While some may have taken the day to relax or work on projects, the Class 3A sixth-ranked Waukee High School wrestling team battled it out for the right to head to the traditional state tournament on Saturday, Feb. 15.
The Warriors traveled to Marshalltown to battle it out with eight other squads and came out with seven individual state tournament qualifiers and a second-place team finish overall with 196 team points. The only team to best Waukee in team points was top-ranked Waverly-Shell Rock with 262 team points.
The seven individuals gracing the traditional state tournament will be Elijah Hofbauer (106-pounds), Thurman Christensen (120-pounds), Connor Kelley (126-pounds), Cody Anderson (152-pounds), Jermaine Sammler (160-pounds), Tanner Spyksma (170-pounds) and Griffin Gammell (182-pounds).
There were two Warriors who punched their respective tickets to the state tournament with first-place finishes. One such individual was 120-pound star, Thurman Christensen. En route to punching his state tournament ticket, he captured his 100th career victory. The third-ranked 120-pound wrestler came off of his first-round bye and breezed through his semifinal match in 16-1 tech fall fashion, his 11th such victory of the season. That landed him in the title match where he battled fourth-ranked Kaden Karns of Waterloo West. With some early point production, the speedy Christensen outmatched his opponent to the point of a 7-3 decision and a ticket to Wells Fargo Arena.
Waukee’s second first-place finisher was Griffin Gammell who bumped his overall record up to 38-1 with two straight victories. Class 3A’s second-ranked 182-pound wrestler stormed off his first-round bye to pin his semifinal opponent within the first minute of action. Perhaps the easier of the two matches for Gammell came in the title match as he made a tough task look easy, besting 26-win Destin Schroder by a 10-2 major decision. That now gives Gammell his second straight state tournament appearance in the last two seasons.
There were five Warriors who punched their respective state tournament tickets via second-place finishes. Elijah Hofbauer led that charge at 106-pounds. Despite a first-place match loss, his work prior to including a 5-2 semifinal decision, Hofbauer still made his way onto the grand stage at Wells Fargo Arena. He bumped his overall record up to 24-18 on the season. A similar path was followed from Class 3A’s tenth-ranked 126-pound wrestler in Connor Kelley. The experienced junior rattled off two straight wins to burst onto the title match scene. Unfortunately, Jackson Barth of Cedar Falls narrowly edged out Kelly in that title match by a 3-1 decision. His overall great work still allowed Kelley to capture his respective ticket and a 25 win record prior to stepping foot inside Wells Fargo Arena.
Cody Anderson (152-pounds) added 20 team points to the cause through his second-place finish on the day. A 1:33 pinfall win in the semifinal match gave Anderson the chance at a title but it was fifth-ranked Evan Yant of Waverly-Shell Rock who gave Anderson his only loss of the day. Anderson bounced back in a big way to best Austin Cross of Cedar Falls by 1:52 pinfall victory. That not only punched his ticket to the big dance but brought his overall record to 40-3 on the season. Right after that, Jermaine Sammler at 160-pounds followed the same path with three victories in total on the day. That included a thrilling 8-5 decision over 33 win Caelen Shannon of Cedar Rapids Xavier in the semi-final round. Sammler then ran into seventh-ranked Carter Proffitt and unfortunately fell in an 8-0 decision. As he has all season, Sammler earned his way back into the conversation and will now join other Warrior wrestlers on the state meet stage.
Tanner Spyksma at 170-pounds picked up a trio of victories on the day including his first two wins over a pair of 35-plus win opponents. Despite a loss along the way, Spyksma made his way onto the big dance as well and bumped his record up to 23-19 on the season.
All seven Warriors will descend upon the traditional tournament beginning Thursday, Feb. 20 at 9 a.m. The quarterfinal round will commence Friday, Feb. 21 beginning at 9 a.m. as well.