COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa | Dakoda Powell is looking for balance.
The Spirit Lake junior is one of the best 220-pound wrestlers in the state, but for someone who strives for perfection on the mat it can be a difficult balancing act at times.
"I have my goals set super high and I am super critical of myself," Powell said. "If a match is not as dominant as I want it to be I am hard on myself. I do everything I can and push forward.
"It is a mental challenge for sure if you beat yourself up too much. I mean I have learned that quite a bit growing up because if you are too hard on yourself your confidence just goes out the door. Sometimes it is hard finding a happy medium between confidence, arrogance and then just beating yourself up, but this sport is all mental."
Powell began his high school career wrestling at 182 pounds as a freshman and was consistently being tested by upperclassmen. He was driven by the desire to show that he could compete and beat the older wrestlers and now he believes this is his time to prove himself as he begins his junior season.
"Dakoda has done a great job ever since his freshman year just coming in knowing he has always been wrestling upperclassmen and really just honing himself out there," Spirit Lake Coach Andrew Lundgren said. "He is the type of kid that is just really focused on the process. He knows this tournament is a building process for the end goal."
The Class 2A second-ranked Powell rolled into the semifinals at the Council Bluffs Classic on the strength of four consecutive pins before losing in a semifinal rematch to Missouri Valley's second-ranked (1A) Tom Rief 8-2. He would conclude his tournament run with a 10-8 loss to Gardner-Edgerton's Jackson Flowers to take fourth.
He has now finished fourth, third and fourth in three trips to the Council Bluffs tournament.
"As you get older it is normal to develop and just get better," he said. "It is still early in the season and still plenty of time to turn things around. I am not too worried although it hurts really bad now I have faith in my coaches and partners to get me to where I want to be."
Where he wants to be is on top at the state tournament where he finished sixth a year ago at 220 after failing to qualify as a freshman. Powell did a lot of lifting over the summer and his body and results show it as seven of his eight wins, not including forfeits, have come by pin.
"He kind of made a name for himself last year at the state level," Lundgren said. "He has grown and learned from his matches. Dakoda works to make himself better in the room."
Powell was on the mat a lot growing up and his skills show that now.
"When I am mad when I am wrestling I seem to be more tunnel visioned where if I am trying to be a technician I am a lot smoother, I am calmer under pressure, and my shots and technique are way better," he said. "In practice I am very critical on my shots. If it is not perfect I am hitting it again or hitting it until it's perfect."
"One of the things that makes Dakoda deadly is his ability to toss and use his hips real well," Lundgren said. "That is what makes him dangerous. Simple but effective stuff that make a powerful wrestler at 220."
Something new for Powell this year is maintaining a good weight level as he is forced to cut a little at 220.
"Actually, 220 is a little more difficult this year because I am a lot stronger this year," he said. "Last year at state I was around 205 pretty much the whole year and making weight is a little more of a challenge. I haven't had to cut weight for a year and I was on full feed and everything was great."
Powell believes with a tweak or two to his diet his wrestling will get even stronger as he becomes more comfortable making the cut. It speaks to his talent that Powell is off to a 10-3 start while he is still finding his comfort zone early in the season.
Perfection is something that is chased but rarely attained. Powell has a different mindset for his season.
"I just want to be dominant," he said.