One of the biggest days in Iowa High School wrestling officially arrived and it meant seven Waukee High School wrestling stars began their paths towards potential state titles.
Through several tough battles, six Warrior grapplers came out of day one still in the hunt for the medal stand. Out of those six, four kept their tournament slate unblemished with first-round victories.
Elijah Hofbauer (106-pounds)
It was quite the early battle for Hofbauer right out of the gates as he battled third-ranked Nate Jesuroga of Southeast Polk in round one. Despite a valiant effort, the junior fell behind early and ended up falling in the opening match by 22-8 major decision. Hofbauer stayed strong and kept his medal hopes alive as he flipped the script to start the consolation round with an 8-1 decision win of his own. That included a 3-o lead early which continued to grow and included two third-period points for the overall win. He will continue his push on Friday.
Thurman Christensen (120-pounds)
The Class 3A third-ranked 120-pound wrestler in Thurman Christensen breezed through his opening round match. Christensen captured his 40th win of the season in a 16-0 tech fall win over Urbandale’s Kaleb German. Half of that production came in the first period with a quick 8-0 lead in just over one minute of action. The rest came in the second period as Christensen pulled away with eight more points and the win. Christensen will look for career win number 102 and advancement further into the tournament Friday when he battles Peyton Westlin of North Scott Eldridge (35-13).
Connor Kelley (126-pounds)
Also moving on to the quarterfinal round is Connor Kelley. The junior captured his 26th win of the season by a slim 7-5 decision. It was a big-time win as the victory came in a top-ten showdown with sixth-ranked Ayden Kingery of Southeast Polk. An early 2-0 lead continued to grow and held off a late run to punch his ticket to the winners bracket on Friday. His next opponent will bring another top-ten showdown up against fourth-ranked Bryce Parke of Linn-Mar.
Cody Anderson (152-pounds)
Waukee’s Cody Anderson proved why he’s Class 3A’s second-ranked 152-pound wrestler as he breezed through his first-round opponent, capturing his fourth major decision win of the season, 9-0 over Iowa City High’s Reece Caven. The senior continues to push his win total north of 150 career victories and will seek to continue so on Friday as he battles Linn-Mar’s Abass Kemokai.
Jermaine Sammler (160-pounds)
It was a tough pathway for Waukee junior Jermaine Sammler at it began with the top-ranked 160-pound wrestler in Caleb Helgeson of Johnston. Sammler couldn’t quite find a way to take Helgeson down and ended up falling himself by pinfall in the opening ground. That set up Sammler with a battle against Keano Roberts in the consolation round and despite cutting an early deficit down to 3-2 following the first period, he couldn’t quite pull through falling by 9-4 decision. That, unfortunately, toppled Sammlers’ medal hopes as he will conclude his 2019-20 season with an 18-18 record.
Tanner Spyksma (170-pounds)
The pathway for Tanner Spyksma began with a battle against ninth-ranked Bradley Hill of Bettendorf. Some unfortunate positioning led to an opening match defeat for Spyksma (fall 1:35) but the sophomore battled back hard in the consolation round. That meant facing Tucker Pederson of Fort Dodge and after pulling away late, Spyksma kept his medal hopes alive with a 5-3 decision. He will battle his way Friday as well.
Griffin Gammell (182-pounds)
Waukee’s Griffin Gammell came in as one of the top-seeded wrestlers in the Class 3A 182-pound bracket and he showed why in the opening round. Gammell bumped up his record to 39-1 following a lengthy battle with Clinton’s Trevor Bitner. Gammell held a three-point lead late but made the win official by pinfall with just three seconds left in the final period. The win now sets Gammell up for a quarterfinal battle with Colton Hoag of LeMars Friday.