DES MOINES - Both of South Tama's first-time qualifiers for the state wrestling tournament avoided the dreaded 0-2 finish, but they finished just shy of their own personal goals.
STC senior Levi Kaufman and junior Kolton Smith enjoyed their trips to the Wells Fargo Arena for their first-ever Iowa State Wrestling Tournament. They each finished 1-2 on Friday - a day earlier than they wanted to end their seasons. Kaufman and Smith both lost in the second round of the consolation bracket.
"Both matches could have gone either way I thought," coach Nate Van Dyke said. "Levi is a senior and he's done a great job for us. He's been a great leader and really hard worker. I feel bad for him that it ended that way. I know he wanted to be on the podium. He's a good kid and he had a good career.
South Tama senior Levi Kaufman tightens his headlock on John Lawsen of Forest City during their 152-pound consolation match. Kaufman beat Lawsen 4-2 to earn his first-ever state tournament victory.
"Kolton has another year and he's come a long ways already. There is still room for improvement. He can still get so much better. Just getting down here is going to be a good learning experience for him. Once you get down here, you get a lot of confidence. This was his first state meet on any level."
Smith found himself on the winner's bracket early in the tournament and nearly ended up in the semifinals. The 160-pound wrestler won his opening match on Thursday. Smith, who entered the tournament 31-11, beat Jake Sherman (29-5) of Saydel by the score of 3-2. Sherman chose to take bottom in the third period, hoping for an escape point to tie the match. However, Smith kept him down for the whole 2:00, winning his first-ever state match.
"That was awesome," Smith said. "It felt great."
Kaufman lost his first match. He entered the tournament 34-7 and faced West Delaware's Jake Voss (42-3) in the opening round. Voss won the match 8-2. With his season on the brink, Kaufman squared off against John Lawsen (29-13 entering the tournament) from Forest City in the first round of the consolation bracket. Kaufman beat Lawson 4-2 and enjoyed his first state victory.
"I'm satisfied I got a win," Kaufman said. "But it would have been nice to place. I was in great shape. I'd say I peaked at the right time."
In the consolation second round, Kaufman ran into Bret Tomoson of Sergeant Bluff-Luton. Tomoson cruised to a 12-2 victory, ending Kaufman's season and career as a Trojan.
"I'm happy I got here, but disappointed that it had to end the way it did," Kaufman said. "My goal at the beginning of the season was to place. I didn't quite get it."
After winning his first match, Smith faced Jacob Van Ginkel of Western Christian in the quarterfinals. The match was close the entire way, but Smith found himself trailing 5-4 late in the third period. As he tried to score a takedown, he got caught and pinned with three seconds left in the match.
Smith and Trevor Frain (49-2 entering the tournament) of Creston wrestled in the second round of the consolation bracket. After a scoreless first period, Frain kept Smith on the mat during the second period, keeping the match at a scoreless tie. Smith held Frain to the mat for a portion of the third period, but Frain scored a two-point reversal and that was enough to earn a 2-0 victory over Smith.
"It was fun," Smith said of his state tournament. "I'm disappointed I lost by two points and didn't place. That sucks. I plan on coming back here next year. I know I just have to keep fighting. My goal is to come back and place."
Although both STC wrestlers didn't reach their individual goal at the arena, they enjoyed the camaraderie with their teammates and each other during the three days in the capital city.
"It was a blast," Kaufman said. "We had a great group of guys come down, so it was a blast. Our coaches are awesome, too."
The Trojans coach was also proud of his qualifiers, but also sad to see their seasons come to an end.
"Our goal was to get a state champ and three place winners," Van Dyke said. "I have a lot of respect for the kids I coach and I know they're going to give 100 percent every time they step on the mat. If they did that, you can't be disappointed in them. They both had great years."