Woodward-Granger punches four state wrestling tickets

Sean Cordy

The path was less than certain, but in the end, four Hawks punched their tickets to the state wrestling tournament for Woodward-Granger. All taking second place Saturday at the district round in Adel, Peyton Nixon, Riece Graham, Dustin Harney and Jon McKeever fought back for the right to continue their season at Wells Fargo Arena.

By contrast, Woodward sent only two from the team to the state tournament in 2020. 

Peyton Nixon (113 pounds)

Woodward-Granger's Peyton Nixon wrestles an opponent during the Class 2A district meet on Saturday, Feb. 13 in Adel. Nixon finished second at 113 pounds as one of four Hawks to advance to state.

The polls proved to be in order as Nixon came in as No. 9 overall in the latest standings and wound up on the losing end against No. 5 Dalton Rowe from Bondurant-Farrar in the opening round. That ultimately worked in Nixon's favor as he next faced Van Meter's Payton Harger who beat Nixon at sectionals. That hardly rattled Nixon, as he won the two previous matchups.

"I was going away when there was short time [on the clock], but this time, I kept coming at him," Nixon told the Perry Chief of his strategy of holding an 11-3 lead in the third period.

Nixon moved forward with a major decision and then knocked off Knoxville's Marco Alejo to claim his state ticket after falling just short last season at 106.

"All about getting better technique, working in the offseason, working hard at practice," Nixon said.

Riece Graham (132)

Riece Graham during the Class 2A district meet on Saturday, Feb. 13 in Adel. Graham took second at 132 pounds as one of four Hawks to advance to state.

Graham was also just shy of a state bid last season while at Perry. His path to the tournament was slightly easier than Nixon as he only needed one win to advance. 

He came out of the gate with a major decision over Ballard's Reese Broer but was unable to takedown ADM's Ben Smith in the title matchup. Like Nixon, it was a familiar matchup as Smith and Broer know each other from the High Altitude Wrestling Club.

That loss ultimately didn't matter as Graham won via no contest against Broer in the second-place round. Being able to finally punch his ticket — at a new school nonetheless —after a number of years just on the outside was a satisfying moment for all his work.

"It's been pretty good," Graham said regarding the season with a new team sending three teammates to state. "We hung out quite a bit and did a bunch of stuff I the summer just to get the chemistry going with the team."

Dustin Harney (160)

Dustin Harney during a wrestling meet on Jan. 7 in Boone. Harney took second at 160 pounds during the district meet on Saturday, Feb. 13 in Adel to advance to state.

Harney missed out on the district round last season as a sophomore by one place, and after opening Saturday with a loss to No. 7 Gabriel Christensen, was one loss away from missing state by one place.

He got the ship back on course with a dominant major decision over North Polk's Sean Golwitzer and followed up with a third-round pin against Greene County's Nathan Black to take silver.

Jon McKeever (170)

Woodward-Granger's Jon McKeever wrestles an opponent during the Class 2A district meet on Saturday, Feb. 13 in Adel. McKeever placed second at 170 pounds as one of four Hawks to advance to state. He will be joined by Peyton Nixon (113), Riece Graham (132) and Dustin Harney (160).

McKeever's day followed Graham's path, winning out of the gate only to fall in the title matchup to a ranked opponent but ultimately still earned his way to next week's tournament with a no-contest decision.

Best of the rest

Three other Hawks were in Adel as well with Alex Evans (285) taking third place after one win, and Alex Saxton (106) and Devan Brown (195) each taking fourth place.