If Sunday’s Central District Wrestling Championships were any indication of what’s to come, Iowa Central will definitely factor into the upcoming NJCAA national title race.
The Tritons claimed six of the 10 individual crowns inside Hodges Fieldhouse, distancing themselves from runner-up Iowa Western by 30 points. Iowa Central scored 173 team points, with the Reivers, Ellsworth, Iowa Lakes and NIACC rounding out the Top-5.
All five programs are ranked in the Top-11, with the Tritons sitting at No. 3 behind Northeastern Oklahoma A&M and Clackamas.
Iowa Central head coach Luke Moffitt, who guided the program to the top last year, sees the positives and minuses to competing in such a stacked qualifier.
“There isn’t another meet out there that has as many tough kids and potential All-Americans as this one,” Moffitt said. “At the same time, that means we have to get our kids up not once but twice for two big, big meets. That can be tough, but these guys want to compete against the best and have embraced that challenge this year.”
Defending national champion Todd Small, Eric Clarke, Ethan Karsten, Jose Rodriguez, Brady Vogel and Tyree Sutton were all first place finishers in their respective weight classes. Kevin Radcliff and Riley Palmer placed second, with Antrez Clagon finishing third and Gunner Cash fourth.
“We didn’t have a perfect day, but we wrestled aggressive and smart,” Moffitt said. “When we had the chance to score bonus points, we did, and we’ll have to do that again at nationals.”
Small, ranked first at 133 pounds, scored a 9-5 decision over No. 2 Justin Folley from Ellsworth in the finals. The sophomore also bested seventh-rated D’Andre Brumfield in the semifinals, 9-7.
Clarke claimed one of the biggest upsets of the tournament, as he downed No. 1 Austin Anderly from NIACC for the 141-pound title, 4-2. Like Small, he also bested a second ranked wrestler, topping No. 7 Anthony Fisher from Iowa Lakes in the semis with a convincing technical fall in 6:43.
“Those were two very tough brackets and we came out on top,” Moffitt said. “Todd and Eric both had really good days for us.”
Palmer dropped a tough 10-8 decision to former West Des Moines Dowling two-time state champion Michael Zachary of Iowa Western at 149, but Karsten, Rodriguez and Vogel gave the Tritons five champions in the first seven finals with victories.
Karsten, ranked second at 157, bested Anthony Maia of Iowa Lakes, 6-5; Rodriguez downed No. 3 Sangobunmi Smith from Iowa Lakes at 165, 11-6; and Vogel pinned Ellsworth’s Anthony Collins in 62 seconds at 174.
“We’ve still got work to do, but we’ve really hit a good stride of momentum here in the last month or so,” Moffitt said. “We know the challenge ahead of us and I feel like these kids are up for it.”
In another featured bout of the day, Sutton, ranked first at 197, knocked off Ellsworth’s Timothy Young, 10-2. Young, rated second, was a national champion a year ago.
The NJCAA championships are Feb. 23-24 in Council Bluffs at the Mid-America Center.
CENTRAL DISTRICT WRESTLING CHAMPIONSHIPS
(Held at Hodges Fieldhouse)
1. Iowa Central, 173; 2. Iowa Western, 143; 3. Ellsworth, 120.5; 4. Iowa Lakes, 108.5; 5. NIACC, 107.
Championship: Javier Moreno, E dec. Kevin Radcliff, ICCC, 5-4.
Championship: Todd Small, ICCC dec. Justin Folley, E, 9-5.
Championship: Eric Clarke, ICCC dec. Austin Anderly, NIACC, 4-2.
Championship: Michael Zachary, IW dec. Riley Palmer, ICCC, 10-8.
Championship: Ethan Karsten, ICCC dec. Anthony Maia, IL, 6-5.
Championship: Jose Rodriguez, ICCC dec. Sangobunmi Smith, IL, 11-6.
Championship: Brady Vogel, ICCC pinned Anthony Collins, E, 1:02.
Championship: Ottis Peeler, IW dec. Isaiah Cox, IL, 6-5.
Championship: Tyree Sutton, ICCC major dec. Timothy Young, E, 10-2.
Championship: Andrew Pistillo, IW dec. Jimsher Sidhu, NIACC, 4-0.