(Des Moines) -- KMAland had 81 wrestlers qualify for the state tournament and left with 30 medalists. Eight grapplers reached the finals while two snagged the ultimate prize
The fourth annual KMAland All-Wrestling team features one state champion, five runner-ups, 15 state medalists and 16 qualifiers.
This year’s team is composed of one wrestler per weight class, plus one at-large wrestler in the lightweights (106 to 145 pounds) and heavyweights (152 to 285 pounds).
Eligible wrestlers include those from the Corner, Hawkeye Ten, Pride of Iowa, Rolling Valley, Western Iowa and our two Council Bluffs schools (Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson).
This year's team includes eight repeat selections, six seniors, six juniors, three sophomores and one freshman.
When choosing these 16 wrestlers, head-to-head and postseason success was a major factor. I also had the privilege of watching all 16 of these grapplers in-person this year, so I feel pretty confident in these selections. Without further ado, let's get to it.
106 Pounds: Eli Becerra, Freshman, Missouri Valley: The stellar freshman with a stellar mullet was 47-1 this season. His lone blemish? A loss in the finals to West Fork's Kale Peterson. Bright things are ahead for Becerra.
113 Pounds: John Schroder, Sophomore, Riverside: Schroder's third trip to Des Moines ended with his first state medal. The senior ended his career with a 37-7 record and seventh-place spot on the medal stand.
120 Pounds: Jace Rose, Junior, Riverside: Another fourth-place finish for Rose, who once again came excruciatingly close to wrestling in the finals. I imagine his heartbreaking semifinal loss to Brandon Paez (Lisbon) weighs heavily on his mind. I expect big things from him in his senior year.
126 Pounds: Stevie Barnes, Junior, Underwood: Now a three-time member of this team, Barnes went 37-3 this season and finished second in Class 1A. All of his losses were to current/former state champions -- Drake Ayala (Fort Dodge), Blake Cushing (Grand Island) and Cade Siebrecht (Lisbon). I call those quality losses.
132 Pounds: Gable Porter, Sophomore, Underwood: I think it's safe to say this was not the year Porter envisioned. He only wrestled 14 matches and lost in the finals to now three-time champ Aidan Noonan (Cascade). I think most people would trade places with him. He'll be back.
138 Pounds: Wyatt Reisz, Sophomore, Logan-Magnolia: What a run for Reisz. The soft-spoken sophomore finished the year 38-2 and won the Class 1A state title in a very workmanlike performance. Oh, and he avenged his two losses -- both to West Sioux's Cullen Koedam -- in the semifinals. Did I mention he's only a sophomore?
145 Pounds: Trae Ehlen, Senior, Mount Ayr: Ehlen finishes his magnificent career with four state qualifications and two state medals. He was a semifinalist this year and ultimately finished sixth, posting a 41-5 record.
152 Pounds: Briar Reisz, Senior, Logan-Magnolia: I know we aren't supposed to root for people in this industry, but I was rooting for Briar Reisz on Saturday night. The Nebraska-Kearney commit was 0-for-3 in state championship matches coming into Saturday. Unfortunately, he fell short, but it doesn't take away from his accomplishments. A lot of kids would trade places with him in a moment. I know a lot of people will remember him for the state final shortcomings, but I'll choose to remember how gracefully he always handled the media after those heartbreaks. The maturity of some teenagers is impressive. I'll also remember him as the first four-time member of this team.
160 Pounds: Gavin Maguire, Junior, Logan-Magnolia: Maguire quietly went about his business, going 48-5 and reaching the podium with an eighth-place finish.
170 Pounds: Cael McLaren, Senior, St. Albert: The progression of McLaren during his career is remarkable. He was 19-34 as a freshman and ended his career as a fifth-place finisher and state semifinalist. He's the perfect example of how far you can go if you put the time and work into getting better. A lot of people can learn from him.
182 Pounds: Brecken Freeberg, Junior, Tri-Center: Freeberg fell shy of reaching the medal stand, but that doesn't take away from the remarkable year he had. Two of his three losses this season came at state, one of which was to the eventual runner-up. He also tallied a win over McLaren this year. Watch out for him in 2022.
195 Pounds: Jackson Kinsella, Senior, Creston/O-M: Kinsella, who ends his career as a three-time choice to this team, ended his prep career on a high note with a third-place finish in Class 2A. His dominant Saturday came less than 18 hours removed from a crushing defeat in the semis. One of two things usually happens after that -- 1. you cash out and don't wrestle your best, 2. you get really angry and take it out on some poor souls. Kinsella chose the latter.
220 Pounds: Crew Howard, Senior, Clarinda: Another repeat selection, Howard ended his days as a Cardinal with a second consecutive fourth-place medal. He gradually improved over the years and was an absolute unit by the end of it. He was a treat to watch and cover. Feel free to check out the 13 interviews we did with him during his time as a Cardinal. You can check out the stories, too, which we wrote the day the interviews took place.
285 Pounds: Rex Johnsen, Junior, Logan-Magnolia: "If he gets hot, he can make a run" -- that's what Logan-Magnolia Coach Dan Thompson told me about Johnsen before the state tournament. Well, Johnsen got hot and made a run. He lost in the finals to North Butler's Chet Buss (awesome name for a heavyweight). I have a hunch Johnsen will be back next year. I don't have any reason to believe otherwise.
106-145 At-Large: Hagen Heistand, Junior, Logan-Magnolia (132 Pounds): Heistand's only loss of the season was an ultimate-tiebreaker defeat to Porter in the 1A Semis (KMAland Match of the Year, btw). The loss forced Heistand to settle for a third consecutive bronze medal. I could tell in his voice that he didn't like that. I feel bad for the dudes that have to wrestle him next year.
152-285 At-Large: Tallen Myers, Senior, Southwest Valley (220 Pounds): Myers was somewhat of a late-bloomer in the sport of wrestling, but he made up for lost time with a fantastic career. He ends his time at T-Wolf as a two-time fourth-place finisher. He was a state semifinalist and easily could have been a finalist. I'm not sure what the expectations were for him when he started his career, but I feel like he exceeded them and then some.
This begins a busy week of wrestling awards. Our KMAland Wrestler of the Year will be announced tomorrow at 11:50 a.m., followed by our Nebraska Wrestler of the Year on Wednesday, Coach of the Year on Thursday and our KMAland All-State Team on Friday.
KMA Sports will not respond to questions or comments regarding these selections.