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Solon takes 4th at talent-packed Independence tournament

Solon’s Tyler Linderbaum grapples with Williamsburg’s Logan Knutson during a season-opening dual meet Dec. 1. Linderbaum pinned Knutson. (photo by Peg Carr)

INDEPENDENCE– Solon wrestling proved itself a contender at its first tournament of the season last weekend.
The varsity Solon wrestlers took fourth place at the 25-team invitational in Independence, finishing with 227 team points and a pair of runner-up titles after two days of 3A, 2A and 1A competition.
“I thought we had a pretty strong showing,” said Solon Head Coach Blake Williams. “It was the toughest tournament hands down in the state of Iowa this first weekend.”
New Hampton led the tournament with 285 points but just one first-place finish. While Fort Dodge took home the most individual victories, with four tournament champs, the 3A powerhouse settled into second overall with 259 team points.
Christian Brothers College, of St. Louis, Missouri, took third with 242 team points and three champions.
“I think throughout the two days we were right there,” said Williams. “They kept giving team scores and it seemed like we were in the top three most of the day. We faded a little bit at the end because we held a couple of boys out of their last couple of matches for precautionary reasons because of minor injuries.”
Williams pulled senior Graeson Dall (152) from his last two matches and senior Trevor Nelson (160) from his last three, which landed them both sixth-place finishes.
“That kind of hurt us team-wise, but we realized that that’s not as important as keeping them healthy throughout the season,” Williams added.
He said the boys are a bit dinged up but that it’s nothing major.
“I think we definitely need to keep getting in better wrestling shape,” he admitted. “I don’t think anybody’s where we want to be shape-wise or technically-wise. I think we’ve got a lot of little things to work on. But obviously our main goal is to be at our best come February.”
Solon’s two second-place finishes came from seniors Bryce and Drew West, nationally-ranked brothers who transferred to Solon this year from 1A Highland.
Bryce suffered his third career loss to Brody Teske of Fort Dodge in the 120-pound first-place match at Independence. He battled Teske into the third period but was pinned in 5:25.
His brother Drew West also wrestled his way to the tournament finals, picking up his third career loss to 126-pound Malik Johnson of Christian Brothers College. Johnson won by a 7-1 decision in the first-place match.
Together, the West boys scored a third of Solon’s team points and a fourth of its total pins. The Spartans pinned 42 wrestlers, right behind New Hampton’s 50 and ahead of Cedar Rapids Prairie’s 39.
Bryce was fifth in individual pins, with six pins in a total 6:47– two less than Fort Dodge wrestler Cayd Lara’s eight.
Solon also had three fifth-place finishes: sophomore Mike Hoyle (182) over Andrue Wright of Independence, Zach Wegmann (195) over Stone Peckham of Crestwood, and Tyler Linderbaum (285) over Josh Wegener of Algona.
“Tyler Linderbaum, I thought, wrestled really well,” said Williams. “He beat the No. 2 ranked heavyweight in 2A. He really has shown a lot of improvement from last year.”
Williams said freshmen Zeb Gnida (106) and Jax Flynn (145) also competed well along side upperclassmen.
“I think the kids enjoyed it,” Williams said. “It was definitely a grind but it definitely showed us where we’re at and what we need to do to get better.”
The tournament came just one day after Solon’s season-opening dual at Williamsburg on Thursday, Dec. 1. The Spartans overtook the Raiders, 54-18, in varsity play, with 23 total takedowns against Williamsburg’s eight.
“Going in we thought it could be a very close meet,” Williams noted. “I think they had one or two of their better kids that did not wrestle.”
The meet started off at 220, and Williams said he decided to bump Zach Wegmann up to wrestle a kid he lost to last season.
“We felt pretty good about his chances. And he set the tone by pinning his guy,” said Williams. “Then Tyler Linderbaum, it was probably one of the better heavyweight matches I’ve ever seen. There was a lot of scoring. He got down by five right away, came back, tied the score, I think got ahead, and then pinned him. Those two pins were huge momentum to start off the meet. Then we kept feeding off that.”
Seven of Solon’s 11 victories were won by fall, with Bryce (120) pinning Williamsburg’s Garrett Jenson in just 28 seconds.
Solon lost the 113, 170 and 195 matches, all by fall.
Junior varsity wrestlers also got in on the action, going 4-11 against Williamsburg.
“We have a lot of young guys and a lot of inexperienced guys. But they’re learning and getting better each and every week,” said Williams. “That’s all we ask of them so someday they can hopefully be ready to step into a varsity role.”
Both Hunter Brown and Hayes Diersen (170) won by fall against Williamsburg’s Angel Martinez. Andy Brokaw (145) also garnered a pin against Dylan Burns. Dillon Hoit (132) won by decision over Grayson Groepper.
The Solon varsity and junior varsity wrestlers take on Mount Vernon on Thursday, Dec. 8, at 6 p.m.
Williams said the Spartans haven’t beaten the Mustangs in at least 15 years, when assistant coach T.J. Bevans was competing as a Solon wrestler.
“That’s motivation in itself. But we don’t really worry about that,” Williams said. “We want to worry about each individual’s performance. If they all perform like we want them to and show the fight and effort, then wins and losses will take care of themselves.”

Corrections: In the Dec. 1 issue of the Solon Economist, several Solon wrestlers’ career records were incorrect. The following corrections have been made.
Bryce West: 153-2
Drew West: 151-2
Trevor Nelson: 117-23
Ben Carr: 106-41