MANCHESTER - Knowing that getting any wrestler through the extremely competitive class 2A sectional tournament in Manchester Saturday, Feb. 6, would be a major accomplishment, Anamosa wrestling coach Bret Jones was pleased two advanced to the district round in seniors Alex Casey and Nathan Keating.
But Jones, and the entire Raiders team, wanted so much more.
“The sectional tournament is such an emotional roller-coaster, and we sure on a wild ride at West Delaware,” said Jones, as his team scored 99 points to place fifth at the six-team event with Casey (152-pounds) and Keating (195) both placing second at their respective weights to keep their dreams of advancing to a second-straight state tournament alive.
Keating becomes one of just a precious few in Anamosa history being a four-time district qualifier.
“This is time of year is all about surviving and moving on, and we while we are very happy for Alex and Nate to be representing our program at districts, we were hoping to get a few more kids there to wrestle with them.”
Casey (23-4 record), in the all-important sectional semi-final match at 152, posted a huge 4:47 pin win over Monticello’s Bo Kramer to advance to the finals where he was handed a 3:44 pin loss against West Delaware’s fifth-ranked Jayden Payton.
Casey will open his district tournament in Solon Saturday, Feb. 13, against the Spartans’ Caleb Ebert (29-8), who claimed the section 13 title in DeWitt. Camanche’s Brennan Kramer (28-10) will also be in the 152-pound field.
Keating (26-7), at 195, mirrored Casey’s journey opening with a 9-2 decision over Mount Vernon’s Kayden Pendergrass before being handed a 3:06 pin setback against West Delaware’s top-ranked Wyatt Voelker.
Keating opens districts against Central DeWitt’s Mitchell Howard (19-19) while Maquoketa’s Lane Stender (35-8) is also in the 195-pound bracket.
“Alex and Nate did what they needed to do to move on, and winning that first match was the most important thing,” Jones said. “We knew both of the kids they were going to see in the finals were going to be tough, and they were, but they went out and battled and did the very best they could. They survived and get to wrestle another day.”
The tournament wasn’t without its heartbreak for the Anamosa team however, as seniors Connor Andresen and Jordan Brown both saw their careers come to a close.
“For me, the toughest thing about sectionals was Connor,” said Jones, as Andresen wrapped a brilliant Raider wrestling career with a third-place finish at heavyweight.
“I told Connor’s mom back when the season started that one of my goals was to get Connor to the state tournament, and there is no question in my mind he’s good enough to wrestle there. He was ranked in the top-10 almost all season and is one of the top heavyweights in the state, but with this sectional having the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked guys, that just made things incredibly tough. But Connor still went out and fought.”
Andresen (27-7) opened his tournament with a semi-final match up against Mount Vernon’s second-ranked Keean Kamerling, and in a match that saw the Raider senior holding a slim 1-0 lead, eventually turned quickly ending with a heartbreaking 4:13 pin defeat.
In the consolation match Andresen posted a quick 1:19 fall over Monticello’s Owen Thomas, and then hoped for a wrestle-back opportunity if Kamerling could defeat West Delaware’s top-ranked Carson Petlon in the finals.
It just about happened.
Kamerling led late before Petlon battled back and forced overtime only to see the Mount Vernon wrestler come out on the short end of a 5-3 score, ending Andresen’s career.
“That was so tough to sit and watch,” Jones said. “Things were looking so good for Connor to at least get a wrestle-back and a chance at districts, then in the blink of an eye it was all taken away.
“Connor is really going to be missed. He’s a leader on this team and deserved better than the sectional draws he got every year throughout his career. He’s one of the best heavyweights in the state who never got to wrestle at state, and that’s tough to swallow.”
Brown (15-16) wasted no time in coming through with a quarter-final victory at 182, pinning Center Point-Urbana’s Liam Jouanne in just one-minute before being handed a tough 5:25 pin loss at the hands of Dubuque Wahlert’s Dustin Digman in the semi-finals.
“Jordan was another one we had high hopes of getting through sectionals,” Jones said. “He had a wild back-and-forth match with the Wahlert kid and just got into a bad position and got stuck. He came so close to winning in that semi-final and if that happens, and it should have because he was winning through most of it, he probably advances.”
Brown placed fourth in the class after dropping a 15-2 decision against Mount Vernon’s V.J. Boyal in the consolation round.
Aaron Casey (14-12) and Easton Wheeler (21-14) both picked up quarter-final wins at the tournament and wound up placing fourth overall at 126 and 132, respectively, while Robert Scranton (16-13), Sean Kirk (19-12) and Tayte Peterschmidt (1-13) also hit the mat for the Anamosa team each placing fifth at 103, 113 and 170, respectively.
Class 2A top-ranked and host West Delaware easily claimed the sectional team title scoring 299 points while Mount Vernon was runner-up with 200 points. Monticello (180), Center Point-Urbana (149) the Raiders and Dubuque Wahlert (81) rounded out the scoring.