Wrestlers ready to capitalize on early success

At the midway point in the season, Cedar Falls’ wrestling team is standing strong. At the end of 2019, the Tigers stood at a sturdy 12-5, with a series of close losses to strong teams from across the state. 

But they aren’t satisfied quite yet. Senior Jack Plagge, a veteran member of the team, said, “In the second half of the year, I’m really looking forward to how I’m going to compete. I finished up the first half with some big wins, and I’m excited to compete hard and looking forward to hopefully qualifying for State and getting on the podium.” 

The Tigers’ potential, displayed by close losses to always challenging opponents Ankeny and Indianola, has been one of the biggest happy surprises for the team. “We seem to be close in competition with a lot of other teams, more than we expected ourselves to be, and we are looking now at how we can become better than these other teams,” Plagge said. “I would say we’re looking at becoming conference champions, and hopefully we can qualify for the state dual tournament.”

Lofty goals like these have been fostered by near-misses in the past, experiences that have left Plagge and his fellow wrestlers wanting more. “[Last year] we were just short of qualifying, and the team we lost to ended up getting 3rd in the tournament,” Plagge said. “[This year] we are still undefeated within our conference, which is great because it’s been a while since we’ve been conference champs.”

The Tigers, although currently not ranked in the top 10 among 3A schools, have two wrestlers who are currently in the top 10 of their respective weight classes: sophomore Dylan Whitt, who ranks 10th at 138 according to IAWrestle.com, and senior Collin Bohnenkamp, who sits in 5th at 220.

This year also marks the second year that a girls’ state wrestling tournament will be held, and with the expansion of the sport comes more athletes participating for Cedar Falls. 

Senior Raelynn Smith is wrestling for the Tigers for the first time this year, and she is pleased with her success so far. “A big surprise for this season is how I’m doing individually. I went into the season expecting to do decent knowing it is just my first year in wrestling, but I have continued to surprise myself with how well I am really doing,” she said. “The greatest challenge for me this year is just how mentally and physically tough you have to be in order to do this sport. It isn’t a laid back sport that you can just have fun with. The practices are hard and intense, but I still love it.”

Smith has posted a 6-2 record in her matches, including two second-place finishes at tournaments. She said, “I didn’t expect to place that well compared to some girls that have been doing it longer than me, but I went out there and fought hard just like in practice, and it really paid off. In the second half of the season, I’m really looking forward to learning more and just getting better overall. Our coaches are some of the best coaches we could ask for as a team. They teach well and are hard on us so that we will get in the wrestling room and get better every day.”

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