DES MOINES – Never mind a win; try to score a point off of John Henrich.
The Akron-Westfield junior hasn’t lost in his two seasons wrestling in the state of Iowa after the defending state champion transferred into the Westerner program from Rapid City, South Dakota. He finished last season at 43-0 and in matches that didn’t end in a pin – there were just 13 of those – he gave up a total of six points.
Thursday he will enter state with a 40-0 record, 33 by pin, having allowed one point in matches that didn’t end early.
“I don’t like giving up any points cause people takedown and let them up, but I am not one of those wrestlers,” Henrich said. “I want complete dominance over them and want to try to break them. When I go out there I want to show complete dominance because there is no doubt in their mind that they were even close.”
The state tournament will test the dominance of the Class 1A top-ranked 160-pound wrestler who has not faced anyone in his bracket this season.
“It doesn’t mean much because wrestling in Northwest Iowa you are not going to see eastern Iowa schools,” he said. “I am not going to see them and they might be a different style that I haven’t seen, so I have to adjust to that.”
Henrich will never be the flashiest wrestler to take the mat, but that is what makes him so difficult for his opponents to deal with. It is a simple plan but one no one in the state has cracked yet.
“Keeping my pressure forward, staying on my offense, controlling the ties, getting out of ties I don’t like and being able to score,” he said.
“He is the real deal and he works hard,” Akron-Westfield Coach Trent Ruhland said. “He has a great work ethic … and everything he gets he earns because he puts in the time and effort for it.”
For all his success, Henrich keeps the same demeanor whether it is a pin or a win by a point like he did in last year’s state final when he beat Iowa Valley’s top-ranked Jacob Krakow 4-3.
“Anyone can get beat at any time … and just because you are No. 4 or No. 10 doesn’t mean you can’t beat the No. 1 kid,” he said. “You have to keep that in mind all the time.”
The seeds for his style were planted during his three years wrestling varsity in South Dakota where seventh-graders are allowed to compete. He placed third at state as a seventh-grader, went 1-2 in eighth-grade and finished third as a freshman.
Henrich’s last high school loss, a 6-2 state semifinal setback his freshman season, came to eventual state champion Hunter O’Connor of Sioux Falls Lincoln and brought with it a lesson he still wrestles by to this day.
“We were tied up with 30 seconds to go in the match and I took a bad shot,” he said. “Got taken down to my back. I think I kind of rushed it a little bit knowing I could have gone to overtime, it would have been perfectly fine, but I rushed my shot and that is what you get for rushing a shot.
“I wouldn’t be here without (having wrestled varsity as a seventh-grader). Some of those kids that whooped up on me taught me some lessons and gave me some advice. They wanted to see me succeed and it helped me a lot.”
Henrich and 182-pound teammate Christian Wolthuizen are the lone state qualifiers for the Westerners and the two battle with each other daily in the room.
“I don’t usually wrestle people that are that flexible so I will do a single-leg lift on him and he will bounce up and down for a minute and a half,” Henrich said. “He is really flexible so when I shoot at him he will just do the splits and it forces you to turn to different ways to finish shots than I am used to.”
“We can be just drilling and I say ‘go 75 or 80 percent’ and I will look over and those two are just going 100 mph,” Ruhland said. “There is no off switch for those guys.”
Henrich will be chasing his second straight state title this weekend at Wells Fargo Arena, but he is not thinking about the next title, simply the next match.
“I don’t train to lose and I don’t think anybody does but, I mean, you are expected to repeat if you won it the year before,” he said. “There isn’t more pressure, just more eyes watching. You have to wrestle your match.”