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Knights wrestling poised to battle for a State title

December 3, 2019
CJ Eilers - Editor ( , Dysart Reporter

Head Coach: Bart Mehlert

Union wrestling continued to build off a modest season in 2018 as they ascended to among the elites in Class 2A throughout the 2018-19 season. The Knights fell short of qualifying for the State Dual Meet, yet sent seven wrestlers to Wells Fargo for the traditional State Tournament in February. There, Union claimed fourth overall in 2A and Jack Thomsen stood atop at the podium at 138 lbs. However, those around the program felt they should have made State Duals and achieved even more in the State tournament.

"I feel we fell short at the traditional State tournament," coach Bart Mehlert said. "We had several guys wrestling in their first State tournament. Losing Lane Albertsen at Districts hurt us with points. Whoever makes it makes it. We were short two points from third, three points from second. Now these qualifier know a few points can make all the difference."

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A new season beings for the Knights as they enter ranked second overall in the preseason, returning State qualifiers in Thomsen, Adam Ahrendsen (second at 152 lbs), Kolten Crawford (seventh at 113 lbs), Lincoln Mehlert (eighth at 106 lbs), Lake LeBahn, Hunter Worthen and Stone Schmitz.

"Anytime you can return seven qualifiers is a positive and they want to build off of last season," Mehlert said. "Their mindset so far has been right and they have been focused. Everyone's anxious and ready to go. We have seniors in Lake and Jack who have that experience and will lead this team."

Thomsen, who finished 41-0 last season according to TrackWrestling, finished his junior season in 2019 as the champion of 138 lbs in 2A and celebrated with "victory pizza" at the hotel afterwards, a memory he remembers vividly. Despite the individual success, Thomsen wasn't completely satisfied.

"That moment felt good, but it wasn't the same as getting the team up there because we ultimately didn't get what we wanted: winning the whole thing," Thomsen said. "It was my goal not only to get my own title, but our team one as well. It's been a dream of mine."

The senior recently verbally committed to wrestle next year at South Dakota State University. But before he ships off to Vermillion, SD, his goal is to see the rest of his team qualify for State Duals the Wednesday of the week and then return to the State tournament to claim the 2A title over frontrunners West Delaware.

"Our main focus is to win Duals and the traditional State titles," Thomsen said. "That's what we want to work for this season. Everyone wrestles throughout the years and not just the season. That's the reason we are ranked, but we have a lot to prove. We're young and have experience. The younger guys are relentless. Their work ethnic has been what matters so far. We all want the same thing this season."

Seniors such as Thomsen, LeBahn and Hennings will be looked to as leaders for a team that mixes experience and youth in the program. The Knights will have several girls out this season after the success of Hannah Michael last year. Freshmen will also be asked to help fill open weights.

"These seniors are stepping up as leaders, keeping their teammates accountable," Mehlert said. "We want to get these younger guys competing at a higher level and have confidence to help us compete as a dual team. You're not going to replace Lane, but we have guys who are moving up in weight. Liam Stone is out and has some experience from his earlier days in high school. Young guys will help us fill out our lineup."

Another returning qualifier who achieved great individual success last season was Ahrendsen (41-1), who was the only other Knight to reach the finals. Ahrendsen would fall 16-8 in the match, unable to help the Knights get the points they needed to finish second place.

"I wasn't happy with it," Ahrendsen said. "No one should be happy with second place when they could have achieved first. It really hurts that we could have finished higher as a team if I had won. We were just one step behind everyone else."

Yet the loss has served as motivation for the junior entering the '19-20 season. Ahrendsen has kept busy in the offseason, wrestling well at a tournament in Fargo, SD, competing against collegiate wrestlers, and area wrestlers such as Ethan Fulcher of Hudson. All of this has given Ahrendsen confidence in himself and he feels the team is poised for "the next step" this season.

"We had a few open weights last season, but this year we should have every weight filled," Ahrendsen said. "Everyone more or less came back this season for varsity, including our seven qualifiers. That's big for returning points, but we know we have to level up. People who didn't qualify last season will have to get up there."

Mehlert admits he is not a "rankings guy" and lets the wrestlers decide what they feel about the preseason hype on their own. Much of the goal setting this season has been left to the returning upperclassmen, who know what it will take to reach State. Yet first, the Knights will look to compete in a tough NICL conference slate and non-conference schedule.

"I'd like to win the NICL because Denver has had it on lockdown for so long," Mehlert said. "They'll have a solid team, but come time for our conference tournament I feel this team can win it. We'll have to fight and scratch at all our duals to win."

Reaching the State Duals tournament will once again be a goal of Union after falling to Crestwood last season for the banner.

"It doesn't matter what we're ranked first or last," Ahrendsen said. "Everyone should be wrestling like we can be State champs or make State Duals this season."

The Knights will open their season by hosting North Tama and Aplington-Parkersburg for a double dual in La Porte City. Union will compete in their first tournament at Cedar Falls on Saturday, Dec. 7.



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