TIFFIN - When the pressure was on to keep their season alive, a handful of South Tama wrestlers earned much-needed wins at the Class 2A sectional meet here Saturday.
South Tama will be sending six wrestlers to the 2A district meet this weekend with a chance to qualify for the state tournament. The Trojans qualified three more than they did a year ago, including a trio of underclassmen and a junior making his first appearance at the district meet.
The six district qualifiers are freshman Jaret Probasco (106 pounds), sophomore Kade Steuhm (126), senior Levi Kaufman (152), junior Kolton Smith (160), senior Erik Lux (170) and sophomore Kyle Llewellyn (182). Kaufman and Lux are the only returning Trojans who competed at last year's district tournament.
South Tama’s wrestling team qualified six individuals for the Class 2A district meet on Saturday. The Trojans who will be competing for a state berth (clockwise from bottom left) are Kade Steuhm, Kyle Llewellyn, Levi Kaufman, Erik Lux, Jaret Probasco and Kolton Smith. They each finished in the top two of their weight classes at the 2A sectional meet at Clear Creek Amana on Saturday.
"We only had seeded in the top two coming into the day," coach Nate Van Dyke said. "So we wrestled above our seeds like we always do. I was kind of worried coming into that final round, because we lost a lot of matches in the finals. We had five guys on the wrestle-backs, but those guys came together and wrestled outstanding in the last round."
Lux led the Trojans with their only first-place finish at the sectional tournament. Lux won both of his matches by pinfall.
"I just wanted to keep pushing the pace and win matches," Lux said. "I also just wanted to get first."
Lux received a bye in the first round as there were only four wrestlers at 170. He pinned Zach Jacobi of Benton Community in this first match. The match lasted 1:08. In the finals, Lux also pinned Daniel Abresch of Mount Vernon in the first round (1:31).
"I did all right today," Lux said. "I could have done better in some places. I need to eliminate sloppy stuff and take good, clean shots. I also need to be better on top and getting tilts."
The star senior said he is still aiming for his second state championship. Focus on that goal keeps him motivated as he continues an undefeated senior campaign.
"It's internal," Lux said. "The coaches are there to push the pace, but mentally I have to work harder."
Four of the other five Trojans advanced to the finals, but lost the first-place match. However, they came back in the final qualifying match and won, earning a spot at the district meet.
Probasco pinned Jayden Casey of Mount Vernon late in the first round (1:57). In the finals, he lost to Connor Murphy of Clear Creek Amana. Murphy pinned Probasco in the third round. Probasco responded with a quick pinfall in the second-place match. He beat Bailey Redlinger of Solon in 1:05.
"It feels pretty good," Probasco said. "I'm excited. I had a good day. I did well on hand control and taking my shots."
"I knew I had to win to make it to districts," Probasco said. "It was either do or die. It was nice to get it done and over with it."
Kaufman also went 2-1 on the day as the No. 1 seed. He pinned Matt Gessner of Benton in 3:48 in the semifinal round. In the finals, Kaufman lost to Cody Ruden of Mount Vernon 10-6. He rebounded with a dominating, 12-1 victory over Aaron Miller of Williamsburg in the last match.
Smith also beat a Williamsburg wrestler in the qualifying match. He defeated Cody Marine 11-4 to finish second. Smith won his first match by pin (2:19) over Aaron Shulista, before losing to undefeated champ Trey Ryan of Mount Vernon.
STC's other wrestler to reach the finals was Llewellyn. He beat Matt Quinn of Solon in the semifinals 7-5 with a takedown late in the third round. Llewellyn lost the finals match to Mitchell Jilovec of Mount Vernon, before pinning Williamsburg's Colin Bryant in the second round (3:19) to qualify for the district tournament.
"Llewellyn got the pin, which was big," Van Dyke said. "Smith is wrestling better than he has in his life. He beat an eighth-ranked kid in the semifinal and lost to an undefeated No. 1-ranked guy in the finals. Kaufman did well and he'll be ready for next week. He's a senior, so he has to do it."
Steuhm was the one Trojan to win his final two matches after losing in the semifinals. He first beat Trevor Yahr of Solon by pin in the first round. Then he lost to eventual champ James Wenzel 3-0 in the semifinals. With his season on the brink, Steuhm defeated Benton's Mitch Knock 8-6 in overtime to stay alive. In the second-place match, Steuhm and No. 1 seed Carter Carew wrestled an exciting match. Steuhm led 8-6 before pinning Carew late in the match with 26 seconds remaining.
"I knew I could beat him," Steuhm said. "He had a better record than me, but the way I've been wrestling lately, there's not many people who can beat me. I got a beat by a kid I shouldn't have today, but hopefully I see him at districts.
"I'm excited," Steuhm said. "Last year, I should have made it to districts, but I kind of choked at sectionals. This year I'm feeling good and I think I can do well at districts, too."
Saturday's meet was also a bittersweet one for the Trojans. They needed a top-two team finish to qualify for the regional dual meet, but narrowly finished third. Mount Vernon won the meet going away with 242 points, while Williamsburg finished runner-up with 196 points. South Tama was third, scoring 189.5 team points.
The sectional meet was also the final one for seniors Lucas Shope and Bryce Climer. Both Trojans won a match at their final meet.
South Tama's six wrestlers will be training hard this week to prepare themselves for the district meet.
"Our conditioning is good," Van Dyke said. "We have to go hard and push for a couple of days. Then we have to pull back and try to peak again. We want to give our bodies a chance to rest and recover, before going back out there Saturday."
The other sectional, which took place in Vinton, will send its two wrestlers and the top two of each four-person weight class will qualify for state. All state qualifiers must win two matches on Saturday to advance.
"It's exciting stuff," Van Dyke said. "It doesn't get any better."
The 2A district meet starts at noon Saturday at Solon High School.