Nodaway Valley fourth-grader Caleb Christensen put a magnificent cap on an already stellar youth wrestling season by placing fifth in the state recently in the 105-pound weight class of Division A at the AAU State Wrestling Tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
The son of Josh "Bull" and Jessi Christensen, Caleb qualified for state through a district title he earned in a district tournament that was held in Council Bluffs Feb. 3. The state tournament was held beginning Feb. 23.
"As long as you win enough on Saturday, you make the placing rounds Sunday," said Josh, who is Caleb's coach with the Mat Pack Wrestling program, which welcomes participation from any kindergarten through sixth-grader.
"He went 3-1 Saturday, then lost in the quarterfinals," Christensen added. "He won his next match to wrestle on Sunday, then he went 2-1 on Sunday."
Christensen said that the first year young wrestlers are eligible to compete at state are when they're third-graders. Caleb wasn't able to advance to state last year due to a broken arm that cut his season short. This year, by advancing to state, Caleb became the program's first elementary-aged wrestler to make that pinnacle. NV has had junior high wrestlers make it to state in the past who were once Mat Pack wrestlers.
"He was a little shell-shocked at first. He told me after his first match, 'Dad, you don't have any idea how this is! It's so much different than wrestling at home in a small gym.' He talks about it quite often and it's a very big deal for him, and it's a big deal for me, too. I couldn't be more proud," Christensen said.
Both coaches were proud of how all their wrestlers performed this year. Another highlight performance was when fifth-grader Matt Nelson was a district qualifier with Christensen and narrowly missed out on makig it to state as a fifth-place finisher at districts.
"Our Mat Pack team did well. At our home team tournament, we finished second behind Atlantic. Atlantic brought three teams. They got first and third and we took second," Christensen said. "We had a lot of wrestlers who have done this for a long time and a lot of new kids. I think we've got a good program coming up, and that's what we're trying to do — build Greenfield wrestling back up to what it was when we were in school."