Alta-Aurelia senior Nick Gaes has been on a mission this whole wrestling season. The 220-pound senior has been racking up his share of wins and pins leading up to the Class 1A state tournament.
When Gaes sets foot on the mat in the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines on Saturday, he will do so with an undefeated record. Gaes is 37-0 and ranked No. 2 at 220 in 1A.
Gaes plans to leave the Wells Fargo Arena on Saturday night undefeated and with a 220-pound state title.
"I really want it really bad. I want to be known as undefeated and I want to be known at my school as a state champion," Gaes said. "That's been on my mind all through wrestling season. My school has never had a state finalist and I want to be the first person and have the highest placement."
It's the third time Gaes qualified for the state tournament. Gaes also went to the state tournament undefeated last season and made it to the semifinals before losing an 8-3 decision to Tom Rief. Gaes then lost in the consolation semifinals to Kaleb Reeves and then got a 6-4 overtime win over Zack Santee for fifth place.
So it's the same script for Gaes as he goes to the state tournament with an undefeated record. But Gaes doesn't feel like he's the same wrestler as last season.
Gaes changed his workout regimen and that's helped him improve his physical condition and his stamina.
"I feel like I am much stronger than last year and not hurt. This week going into districts, I was feeling in better condition," Gaes said. "After practice, I will do crossfit with our 152-pounder and we will do it for 25 minutes with six to 10 rounds of crossfit. We get after it. With that cardio and stamina, it gets me to last the entire match if not more."
The Alta-Aurelia coaching staff has also pushed Gaes a bit more this season. If he doesn't have a match during a dual, wrestling coach Mike Fry has Gaes put in some extra work.
"If I don't have a match, I will have to do 20 sprints down the hallway, 100 pushups, 100 situps and we have a rope that we pull for grip strength," Gaes said. "It's just a challenge to me to get me in better shape. It's really nice, them pushing me harder and harder because they know what I can do and they know that I need to get the strength to push myself harder."
All of the extra work has not only helped Gaes in the wrestling room but also on the football field. South Dakota football coach Bob Nielson thinks Gaes is a good fit for his program, recruiting him as a defensive end for the Coyotes.
Gaes has received calls from college wrestling coaches but he's focused on playing football in college. But he knows wrestling has helped him become a better football player.
"I am extremely interested in playing football so I can make it to the program," Gaes said. "Wrestling has helped me with my stamina and getting into shape and preparing me for next year. It's helped with my tackling because it's the same thing in taking someone down."
While Gaes feels he's physically and mentally ready for the state tournament and he's confident in his abilities, he knows it won't be an easy road to the title. He is on the opposite side as Iowa Valley's Garet Sims, who is ranked No. 1 at 220 and is undefeated (48-0). Dylan Obermeier, of Audubon, is ranked No. 5 and is 50-0 and is on the other side of the bracket. Garrett Keehner, of MFL-Mar-Mac, is 44-0 and ranked fourth. He is on Gaes side of the bracket.
Gaes is confident he can defeat any of those wrestlers, though.
"There could be some wrestlers I haven't faced. If I get put up against them, it would be a challenge. It would be a tough fight and I would come out on top," Gaes said. "Being in the physical state I am and the state I am in and my experience, there are other senior out there but I've been coached by some good coaches, have had college wrestlers come in and wrestle me during practice.
"I know what it takes to win a state championship."