Class 1A area athletes are thinking big
DES MOINES — To be successful, Jayden Soard knew he was going to have to work harder when no one was looking.
The South Central Calhoun junior spent countless hours honing his craft in the wrestling and weight room. That benefited the 220-pounder on both the mat and the football field.
“We all wrote down three goals at the beginning of the year,” Soard said. “Mine were, 1. To be conference champion (finished second in Twin Lakes Conference); 2. 40 wins — I have won 50 matches; and 3. make it to state the first time.
“It means a lot to go because I’ve worked really hard to get to this point.”
Soard (50-7), along with Titan teammates Blake McAlister (170) and Kevin King (145), will represent SCC in the Class 1A field. Action begins Thursday at 9 a.m.
“It has definitely been a fun season. The team was fun and we accomplished a lot together and as individuals,” Soard said. “I have to give props to my practice partner, Blake McAlister. He pushed me beyond what I thought I could ever do and I thank him for that, along with the rest of the team for not only having my back, but having everybody else’s. We were special that way.”
The junior classmates have ended the last two athletic seasons on the big stages, competing in the UNI-Dome for state football, and now, Wells Fargo Arena.
“It’s really cool to be able to go to the Dome (Cedar Falls) and the Well in the same year,” Soard said. “I definitely have to give props to our team for always believing in me.”
Soard, a third team all-state linebacker, will face fifth-ranked Cole Kelly (30-2) of West Hancock in the first round. Kelly was a sectional runner-up, losing to second-ranked Cole Clark of Hinton in a district final.
King (46-8) is no stranger to state after qualifying a year ago. The Titan junior was 43-7 as a sophomore.
“It’s definitely awesome going to the state tournament. To be able to wrestle in an environment like Wells is a (twice) in a lifetime experience,” King said. “All of my brothers only made it once in their careers and this is already my second time, so I kind of have bragging rights over them.”
King will square off with Jesup’s Jerret Delagardelle (25-6) in the first round.
“I’ve lost a couple of close matches here or there and I don’t plan on letting that happen to me at state,” King said. “I’ve had to bounce my weight around for the team a little bit throughout the season, but it was worth it in the end.”
The fourth-rated McAllister (39-2) has been to the state tournament all three seasons of his career. He finished sixth a year ago, going through a gauntlet of top-ranked wrestlers.
McAlister, who was a qualifier as a freshman, will meet Akron-Westfield’s Lane Kenny (31-11) in the first round is 120-19 in his career.
West Bend-Mallard’s third-ranked junior Donavon Hanson (113) got a taste of the state tournament a year ago under first-year head coach Payton Rice.
Rice, a four-time state qualifier for Manson Northwest Webster, has helped Hanson gain momentum in building toward a championship run.
“Coach Rice has helped me a lot these last two years from showing me new stuff,” Hanson said. “He has also helped me with what I need to work on in the room, keeping me healthy and taking care of my back.”
Hanson (38-1), who suffered his first loss in the distinct finals to unbeaten and top-ranked Braden Graff of West Sioux, will face Wilton’s Garrett Burkle (37-9) in his opener.
The Wolverine is 68-7 the past two seasons.
“It means everything to be back down here in my final year,'” Hanson said. “It means I still have that one last chance to take home a state title.
“The loss at districts sucks, but I know what needs to be fixed and improved upon now and I hope to see him Saturday night in the finals, because I think that’s where we’ll be.”
Second-ranked Dane Johnson (285) has only been wrestling for three seasons, but has already become a state title threat for Pocahontas Area.
Johnson (34-2), who was fifth a season ago, earned the No. 2 seed and will face Aiden McFadden (23-17) of Baxter in the first round.
The all-state lineman, who will play football at Grand View University next year, has 94 career wins.
Junior Tyce Ruffridge (120) comes from a state title lineage. He is the younger brother of former Pocahontas Area state champion Shea Ruffridge and Elle Ruffridge, a two-time state champion basketball player and current Missouri State University guard.
Ruffridge (29-6) will face ninth-rated Kellen Smith (39-2) of West Hancock in the first round.
EAST SAC COUNTY
Raider seniors Garrett Quirk (160) and Justin Rupnow (285) will finish on the big stage in their final season.
Quirk (33-16) takes on second-seed Gabe McGeough (44-1) of MFL-Mar-Mac in a 160-pound opener. Rupnow (30-10), will compete against junior Devin Whipple (45-4) of Bellevue.
Ninth-ranked Trevor Kruse (285) will compete in his first state tournament for the Warriors. The senior faces Pleasantville senior Matthew Kauffman (30-5) in the first round on Thursday.