave himself a chance at winning a very big match. This was a great learning opportunity for him and I know he’ll be a better wrestler going forward because of it.”

      Nathan Keating added third-place points for the Anamosa team scoring a pair of pin wins at 170 opening with a 2:28 fall over Marion’s Ethan Hangartner before finishing with a 3:33 rout over Maquoketa’s Ben Thines.

      Sean Kirk placed third at 113 while Robert Scranton, who opened his tournament at 106 with a 1:38 pin win over Midland’s Coy Petersen, scored fourth-place points for the Raiders.

      Aaron Casey also picked up a tournament-opening triumph pinning Maquoketa’s Dylan Pietz in 1:43 at 126, but the Raider junior was forced to withdraw from the remainder of the tournament due to an injury.

      Jordan Brown also competed at the event for the Anamosa team at 195.

      “We just seem to be losing guys left and right at this point,” Jones said. “We lost Cole Sigler to an injury at practice and now we lose Aaron at this tournament and we might also lose Jordan to a dislocated finger. It’s getting tough, but right now our goal is to win the matches we can win and not worry about team scoring. We want to give ourselves the best chance we can at advancing wrestlers at sectionals and districts and get guys to the state tournament.”

      Cedar Rapids Xavier claimed the Maquoketa tournament team title scoring 160.5 points while Midland was runner-up with 122. Marion (106 points), Davenport West (105) and Muscatine (97) rounded out the top-5 teams while the Raiders defeated Vinton-Shellsburg (85.5), Maquoketa (78), Riceville (71.5), Iowa City Liberty (45) and Davenport Central (31).

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