Day two of the Iowa high school state wrestling tournament has officially come and gone and with it, plenty of exciting matches.
Several such matches came from those who donned the Van Meter blue in the form of three grapplers Riley Harger (120-pounds), Caleb Swalla (170-pounds), and Derrin Sesker (285-pounds).
Derrin Sesker (285-pounds)
Perhaps there has been no more exciting of a match than the battle between Class 2A 285-pound stars Kaden Sutton of ADM and Van Meter/Earlham’s Derrin Sesker. It’s a match that will be talked about well after the tournament has ended as it ended Friday’s action on the most exciting of notes. Prior to that battle, Sesker the fourth seed had to go through fifth-seeded Jarrett Meyer. An early lead was no worry for Sesker who overcame the first-period deficit by equalizing the score in the third period to tie things up and send the match into overtime. Once there, it took nearly all of one minute but Sesker threw down the hammer and took the victory 3-1 following a takedown.
That set Sesker up with the top-five match-up with Sutton in semi-final action. It was a battle for the ages that held a strong defensive tone. That worked well towards Sesker’s defensive style and from that, the senior broke out an early 1-0 lead and became one of very few to hold the offensive attack of Sutton scoreless through the first period. Sutton ended up evening the playing field with an escape point in the third period and from there, neither wrestler could capture a point in regulation.
The match was truly worthy of a state title bout as fans were treated to not just one, not two, but three overtime periods. Sesker ended up drawing first blood once again for a slight one-point lead late but following a long and grueling match, Sesker was edged out due to a takedown and an escape by Sutton. Sesker drew one more point late but ran just short on a comeback attempt, falling by 4-3 decision. The match had everything a wrestling fan could want and it was nothing short of that for Bulldog head coach Chas Funaro.
“Derrin was right there with him stride for stride, it just came down to he out scrambled us,” began Funaro. “Derrin wrestled well and shut down Sutton’s offense for the most part. You can’t ask for more than that, I’m very proud of him.”
Shutting down Sutton’s offense was truly on full display and it even added a little frustration into the mix for Sutton himself.
“It wasn’t how I wanted to wrestle at all,” began Sutton. “He was out there defending my stuff tonight.”
In the end, Sesker still will battle for a spot on the medal stand and it will begin against West Delaware’s Carson Pelton.
Caleb Swalla (170-pounds)
While Caleb Swall had to battle back from a quarterfinal defeat, he stood strong in the consolation bracket besting Red Oak’s Bruce Lukehart by 6-1 decision and drew out a slim 4-2 victory over Mason Griffin of Emmetsburg. That match, in particular, held a lot of intrigue which began with a late first period takedown for a 2-0 lead. A reversal across the second period held off a Griffin escape point and for the better part of 20 plus seconds, Swalla wrestled his way to victory on one leg for the 4-2 win.
“That was a really hard-fought match that had style differences,” began Funaro. “Griffin was more come at you and be real physical while Caleb is more of a finesse wrestler. How about those last 20 seconds wrestling on one foot though? It all came down to being a good athlete which Caleb is.”
Riley Harger (120-pounds)
Helping to make history for Van Meter was Riley Harger who helped the Bulldogs to send three wrestlers onto the medal stand, something that hasn’t been done before for Van Meter/Earlham wrestling. Following his tournament-opening loss, Harger rattled off three straight victories including a 6-1 decision over Johnny Hua of MOC and Carson Coleman of Mount Pleasant, all before facing off against Forest City’s Brock Moore. It was an empty set one but a pair of three-point swings by Moore ended up delivering a defeat to Harger who will still take on the Class 2A 120-pound seventh-place match.
“Riley kind of flew under the radar,” began Funaro. “Others look at that and said oh look he has double-digit losses. Now he will be a state tournament place winner. For the last few years, he has put in a ton of work and he wrestled extremely well. He didn’t beat himself and in that last match, he just lost to his opponent. Overall a great tournament from Riley.”
His seventh-place match will come today against Williamsburg’s Kayden Gryp.