While some teams were engaged in conference battles, the Van Meter/Earlham wrestling team took to the Charger Invitational inside ACGC High School Saturday, Feb. 1.

Behind a trio of first-place finishes, the Bulldogs captured runner-up status out of the 19 teams that descended upon Guthrie Center. The only team to best the Bulldogs was Clarion-Goldfield-Dows with 195 team points on the day. The Bulldogs earned the largest seed-place difference for the meet after coming into the meet as the 11th seeded team. They walked out of it with a second-place finish and the second-most match point on the day with 249.

The Bulldogs picked up nine total pinfall victories on the day, four of which came from two of the three first-place finishers on the day. Those finishers included Colby Wiederholt (126-pounds), Caleb Swalla (170-pounds), and Derrin Sesker (285-pounds). Following a first-round bye, Wiederholt, the eighth-ranked 126-pound Class 2A wrestler, was the only first-place finishers to not win by pinfall. All of his victories came by decision. Two of his three opponents had 27 wins or more yet Wiederholdt came out on top in the semifinal round with a 4-3 decision followed by a first-place title by 5-2 decision over ACGC’s Seth Danker. Wiederholt ended up bumping his win total to 35 wins on the season and his seventh win by decision.

Two of the team’s pinfall victories on the day came from undefeated star and Class 2A’s sixth-ranked 170-pound wrestler Caleb Swalla. Bringing his career win total up to 154 carer victories, Swalla began his day with two straight pinfall wins including the 31-second victory in the tournament opener. Following a tech fall victory in the semifinal round, Swalla captured his 31st victory of the season with an 8-4 decision over Tri-Center’s Bryson Freeberg.

Following just his second loss of the season Thursday in Adel, Class 2A’s fourth-ranked Derrin Sesker came back with a surge with three straight victories and fourth weekend invite top finish. Following a first-round bye, Sesker took just 42 seconds to breeze past his quarterfinal round and took his semifinal match late in the second period before picking up his seventh pinfall win of the year. That set Sesker up in yet another first-place match up against a very familiar opponent in Woodward-Granger’s Tyler Lawrenson. Aside from his two defeats, the battle with Lawrenson was perhaps one of his toughest battles. It came down to a rare tie-breaking scenario that favored Sesker as he captured the title and his 34th win of the season. Sesker ended up leading the Bulldogs with 28 team points earned on the day.

Following the first place finishers, the Bulldogs had one second-place and two third-place finishers who also added valuable points to the overall cause. Riley Harger at 120-pounds came up just shy of a title himself. Harger picked up a tech-fall victory to begin his day and then rattled off two straight decision victories to advance to the title match against Tri-Center’s Connor Attiksson. Unfortunately, a quick shortfall put Harger in a bad position and he suffered his tenth loss of the season in a 40-second pinfall. Harger still ended up providing the team with 19.5 team points. Adding 19 points himself towards the cause was Tyler Haynes at 145-pounds. Haynes suffered just one loss on the day which occurred during the semi-final round to eventual champion Reed Abbas of Clarion-Goldfield-Dows. Haynes picked himself back up and picked up two straight wins including a decisive 15-7 decision in the third-place match, giving him his 33rd win of the season.

Bryce Cole at 152-pounds fell just short of a title run himself falling to undefeated Wyatt Appleseth of Panorama in the semifinal round. It was of the slimmest of margins (6-4 decision) but it wasn’t enough to keep the senior down. Cole blanked conference foe Dustin Harney of Woodward-Granger 6-0 and then made easy work of his third-place match with a 12-1 major decision.

Next up for the Bulldogs will be the official start of the postseason with sectionals which will take them to Carlisle High School on Saturday, Feb. 8. There they will battle through a nine-team field beginning at 12 p.m.