It’s a matter of days left before the start of the 2018-19 Iowa state high school wrestling tournament held at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
Wrestlers from all corners of the state will flock to Des Moines where they hope to stand alone as champions on Saturday, Feb. 16. Three of those wrestlers are none other than ADM’s very own Andrew Flora, Nolan Harsh, and Kaden Sutton. All three individuals punched their respective tickets to Wells Fargo with a pair of first place finishes and a come from behind second place finish. With all three making the state tournament once again, it marks the second straight season that the trio has graced the state meet stage together.
Senior Andrew Flora, a former 113 pound champion and future Minnesota State wrestling star, continued to breeze through his slate of matches. The current 126 pound star delivered on his fifth tech-fall win of the season to start off sectionals, besting Chase Rattenborg of Webster City. Flora used a much improved attack from both the top and bottom positions to keep his unbeaten streak alive in the first place match, defeating Gilbert’s Cael Ihle by a strong 14-4 major decision win. The victory helped vault Class 2A’s top ranked 126 pound wrestler to a perfect 35-0 record as he enters the state meet. No matter the opponent, Flora continued along so methodically it was like a machine and that, Flora states, is a credit to the pure determination had throughout the season.
“Focus is a big part of my game and why I’ve done so well throughout my career,” began Flora. “Focus is a huge thing not just to keep your mind right, but also so that you don’t miss an attack by your opponent or miss an opportunity yourself. I pride myself on my ability to attack on any opportunity my opponent gives me, not letting them ever get comfortable and into a rhythm.”
In now his fourth appearance to the state meet, Flora will enter the 2018-19 edition of the state wrestling meet as Class 2A’s top seeded 126 pound wrestler. His first round match-up will be against Ethan Lemon of Harlan.
Nolan Harsh brought his record up to 36-1 following district action by picking up two pin-fall wins and earning 20 team points in route to his fourth state meet appearance. Harsh took 1:32 in the semi-final match to best Webster City’s Michael Gilbert and then followed that up with his 27th pin fall win by defeating Ballard’s Mason Askelsen (2:40). The third ranked Class 2A 182 pound wrestler will get set to take on Sioux City Bishop Heelan’s Colby Wilmesherr in his opening round match-up.
Then there comes Kaden Sutton, the eighth ranked wrestler in the latest Class 2A 220 pound wrestling polls. After gracing the state meet for the first time last season, the junior punched his repeat ticket though a come from behind path. Sutton picked up his 31st win of the season in the semi-final match after besting Cayden Meskan of Gilbert by pin-fall (4:58). That victory marked the 20th pin-fall win of the season for Sutton according to trackwrestling.com. That win gave Sutton the opportunity for a rematch against the top ranked Class 2A 220 pound wrestler, Cody Fisher. Fisher bested Sutton by 3-0 decision back in the sectional round and despite a strong effort in districts, Fisher once again beat Sutton by decision in the first place match. Oddly enough, one rematch quickly turned into another as Sutton was faced with battling Cayden Meskan for the second time within the same meet. Sutton made it 2-2 against the Gilbert product to punch his ticket to state with a second place finish.
From day one it seemed like the trio of Sutton, Harsh, and Flora were destined to make a repeat trip back. While some may look at the feat as nothing short of amazing, Tiger head coach Christopher Hatchitt view’s the accomplishment as part of the plan.
“All three of those wrestlers know what it takes, how hard to exert themselves, and just the sheer level of competition it takes to move onto state,” said Hatchitt before sectional action. “Every one of them are aggressive yet precise in their attacks and have a knack for keeping their opponents out of rhythm. It would not surprise me one bit if all three made it back to state, in fact that’s something we’ve planned on happening the entire season.”
Flora, Sutton, and Harsh will begin their paths to state meet glory beginning no Thursday, Feb. 14 from Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.