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Maintaining the Spartan tradition

TJ Bevans steps up and starts a new chapter in Spartan wrestling history
Travis (TJ) Bevans (at right) took over the Solon varsity-wrestling program in May after Brooks McLaren stepped down. A 2002 graduate of Solon High School, Bevans competed in wrestling and football for Solon.

SOLON– Tradition matters in Spartan athletics.
Travis “TJ” Bevans knows it first hand from his time on the wrestling mat in the uniform of a Solon Spartan, as well as from his eight years as an assistant coach for the wrestling program.
When Brooks McLaren stepped down earlier this year, Bevans knew it time to step up.
“I felt it was time to step up and give it a shot,” he said. Bevans graduated from Solon in 2002 and has been a part of the community since 1995. “I know the tradition, the history, my brother wrestled here, too.”
Spartan fans won’t notice much in the way of changes in the program under Bevans, but “we definitely push a lot more fast-paced practice, more fast-paced aggressiveness,” he said.
He pointed out at the team’s first tournament this year, a veteran referee commented to him it was the fastest and most aggressive he’d seen Solon wrestle in several years. “We’ve been pushing that in practice pretty hard to just get out there and get after them in all aspects of the match, so I’ve been very proud at this point with the team.”
The season opened with what he called “a heck of a let-down,” with some key grapplers out of the line-up, but things quickly improved as the Spartans, with everybody back, took a tournament win in Montezuma with eight of fourteen wrestlers in the finals and five earning championships. “We showed them what we’re made of,” Bevans said. “We won in a big way, won convincingly… which is nice.”
Bevans’ line-up is headlined with eight wrestlers back from last year: Louis Gnida (126-pound senior and two-time State qualifier), Trevor Yahr (132-pound senior), Cole Fritz (138-pound junior, “he was real close to a state qualifier last year,” Bevans said), Kade Steuhm (145-pound senior), Graeson Dall (152-pound sophomore), Trevor Nelson (160-pound sophomore) Nick Bailey (195-pound senior) and, “our big guy, our anchor,” Logan Linderbaum (285-pound senior), who placed fifth at state last year.
The Spartans are also bolstered by the return of Ben Carr. “He’s a quality wrestler, and to have him back really put our team over the edge,” Bevans said.
The program lost 220-pound Lance Evans, who became Solon’s third state champion in 2014, to graduation.
Bevans feels confident the Spartans will be represented in Des Moines again this year.
“Nelson was real close to it last year, I think he’s going to get a taste of it this year if he keeps wrestling like he is. Fritz is right there on the bubble, too, Carr is right there, too.” Bevans added. “We’ve got big expectations, big hopes for this team. We want to not only qualify hopefully six, seven, eight, nine guys for the state tournament, but also to qualify as a team (for the state dual meet).” Solon has only accomplished that once, he said, “and actually, I was on that team that qualified.”
In addition to pride in his athletes, Bevans is quick to put the spotlight on his coaching staff. “I can’t say enough about these guys,” and added. “Most of these guys are ex-Solon wrestlers. We take such pride in the program because we’ve been there, we’ve done it for this school, this program.” Aaron Hadenfeldt is Bevans’ first assistant. “He’s done a great job, I’m very excited with what he’s done, it’s his first year, too, coming in, having him on the staff is huge,” Bevans said. Also assisting are volunteer coaches Jake Munson, Jake Brown, Justin Brown, Andy Gnida (the only non-Solon grad, but Bevans said “he’s been around forever, and I think that makes a big difference.”). Ex-wrestlers Cody Fritz and Aaron Shulista provide their expertise as well. “They’re in the (wrestling) room regularly… it makes a difference.”
The bottom line, Bevans said, is to, “hopefully continue where we’re at and to have a great year. Obviously the plan always has to be to make the state duals and qualify as many as we can for the state tournament, and just hope that every kid gets better.”
The Spartans split a home double dual meet Dec. 11, defeating an undermanned squad from Dyersville Beckman 49-14, then falling to Mount Vernon in a close match, 33-22.
Wegmann, Linderbaum and Carr all picked up decisions for Solon against Beckman, while Gnida scored a 15-1 major decision over Beckman’s Jake Recker.
Wegmann defeated Logan Kutsch, 6-0, Linderbaum rolled up an 8-1 win over Colton Lueck and Carr defeated Andy Carton 9-4.
Beckman forfeited six weight classes.
Linderbaum earned points for the Spartans against Mount Vernon, pinning Tristan Wirfs in 1:07, while Nelson, Carr, Gnida and Dall each managed decisions over their Mustang opponents. Nelson defeated Jake Weiland 11-6, Carr won 11-7 over Josh Hanson, Gnida beat Tony Garcia 7-0, and Dall doubled up Charlie Engelbrecht 14-7. Steuhm scored a 9-0 major decision over Levi Wade.