High School Wrestling

Agony in Ames Set for Saturday (Preview)

Agony in Ames

The Agony in Ames, October 29th at 6:00 pm central, pits Team Iowa against Team Illinois at SportsIowa.  With the addition of some national match-ups as well as some intriguing Iowa/Illinois showdowns, this one should be fun to watch.

Team Iowa Versus Team Illinois

#17 at 126 Alex Thomsen (Underwood, IA) versus #3 at 132 Austin Gomez (Glenbard North, IL)

Thomsen, a junior, is an undefeated, two-time Iowa state champion who also is a four-time Fargo All-American. He faces a big test, however, in the Iowa State commit Gomez. Wrestling in the town he will call home when he heads to college next year, Gomez is one of the best 132s in the country, a two-time state champion, and a Fargo champion. He will be looking to make a statement. Thomsen will be looking for a signature win to raise his already high profile on the recruiting scene. It will be a tough one to get, though, as Gomez is a step above him right now.

Drew West (Highland, IA) versus #9 at 126 Real Woods (Montini Catholic, IL)

West, now a senior, has been extremely good inside the state of Iowa, finishing second in the state to Thomsen a year ago after a third-place finish in 2015 and a state title in 2014. However, he has struggled a bit on the national level which keeps him out of the current top-20. He’ll get another chance to notch a big win as he faces the junior Woods. Real takes a loss from time to time due to the fact that he wrestles so many high-level matches, but he wins a lot as well. He was second to Anthony Madrigal at the Conflict at Carver a couple of weeks ago, second to Louie Hayes in the Illinois state tournament after winning in 2015, and represented the United States in Greco at the 2016 UWW Cadet World Championships. West does not want to get into a shootout with Woods who has big move ability. Drew will have his hands full here as he looks for the upset.

Triston Lara (Fort Dodge, IA) versus #6 at 132 Jason Renteria (OPRF, IL)

Lara is another tough Iowa kid that hasn’t always been able to translate that success into national accolades. Now in his senior year, one of the nation’s best, Renteria, comes knocking on his door. Renteria famously de-committed from Iowa in July and is now headed for Nebraska next fall. Jason is a three-time Illinois state finalist, finally getting his championship in 2016. He has the type of national success that Lara lacks. Renteria has to be the favorite and this will be yet another match that Team Iowa goes into as underdogs, looking for an upset.

#12 at 182 Max Lyon (Epworth, IA) versus #11 at 182 Kordell Norfleet (Marian, IL)

A pair of seniors that are back-to-back in the 182 pound rankings will settle it on the mat in this one. Lyon is a three-time Iowa state placer and a 2016 state champion while Norfleet made the finals in 2016 for the second time and won his first state title in Illinois. On paper, this match is as close as they come and I expect a tight, nip and tuck affair. Lyon is already committed to Purdue so he’ll want to show that he is ready for the future Big 10 battles he hopes to be a part of. Meanwhile, Norfleet’s recruitment is still open so he could use a big win to remind college coaches what he can do. Don’t miss this one as it could be a thriller.

#9 at 120 Brody Teske (Fort Dodge, IA) versus #20 at 113 Travis Ford-Melton (Marian Catholic, IL)

Ford-Melton is just a sophomore, but already well established on the national scene. He was runner-up over the summer in Cadet freestyle at Fargo after finishing his freshman campaign with a state title at 106 pounds. Teske has won state titles in his first two years at the high school level and was also a Fargo runner-up in Cadet freestyle. It will be interesting to see if Teske’s on paper size advantage is evident Saturday night. This could be a case of an older, bigger wrestler bullying a young upstart, but Ford-Melton will do his best to keep that from happening. Look for Teske to be too much in this one.

Cullan Schriever (Mason City, IA) versus Dylan Ragusin (Elk Grove Village, IL)

These two have met at least once before with Schriever winning comfortably, however, that was almost three years ago now which, for young combatants like this, is an eternity. Ragusin should have a bit of a size advantage over Schriever, but Cullan has won just about everything there is to win on the youth level and was a Cadet freestyle Fargo champ this summer. Ragusin is no slouch either, finishing third in Cadet freestyle in Fargo after winning the Greco crown. These two freshmen won’t be out of the rankings for long if they keep up their winning ways, but which one will win Saturday night is anyone’s guess.

Keaton Geerts (New Hampton, IA) versus #3 at 145 Jaime Hernandez (OPRF, IL)

The theme continues with another Iowa wrestler who has had some struggles on the national level taking on a strong national-level opponent. Geerts really came on last year to win a state title a year after finishing fifth, but he missed the podium in Fargo which means he still needs to show that he can compete against elite opposition. Hernandez is certainly elite opposition. The senior is headed to North Carolina in the fall of 2017 but is looking for a big senior season after a junior campaign full of near misses. The two big ones were a state finals loss to AJ Jaffe and dropping the best two out of three finals at the Cadet world team trials to Yianni Diakomihalis. Hernandez should handle Geerts here, but the longer this match is close, the more confident Geerts might get.

