Wrestling Sergeant Bluff-Luton Invitational

Woodbury Central's Wade Mitchell wrestles Spencer's Isaiah Spencer at 145 pounds during the Sergeant Bluff-Luton Invitational,

Jim Lee, Sioux City Journal

MOVILLE, Iowa | The Woodbury Central wrestling team’s route to the state dual tournament went through Tripoli.

Not exactly the most direct road to Des Moines, but exactly what the Wildcats needed.

“After the Tripoli tournament we sat down as a coaching staff over Christmas break and talked to the kids about where they were and their goals, whether they were on track or not,” Woodbury Central Coach Jake Thomas said. “We wanted to do the same thing with the coaching staff. Were we maximizing or opportunities? Were we using practice time efficiently?

“It was a great conversation and we did change the way we ran practices a little bit and really started breaking some things out to small groups and getting coaches one-on-one or one-on-two with some guys.”

The Wildcats went to work fine-tuning the things each wrestler did well and it paid off. The team has left its best wrestling for the biggest time of the year.

Woodbury Central is the seventh seed for the Class 1A state duals and will take on second-seeded Lisbon at Wells Fargo Arena Wednesday in Des Moines. It is the eighth trip to the dual event for the Wildcats who were last there in 2015 and has finished as high as third three times.

“We had two years off where we didn’t make it down there where we graduated a ton of seniors three years ago, and the seniors now were freshmen on that team,” Thomas said. “For them to now do some of that heavier lifting now as seniors, along with some hardworking underclassmen we have, is pretty special for those guys.”

The first-round foe gives the potential for some interesting head-to-head matchups. The Wildcats' Wade Mitchell is ranked sixth at 145 while Lisbon's Cooper Siebrecht is third with Mitchell dropping a 3-1 decision in a match earlier this season. Ninth-ranked Garrett Arment could face Lisbon's No. 3 Kaden Killburg at 152, and talented freshman Beau Klingensmith will get his first taste of state.

“Up and down their lineup they have a ton of hammers and we are going to see where we are at with some of those guys,” said Thomas of the opportunity the dual tournament provides before the start of traditional state. “Getting that experience, getting to put your hands on some of those guys in a dual situation and learn from that experience … is good for us.”

Thomas has watched his team improve throughout the season and the team’s regional dual final victory over Logan-Magnolia was proof. Logan-Magnolia won the dual between the two teams in mid-January 39-30, but the Wildcats turned the tables with a state berth on the line 39-25.

“We talked in the locker room (after the loss) that everything up to the postseason is glorified practice and a measuring stick of where you are at at this point and time,” Thomas said. “At that point and time they were nine points better than us, but we had three weeks to go work on some things and fine-tune some things, tweak some things, and three weeks later we made a 23-point difference.”

It was a chance for this Woodbury Central team to show the kind of progress that can be made under the coach staff as the team has steadily improved over the past three seasons.

“It was good to take a step back after (beating Logan-Magnolia) and see the emotions in a deal like that,” Thomas said. “In the past there has been some people talking about getting rid of the dual tournament, but you get rid of it and you get rid of experiences like that. There is no doubt those are phenomenal experiences for the kids.”

The Wildcats are one of three Western Iowa teams that will look to make their mark at the duals. They are joined by fourth-seeded Missouri Valley and eighth-seeded West Sioux.

“I think it is good to have teams from this side of the state over there and hopefully we can go have a nice showing,” Thomas said.

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