South Tama's wrestling team is hoping a strong showing at the conference meet on Saturday will propel it into the postseason this weekend.
Nine STC wrestlers finished in the top six of their weight class at the North Iowa Cedar League meet, which was held at South Tama on Saturday. Six of those nine placed in the top three, including one champion for the Trojans. As a team, South Tama finished fifth out of 13 teams with 151 points, just 7.5 points shy of a third-place tie between Aplington-Parkersburg and Denver-Tripoli. Union won the meet 211.5 points and West Marshall was the runner-up, scoring 182 points.
"We were going for top three today as a team," coach Nate Van Dyke said. "That was our goal. We don't put as much clout in the conference as a lot of teams do. Our goal is now to the point where we are thinking about sectionals a bit. We know that this doesn't have to be our best meet. We will see some of these matches again in districts and hopefully we can get them then when it counts."
South Tama senior Erik Lux, center, stands atop the awards podium after winning the 170-pound weight class at the North Iowa Cedar League wrestling tournament. Lux remained undefeated on the season as he won all four of his matches at the STC gym Saturday. He helped the South Tama wrestling squad finish fifth as a team at the conference meet.
Leading the way for the Trojans was senior Erik Lux (170 pounds), who kept his unblemished record (41-0) by winning all four of his matches Saturday. He won his first two matches by pinfall in 0:43 and 1:00 as he cruised to the semifinals. Lux also pinned Denver's 170-pound wrestler late in the third period after dominating the match.
"There were three kids that came into the tournament with one loss," Van Dyke said. "They were all to Lux. He's tough. He wrestled a really good semifinals match against (Denver's) Chase Shedenhelm's younger brother and he really dominated the match. He did the same thing in the finals."
In the finals, Lux matched up against Hudson's Luke Huber. Lux took Huber to the mat four times and easily won the match 9-4 to take the NICL 170 title.
"I kept pushing all match," Lux said. "I just kept scoring and scoring. If I can't turn him, then get up and take him down again. I have to keep critiquing everything, because nothing is perfect."
"It felt pretty good," he said of the league crown. "I have to keep going. This is just a step toward my final goal. I was pretty happy with how I did today. I'm starting to peak at the right time."
Lux is aiming for his second state title this year after winning the 160-pound 2A championship last year. He has remained perfect this year, but he hasn't lost his focus.
"I see everyone else and how hard they are working," Lux said. "I just have to remember that someone out there is going harder, so I have to push myself."
Junior Dalton Vest was the other Trojans to reach the championship finals. Vest won a pair of matches at 220 pounds after receiving a bye in the opening round. He won 9-0 in the quarterfinals before a pin (1:58) in the semfinals Saturday.
In the finals, Vest faced Deonce Cushinberry from BCLUW-South Hardin. Cushinberry scored a five-point takedown early in the first round, but Vest fought off of his back to continue the match. Vest came back and nearly won the match, but lost 8-6 to finish second.
"I thought the next two best kids were the Union kid and the Dike (New-Hartford) kid," Van Dyke said of the 220 weight class. "I think Dalton is a better wrestler than the kid he faced in the finals. He gave up that five-point move early in the match. He didn't do enough to come back in that match. He has to be more aggressive and attack more."
Vest was happy with his meet, but disappointed with his finals match.
"I kind of thought I could have done better on that last match," he said. "I could have taken a few more shots. It was a good day. I kind of went down a bit after I tried cutting to 195 Thursday and then tried coming back up. I lost some energy cutting weight."
South Tama had five other wrestlers reach the championship semifinals of the NICL meet. Freshman Jaret Probasco (106) won his first two matches 17-0 and pin (1:57), before falling 16-0 to the eventual runner-up from Aplington-Parkersburg. Probasco finished the day with a 7-2 victory to take third place.
"Jaret wrestled really well," Van Dyke said. "He had one of his better tournaments, besides winning Pella."
Sophomore Kade Steuhm (126) won his quarterfinal match with a pin (3:49) after a bye in the opening round. He was pinned in the first round of the semifinal round by Max Thomsen of Union, who also pinned his opponent in the finals in 1:31. Steuhm capped off his meet with a 7-2 win, taking third place.
"It feels good to be all-conference," Steuhm. "I thought I wrestled pretty good. I felt way stronger than most of the guys. I think had more technique, too.
"I'm starting to peak right now," he said. "I'm wrestling the best I have all season. I've beat some kids with good records, which is always good."
The Trojans' coach was proud of Steuhm, who wrestled above the seed he was given at the beginning of the tournament.
"Kade's wrestling lights out right now," Van Dyke said. "He's wrestling tough and it shows from what he's doing in practice."
Senior Lucas Shope (132) went 1-2 on the day after a first-round bye. He won his quarterfinal match 4-1, but lost his next two matches 15-0 and by pinfall.
Senior Levi Kaufman (152) came back after missing more than a week with an injury. Kaufman won 11-3, lost 3-1 and won 4-1 on Saturday. He finished third in his weight class.
"He's been injured," Van Dyke said. "Levi came back and had a really close match in the semifinals. We hoped he'd beat him, but he came back and wrestled to his seed. You always wonder about someone's shape when they are out, but he's been practicing a bit. So that's encouraging."
Junior Kolton Smith also reached the semifinals. He pinned his first opponent in 1:44 and beat his next opponent 8-2. He was pinned late in the second round of the semifinal match by the eventual champion from West Marshall. However, Smith came back and won the third-place match 4-1 over a Union kid that he'd split matches with during the previous two weeks.
"Kolton avenged a loss from last Saturday," Van Dyke said. "They were 1-1 against each other That was a good match for Kolton."
Other placers for South Tama were freshman Bailey Chyma and Kyle Llewellyn. Chyma finished fifth at 138 pounds, while Llewellyn placed sixth at 182.
"We did well with the way the bracket was set up," Van Dyke said. "Our quarterfinal round was a big round for us. Most of our guys wrestled to their seed or above their seed. I wasn't disappointed."
South Tama will be competing at the 2A sectional meet at Clear Creek-Amana this Saturday. The top two placers from each weight class will advance to the district meet in Solon. Meanwhile, the top two teams will qualify for regional duals, which is a team goal for the Trojans.
"It will be tough, but I'm excited," Vest said. "This is the best our team has wrestled in a while."