There won’t be any sword wielding or thwarting an invasion as the three musketeers did in the famous Alexander Dumas book.
But there certainly will be quite a battle at hand at this season’s state high school wrestling finals, when a trio of Bluejays hit the mat.
This upcoming Thursday, Feb. 14, senior Kaleb Olejniczak, junior Jacob Nelson, along with his younger cousin, freshman Cole Nelson, are set to take on a slew of other wrestlers who are vying for a chance to be crowned the best in their weight class.
The trio stamped their ticket to the final showdown after recording top two finishes at this season’s districts tournament on Feb. 9, hosted by ADM High School.
“We are excited for the guys who made it,” head coach Mark Weber said.
As expected, Class 2A #1 ranked Olejniczak dominated his 138-pound class. First, he wasted little time - 79 seconds - to earn his pinfall victory against Alex Bangs of Ballard.
Then in his championship match against North Polk’s Nicholas Bockenstedt, Olejniczak earned a pinfall win 12 seconds before the end of the first period.
“I wrestled well at districts. Just went out there and wrestled like I could,” Olejniczak said.
The senior’s career 176 wins placed him as the school’s all-time leader. However, Olejniczak doesn’t pay much attention to records. All his focus is on the state tournament and how evenly matched everyone is.
“Everyone is 0-0 at state so one match at a time. Can’t take anyone for granted,” he said.
Accompanying him is Jacob, the first half of the Nelson squad. The 132-pounder also garnered first place honors. His day began with a hard-fought 5-4 decision win over Tyler Haynes of Van Meter/Earlham.
“My first match was very close and I was losing most of the match,” Jacob said. “Weber always says just keep wrestling and that’s what I did and I got a win. It was very exciting and also I realized that all the hard work paid off and it felt good.”
In his finals match, once again Jacob found himself going the distance, this time against Ballard’s Gage Long. The two grapplers exchanged points until Jacob gained a four-point advantage and held on until time expired for the 8-4 decision.
“I knew that there wasn’t much time left and I just kept wrestling until it was over,” Jacob said.
Finalizing their trifecta was Cole Nelson who, along with his older cousin, will make his first appearance at state.
The road to the final tournament wasn’t quite so simple for Cole, who started off his 106-pound contest with a SV-1 2-0 victory against Riley Harger of Van Meter/Earlham.
“In my first match, I kept fighting through it all the way until I scored. It took a while, but eventually, I got through,” Cole said.
Cole found himself a little too relaxed in the first place match which might have contributed to his loss. By the time he wrestled Webster City’s Camron Phetxoumphone, the young freshman already knew he’d punch his ticket to state, by virtue of “prior.”
“In my second match, I wrestled with less pressure because I knew that I was going to state,” he said. “I was upset that I lost my finals match, but I was happy with the effort. I’m excited to go to state and be a part of that experience.”
Perry’s travel plans to Des Moines this week could’ve included at least two more wrestlers who barely missed the cut.
Both Riece Graham (113) and Justin Stammer (152) finished third overall. The two Bluejays finished 1-2 on Saturday. Stammer won his first match but lost his next two. Graham dropped his first two matches before a victory in the third-place contest.
“Justin Stammer was a dependable senior leader and he gave it all he had today,” Weber said. “I am proud of the young man he has grown into. The rest of the guys will be back and I know they will be strong leaders through this off season and next season.”
The rest of the squad, as Weber noted, included Jeb Stewart (145), Erick Funez (160), and Cole Snyder (182), who each placed fourth.
“Today was a hard fought day by all eight wrestlers. Win or lose, everyone stepped it up a level today and were ready to fight,” Weber said. “Today’s effort made us very proud as a coaching staff. I am proud of the direction this team and program is heading. Now it’s time for the big dance!”
The big dance is taking place at the Wells Fargo Arena on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14.
However, there will be no flowers or chocolates on the Perry bus to Des Moines. Just some determined Bluejays with winning in their hearts.
“For the qualifiers, we will keep strengthening their strengths and build confidence heading into the tournament,” Weber said. “Our focus will be one match at a time. The most important match is the next one. Whether they have been to state or not, they need to wrestle one match at a time and execute their technique like they have all season.”
“Wrestling at Wells Fargo is a memorable experience and they will be able to create some strong memories.”