There's a reason Sports Illustrated featured Iowa wrestling at all levels in a recent edition.
So it stands to reason that the competition at the iowa State High school meet might be the toughest in the nation.
Area wrestlers, including three from Storm Lake High, found that out here Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Veterans Memorial Auditorium.
Of the three Storm Lake wrestlers - 130-pounder Dustin Huffman, 145- pound senior George Romualdo and senior heavyweight Jake Droessler - just Droessler placed in the top eight.
But overall, according to SLHS wrestling coach Ty Seaman, he and his wrestlers were pleased with the results.
"Our kids wrestled some tough competition," Seaman said. "Most of the guys our kids lost to wound up finishing in the top eight and three of them finished third."
The highlight of Droessler's tourney was his 5-2 decision over Chris Frank of Urbandale in the second round of consolation. Frank was ranked second in the heavyweight division going into the state meet.
"It was a good match for me," said Droessler, "and it felt good to knock him out of the tournament. (Frank) had just come off a tough loss the previous day and he was a little bit down. He came out slow and I just kept going at him."
Droessler followed that up with a 6-4 loss in the consolation bracket to Travis Meade of Iowa City West High.
"(Meade) was a big kid and I had a tough time with him," Droessler said. "I was given a warning for stalling during the match and that changed the way I wrestled. I couldn't do some of the things I wanted to."
In the match for seventh place, Droessler lost via pin to Sioux City West's Turhan Gates. Earlier in the season, Droessler was pinned by Gates in a dual match vs. West.
"This time, I got down on the mat and tried to roll for an escape," he said. "Instead, I wound up on my back and got pinned."
Droessler opened the state meet Thursday with a 3-2 loss via decision to Greg Reckman of Bettendorf, who wound up taking third at state
"He was tough because he was so quick," Droessler said. "It was 1-1 in the third period and he got a take down and I could never get another one to tie or take the lead."
Droessler did notch an escape for the final 3-2 margin, then beat Cody Walther of Waverly-Shell Rock 5-2 in the first round of the consolation bracket.
"I just went at him hard right away and I think he got a little tired at the end," Droessler said of that match. In the second round of consolation wrestling, Droessler beat Frank.
"I would have liked to place a little higher," Droessler said, "but overall, it was a nice accomplishment for me just to make it to state and to medal."
Especially, Seaman said, since Droessler has only been wrestling the past three seasons.
"Jake didn't know much about the sport when he first started as a sophomore," the coach said. "He came a long way and served as a real team leader and role model for the younger kids. In the three years he was with us, he didn't miss a practice."
Romualdo, meanwhile, went 1-2 at the tournament. He said he gave it his best shot, but didn't wrestle a smart tournament.
"I wasn't as mentally sharp as I needed to be," he said.
Romualdo opened with a loss by pin at 4 minutes, 51 seconds to Jake Kerr of Oskaloosa. Kerr came into the tournament with a 38-1 mark and took third overall.
"That was a very tough draw for George," added Seaman.
Romualdo rebounded in the first round of the consolation bracket, decisioning Dan Dempsey of West Des Moines Dowling 7-2.
"That match went better for me," Romualdo said. "I was able to get a couple of takedowns."
Romualdo's bid for a medal was sidetracked in the second round of consolation bracket action, when he lost to Aaron Terrones of Cedar Rapids Xavier by pin. Romualdo ended the season at 25-6, Droessler at 29-13.
"George has also meant a lot to our program over the years," added Seaman. "And he's been an an explosive, exciting wrestler for our fans to watch."
Huffman didn't get a win at state, but is just a junior and Seaman expects him back next season.
"Dustin felt he could have won at least one of those two matches; he knows he'll be back again next year and that's the advantage of being an underclassmen," the coach said.
Huffman opened tourney action with an 18-3 loss via technical fall to J.J. Anderson of West Des Moines Dowling. In the first round of the consolation bracket, Huffman lost by a 7-4 decision to Eddie Leonard of Dubuque Wahlert. Huffman finished his season at 25-20.
Meanwhile, Aurelia-Galva-Holstein's 112-pounder Brad Gustafson lost in his Class 2A opener 9-4 in overtime to Tyler Bjustrom of Algona, then lost in the consolation bracket to Mike Sandy of Spirit Lake. Gustafson ended the season, however, with a 43-3 mark.
In Class 1A, Lauren's-Marathon/AC-T's 130-pounder J.R. Johnson led area wrestlers with a fourth place finish (see accompanying story box).
Also in Class 1A, Sioux Central's 103-pounder Morgan Terveer lost his first two matches. In his opener, he lost via a pin at 4:39 to Mark Kist of Eagle Grove. In his consolation opener, Terveer lost a tough, 9-7 decision to Cale Hall of Nodway Valley.
Meanwhile in Class 3A, the top three team finishers were Lewis Central with 123 points, Iowa City West with 85 points and Cedar Rapids Kennedy with 83.5 points.
In Class 2A, the top three team finishers were Columbus Waterloo with 112 points, Emmetsburg/Armstrong-Ringsted with 102 points and Creston and Mount Vernon with 65 points each.
In Class 1A, Hudson took first, followed by Pocahontas Area and Nashua-Plainfield.