Ryan Leisure (Clear Lake, IA) versus #8 at 145 Will Lewan (Montini Catholic, IL)

Leisure has three trips to the Iowa state finals and two titles. He is headed to Iowa State after what he hopes is another state title to close his career. The Cyclones have been stockpiling talent so, if Ryan expects to see much of the starting line-up, he needs to prove he can knock off high level wrestlers. He’ll get another chance here against Lewan. The junior, who lost only to Hernandez at state on his way to a third-place finish, was a double All-American in Fargo, won Greco there, and has all the accolades you’d want for a top-10 guy in his weight class. He will have to be ready to scrap against Leisure, but his experience in big matches should be enough to see him through.

#17 at 160 Joel Shapiro (West Des Moines, IA) versus Johnny Mologousis (Lyons, IL)

Mologousis has come a long way since missing the podium at the 2014 and 2015 Illinois state tournament. Suddenly, this past high school season, only one wrestler in the state could handle him, Isaiah White who finished the year as the best 160 in the country. Mologousis didn’t test himself on the national stage this summer so he comes into this match a bit of a mystery. How good is he, really? He’ll have to be very good to best Shapiro who is a Fargo All-American and a two-time Iowa state placer. The junior from West Des Moines has an edge on paper, but this might be the match with the most questions surrounding it coming in.

Nicole Watters (Ballard, IA) versus Alexis Gomez (Glenbard North, IL)

Watters’ older sister Rachel is well known in the wrestling world, competing in many high profile competitions within the last year. Nicole has yet to find the kind of success that Rachel had on the mat, but will be looking to take steps in that direction during this, her junior year. Alexis Gomez, who also has a well-known wrestling sibling in Iowa State commit Austin, finished second at the Cadet level in Fargo this summer before winning the Conflict at Carver a couple of weeks ago. She should have the edge here.

#20 at 160 Billy Higgins (Skutt Catholic, NE) versus Abe Assad (Glenbard North, IL)

Another Glenbard North wrestler, Assad was a double Fargo All-American over the summer after failing to place in the state tournament as a freshman. He has flashed some serious Greco potential so most opponents won’t want to go upper body with him. Higgins, however, is also an accomplished Greco competitor so we could see some fireworks if these two decide to test each other. Billy was a Nebraska state runner-up last year and also won the Conflict at Carver a couple of weeks ago. He missed the podium in freestyle in Fargo so maybe Assad’s path to victory lies in leg attacks.

National Match-Ups

#2 at 145 Jerod Verkleeren (Hempfield, PA) versus #6 at 152 Austin O’Connor (St. Rita, IL)

Verkleeren’s win at the Super 32 was a reminder that he is one of the best wrestlers in the country. We forget that sometimes, but his Cadet world championship wasn’t that long ago and he still wins a lot of matches. He and O’Connor are the main event here. Austin is headed to North Carolina next fall while Verkleeren is part of that monster class headed to Iowa State. O’Connor, already a three-time Illinois state champion, was just fifth at 152 after making the semi-finals, but he should enjoy a size advantage here that could make this a really interesting battle.

Kaelas Lauridsen (NE) versus Jameson Garcia (IL)

A couple of little guys get to have the experience of wrestling on the big stage as Lauridsen and Garcia will stage a rematch of their third place bout at Kids freestyle nationals. Lauridsen won that match so Garcia will be looking to exact some revenge. It will be interesting to see how these two handle the bright lights.

Colin Valdiviez (Rockhurst, MO) versus Anthony Madrigal (OPRF, IL)

The Missouri state champ, Valdiviez, will be stepping up in class from what he is used to taking on Madrigal who has plenty of big match experience. Madrigal was runner-up to Gomez in the state tournament, beat Real Woods a couple of weeks back for the Conflict at Carver title, and lost to Kyran Hagen at Night of Conflict 2. When wrestlers like Valdiviez get this sort of chance, they typically either clam up and get thrashed or embrace it and thrive. Which way he goes will be interesting. If he thrives on the big stage and Madrigal is on top of his game, this could be a great match.

Joey Harrison (Omaha Burke, NE) versus Joey Melendez (Montini Catholic, IL)

A couple of older wrestlers who have spent their careers at 106 clash in this one. Harrison spent his first three years of high school at 106, winning a state title in Nebraska and finishing second in Greco in Fargo. Melendez was the 106 pound Illinois state champ a year ago and recently edged Drew Bennet to win the Conflict at Carver. Harrison needs to show he can continue his success up a weight and continue to grow into a 125 if he has college wrestling aspirations while Melendez has an additional year to get there. This one looks pretty even, but both guys are savvy enough to take advantage if the other one makes a big mistake.

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