The element of surprise abandoned Cash Wilcke 11 months ago. Now the OA-BCIG wrestling standout is showing why he never needed it at all.
As an unranked freshman — and big for his age at 170 pounds — Wilcke stepped on a mat at the Iowa state tournament in Des Moines last winter looking to make his mark. Instead he lost his first match by seven points.
But Wilcke regrouped to win four straight. He eventually took fourth in Class 2-A, shocking many coaches along the way who were expecting hand raises for their own upperclassmen.
“People used to think they could bully me or it would be an easy match, and I'd go right after them,” Wilcke said. “This year people kind of know who I am. They know what's coming, but that really doesn't bother me.”
Now a sophomore, Wilcke owns a 30-3 mark. He's rated No. 3 at 170 pounds (though he competes at 182). Cheerleaders chant “Cash Money” during his matches.
The best part, OA-BCIG coach Randy Nieman said, is Wilcke still is trending upward. He qualified during the summer for a national freestyle tournament, which forced him to learn more takedown methods from his feet instead of riding out opponents.
Wilcke's ability to tilt wrestlers for back points is also strengthening. At a tournament in December, Nieman heard that an opponent was happy to face the OA-BCIG grappler instead of another ranked foe.
“He thought he had a better chance with Cash, and Cash demolished him,” Nieman said. “He could see he was in for a long afternoon of wrestling Cash.”
Wilcke has yet to lose to a 2-A wrestler this year. He's absorbed two narrow losses to 1-A No. 1 Andrew Wellick of Emmetsburg and a sudden-death defeat to 3-A No. 1 Dylan Fielder of Webster City while feeling ill.
OA-BCIG, meanwhile, has scuffled to a 5-13 dual record while filling about nine weights this season. But the Falcons could give their top wrestler and co-captain some company at next month's state meet. Teammates like freshman Jake Wulf (106 pounds) and senior Justin Sadler (113) are the leading contenders.
If all goes well, Wilcke could be OA-BCIG's first state champion. Odebolt-Arthur's Kris Thayer won titles in 2000 and 2001, and no one from the Battle Creek-Ida Grove side has ever stood atop the state podium. Wilcke lives just outside Battle Creek.
“To me, this time there's no reason he can't go through on the front side all the way to Saturday night,” Nieman said. “A little luck and a lot more preparation (is what he needs) because he has the talent and the drive.”
The youngest of five children also has the athletic background. His brother, Chaps, was a two-time state qualifier and placed fifth at 189 pounds in 2010 before playing football at Morningside. Three sisters — Chancey, Cassidy and Cheyenne — each were all-state softball players. Chancey pitched at Buena Vista, Cassidy plays at Morningside, while Cheyenne is a high school junior.
If nothing else, Cash said, at least he has the most unique name.
“My mom said she named me that because no matter how broke she'll get, she'll always have some Cash,” Wilcke said. “I don't know.”
Wilcke also competes in football, baseball and track. But wrestling has been his passion since kindergarten.
He knows he won't be catching anyone off guard anymore.
“Every time we send him out, I expect him to win and he expects to win,” Nieman said. “He's not cocky or boastful, but he has great confidence in what he does.”