CENTER POINT - Anamosa senior Mitch Engelbart and junior Nathan Keating were hoping the third time would be the charm competing at the class 2A district wrestling tournament, held in Center Point Saturday, Feb. 15.
Each had advanced to the district round twice before and had come up short of making it to the prestigious state tournament at Wells Fargo Arena.
For Raider junior Alex Casey, Saturday was his first taste of district action.
In the end, all three Anamosa wrestlers turned in thrilling performances, with two (Casey and Keating) earning their first berths to the state level, and first for any Raider wrestler since Morgan Rowley two years ago.
“What an incredible day,” said Anamosa wrestling coach Trever Greene, as Casey claimed the 152-pound district title with a thrilling overtime victory in the championship match while Keating secured his berth with a stunning wrestle-back pin at 160-pounds that allowed him to take second in the class.
“We saw some very high-level wrestling out here and our guys were right there in the mix with all of it. Mitch, Alex and Nate all showed they can compete with anyone, and not only did we get Alex and Nate through to state, but we just about got all three of our district qualifiers there as Mitch came up just short in his 138-pound wrestle-back.”
Casey (40-5 overall record) stepped up to meet the district pressure and stunned a huge contingent of West Delaware fans in attendance by coming through with a huge 7-5 overtime victory over the Hawks’ Kyle Cole in the 152-pound championship match.
Cole led 5-3 late in the third period and appeared well on his way to defeating Casey for the second straight week, but the Anamosa junior just would not quit scoring a huge takedown with just 10-seconds left in the match to force overtime, where the Raider wrestler dominated coming through with a quick match-ending takedown and automatic state tournament berth.
“I know a lot of people didn’t think I would be the one winning the 152-pound district title, especially this being my first time here, but coming in I felt I had as good a shot as anyone,” Casey said. “I had a lot more mat time this season than the West Delaware kid (who was injured most of the season) and I think in the end that made the difference. As the match wore on, he got more and more tired. If I could just get that takedown there at the end of the third period, I knew I was going to win in overtime. He was gassed.”
Casey was exactly right, as Cole took a shot to open the overtime and the Raider junior quickly responded to get the takedown and the win.
“It feels so good to finally make it to state,” Casey said. “Coming up short the last two years at sectionals, I really wanted to take that next step this year, so I dedicated myself in the off-season to getting better and did a lot of wrestling in the spring. It paid off.”
Keating also felt the pain of coming up short each of the last two seasons, only at the district round, and in Center Point he was determined to make his dream of wrestling at the state tournament come true.
Keating (41-9) opened his tournament with a wild 11-8 victory over Williamsburg’s Riley Holt before going against West Delaware’s fifth-ranked Cael Meyer in the 160-pound championship match where the Raider junior was handed a 14-3 defeat.
Keating was forced to wrestle-back for his shot at state against Mid-Prairie’s Cael Garvey, and in another wild contest that saw Keating trailing 8-6 in the second period, quickly made a move and got Garvey on his back for a huge 3:50 pin win.
“I just went out and did what I had to do in that wrestle-back,” Keating said. “I was able to do my stuff more than he was, and in the end, I think that was the difference. The Mid-Prairie kid took me down then I reversed him and got him on his back by doing what I have always done and staying true to my moves.
“I’m glad I was finally able to punch through this round and get to state. Each of the last two years I’ve placed fourth at districts. Now I want to get to Des Moines and place at the state tournament. That’s the next goal.”
Engelbart had the toughest semi-final draw of any wrestler at the event facing Williamsburg’s top-ranked and undefeated Jalen Schropp (50-0), and while the Anamosa senior kept fighting through numerous challenging positions, was eventually handed a 15-0 technical fall defeat dropping him to the 138-pound consolation bracket.
“I had been in this situation before and knew what I needed to do,” said Engelbart, who went out and pinned Center Point-Urbana’s Adam Hansen in 4:40 and earned a wrestle-back opportunity for a state tournament berth.
“In that last match I just wanted to leave everything I had on the mat and no matter the outcome have no regrets. I was able to do that. I wasn’t able to get the win and make it to the state tournament, but I walk off the mat for the last time satisfied with my performance today at districts and with my career as an Anamosa wrestler.”
Engelbart was handed a narrow 7-5 setback against West Delaware’s ninth-ranked Logan Peyton that ended his season with a 35-14 overall record.
“I made it to districts three times and finished third all three times,” Engelbart said. “That’s tough to swallow to get so close to something I’ve always wanted to not get there, but I will only have good memories of my wrestling career here at Anamosa. I have so much to look forward to and be thankful for. It’s been a great run.”
Anamosa was successful in the team standings as well scoring 40 points to place fourth against the 12-team field. Class 2A top-ranked West Delaware completely dominated the day scoring a whopping 208 points while Williamsburg was runner-up with 65.
Casey opens his class 2A 152-pound state tournament with a first-round match-up against Panorama’s fourth-ranked Wyatt Appleseth (38-0) while top-ranked and No. 1 seed Will Esmoil (38-0), of West Liberty, is also in the top half of the bracket with Casey and the two could face-off in the semi-final round.
Eight state-ranked wrestlers advanced to state at 152-pounds.
Keating begins his 160-pound state journey against Bondurant-Farrar’s ninth-ranked Neal Larson (24-2). The first-round winner of that match is most likely going to face Union’s No. 1 seed and top-ranked Adam Ahrendsen (41-1) in the quarter-finals.
Nine state-ranked wrestlers advanced to the 2A state tournament at 160-pounds.