GLENWOOD, Iowa — Multiple injuries. A lone ranked wrestler. No state recognition.
And one perfect dual season so far for the Glenwood wrestling team.
The Rams (15-0) are well aware the sum of their parts is bigger than any single grappler. When every individual has tasted defeat and no one plans to continue wrestling in college, selfishness isn’t a problem.
“All these other teams have ranked kids and state champs and placers,” senior 138-pounder Jesse Bendt said. “We have none of them on our team. We’re just hard workers.”
Now Glenwood is on the cusp of an unblemished dual regular season and a Hawkeye Ten Conference outright title. The Rams could accomplish both with a victory over Harlan at home Jan. 24 at 6:30 p.m.
First, the Rams will participate in this weekend’s Sioux City Heelan Dual meet and later the Hawk-10 traditional tournament Jan. 26.
After that, the Rams hope, is a regional team dual Feb. 6. Unlike in Class 1-A or 2-A, squads in 3-A can’t qualify as a team through districts. Every outing becomes important for a Glenwood group looking to get some statewide attention and advance to the state dual meet for the first time since 2006.
“Individually a lot of people have been getting hurt and stuff, but our team as a group has been sticking together really good,” senior 182-pounder Hunter Hoffmann said. “I think we’re having a great season this year. We have little ups and downs individually but we get it all figured out and we wrestle good when it matters.”
Any specific attention starts with returning state qualifiers Hoffmann, Bendt and senior Alex Killpack (285 pounds), along with senior Sam Jameson (126), who reached Des Moines in 2010 and 2011. Only Jameson, at No. 9 in 3-A, holds a state ranking.
Hoffmann has dealt with a leg injury since Christmas. Killpack didn’t wrestle two years ago. Bendt and Jameson are rebounding from disappointing finishes to last season.
Who better to lead Glenwood’s imperfect perfect bunch?
“I feel like this is the mentally toughest team we’ve had since we were really good in 2006,” Jameson said. “I don’t know a single kid that goes out there and thinks he’s going to get beat.”
The winter has featured a variety of unlikely heroes. No dual showcased that more than a 34-30 thriller against a ranked 2-A Creston/Orient-Macksburg club on Dec. 11. Junior varsity regular Hunter Ackerson picked up a teammate who didn’t make weight by pinning his man at 106 pounds with 24 seconds to spare. Sophomore Andrew Tilley, at 145, also converted a big pin in his team’s upset.
Others have also emerged. Key contributors include juniors like Council Bluffs St. Albert transfer Cole Peckham (113 pounds), Josh Clark (152) and Chase Evans (106), along with freshman Matt Malcom (120). Seth Warren (132) is one of seven seniors in the starting lineup.
Even JV fill-ins for injured starters have done their part to keep the Rams unbeaten. Overall, Glenwood boasts nine wrestlers with 19-plus wins while a couple others — Hoffmann and Tilley — should return for the postseason.
All this, and Glenwood hasn’t been at full strength since winning Harlan’s Dan Hill Invite in early December.
“It’s pretty solid when you can put 11 guys out there you know are going to win a lot of matches for you,” coach Brad Asche said. “It’s one thing that puts us together.”
Asche, in his second year leading the program after spending five as an assistant, figured his team could contend for a spotless dual mark after going 15-4 a year ago. But the resilience in recent weeks has been impressive even by his high standards.
Wrestlers point to their coach and assistant Adam Buthe as constant motivators. They break every meeting with a simple “Champion” yell. The Rams even play dodgeball for 10 minutes while doing warmup jogs to get ready for practices. Get hit with a ball and it’s 10 pushups.
Killpack — called “Mom” by teammates for often reminding them of responsibilities — likens the daily experience to being with family. Sometimes it might seem dysfunctional.
Yet everything always seems to work out.
“Our coach tells us that only two kinds of people enter padded rooms — mentally ill people and wrestlers,” Killpack said. “You’ve got to be crazy to do what we do, and we take pride in that. We go hard because we know what we can do.”