April 17, 2024

FINISHING ‘WELL’: Honnold ends on top, Warner third

Nodaway Valley/OM sophomore Ashton Honnold has his hand raised by the official after winning the state championship 8-6 in overtime Saturday, Feb. 17 at Wells Fargo Arena against Brady Davis of Maquoketa Valley.

Ashton Honnold is the best in Class 1A at 215 pounds this wrestling season and has the hardware now to prove it.

Honnold won the highest, most coveted prize a wrestler in Iowa can attain Saturday, Feb. 17 inside Wells Fargo Arena, during the Iowa High School Wrestling Championships, winning a state championship.

Seeded second in the tournament and ranked second by IAWrestle, Honnold was dominant in reaching the finals and gutted out a 6-4 win in overtime against top-seeded and third-ranked Brady Davis of Maquoketa Valley for the state championship.

In doing so, Honnold became the 12th wrestler from a Greenfield-based team to win a state title, and the first since Austin Baier won it in 2005. The last Orient-Macksburg wrestler to win a title solely for the Bulldogs was in 2003, when Brett Ray won it all for coach Rick Stokka.

But, Honnold’s isn’t the only hardware coming home to Nodaway Valley.

Junior heavyweight Trent Warner won third place Saturday morning, earning a bronze medal for the Wolverines also. Ranked eighth at 285, Warner finished higher than his seed, ending an excellent season.

Shortly after winning the state title, Honnold admitted the words were hard to find.

“It’s unreal. There’s actually nothing you can compare it to,” he said. “I know that’s said a lot. I don’t know if I’ve even wrapped my head around it yet, but it’s just great.”

The championship bout between Honnold and Davis was tight from start to finish.

Honnold, in his gold championship Wolverine singlet, and Davis, in his black and gold Maquoketa Valley singlet, came into the bout with a little bit different build — Honnold had a slightly taller and larger stature than Davis.

Nobody was able to break through for control through tie-ups in the first period as Honnold did a good job in the closing seconds of the frame rolling and sprawling through a takedown attempt.

Honnold peeled Davis away from his left leg early in the second period, escaping after starting in the down position for a 1-0 lead.

Davis took a 2-1 lead, finishing a takedown about midway through the second period, and Honnold countered, again breaking free from Davis’ grasp for an escape and a 2-2 tie to end the second.

“His takedown worried me a little bit, but I have to trust my offense and trust myself,” Honnold said. “In the third period, I was going to ride him out and keep it tied.”

But, that’s not how the match played out:

Honnold was aggressive on top to start the third and let Davis free for a 3-2 score, in his opponent’s favor, with about 1:05 left in regulation.

Wolverine sophomore Ashton Honnold hoists Maquoketa Valley's Brady Davis into the air for a mat return during the state title match in Class 1A at 215 pounds.
Nodaway Valley/OM's Ashton Honnold stands on top of the medal stand with seven other medalists at 215 pounds.

Honnold regained 4-3 lead on a thunderous takedown with 4 seconds remaining on the clock. Davis was credited with an escape with two seconds left as he crawled out of Honnold’s firm grasp to tie the match yet again.

With the score 4-4 going to overtime, with a takedown required for one or the other to win everything, Honnold was able to catch Davis’ left leg for a single-leg takedown, driving Davis onto his back and getting the victory.

“I just had to trust my offense. I’ve gotten really good with my takedowns and really good on my feet. I feel that’s what has made me become a state champ,” Honnold said. “I don’t think there’s anyone I can’t take down.”

Honnold’s dad and co-head coach, Brad Honnold, leaped into the air in excitement at the sight of his son’s victory, alongside the other co-head coach, Kolby Baier.

In the midst of Brad’s excitement, Ashton bear-hugged his dad, picked him up and threw him onto the mat in celebration.

“At the end of the day, the kid’s just got ice in his veins. That’s all I can say,” coach Honnold said. “Some kids have natural talent and other kids just work. Ashton works his butt off. You want to see the kid who works his butt off succeed. It paid off tonight.”

Honnold won two matches by decision and another by major decision to make it to the finals.

First off, Honnold topped Quintyn Rocha of West Branch 5-2 in the second round, after getting a first round bye. In the quarterfinals, Honnold utilized five takedowns for an 11-3 win against Jack Hiland of Bellevue.

In the semifinals, top-ranked Eli Green of Interstate 35 was Honnold’s opponent. They are a pair that has wrestled each other frequently.

Honnold led Green 3-0 going to the third period before Green scored on an escape and one penalty point, but time ran out and the Wolverine won.

“In my quarterfinal and semifinal, I was really happy with my performance,” Honnold said. “I think I did a great job. I was a little nervous coming into tonight, but it’s the state finals and you’ve just gotta let it all fly. I felt pretty good.”

In his family, wrestling tradition runs deep, however Honnold said it means a lot to him to be his family’s first state champion. His dad was a runner-up for Clarinda in 1995 and his grandfather, assistant coach Paul Honnold, coached at Clarinda.

Not only that, Honnold said the community support has been big for them as they and their teammates have chased greatness all year.

“All my teammates, we push each other, and that’s why we’ve become great. All of us are there for each other and are a great family,” Honnold said.

Warner takes third

NV/OM heavyweight Trent Warner looks for his next shot against Cody Fox of East Buchanan in the bronze medal match at the state tournament.

Warner took the heartbreak of losing in the semifinals at state and used it as motivation to battle back for two straight wins Saturday morning, which gave him a bronze medal at the state tournament.

He and his practice partner, Honnold, became the 82nd and 83rd wrestlers from a Greenfield-based team to be state medalists.

Warner finishes the season 50-3, which breaks the program wins in a season record. Also this season, he went over 100 career wins and broke the falls in a season record.

Co-head coach Honnold called Warner “an absolute beast this week.”

“I’m happy I medaled, but I wish I could have that match [in the semifinals] back,” Warner said. “I would’ve done things a little different at the end of the first period, and I honestly think I would’ve been at the top of the podium. Other than that, it was a good tournament and I wrestled well.”

Warner opened the tournament with his district championship foe, seventh-ranked Isaac Cox of Cardinal (Eldon). This time, Warner got the pin in 4:55.

Next, Warner wrestled third-ranked Aidan Salow of Maquoketa Valley in the quarterfinals and came out with a 3-1 overtime win on a double-leg takedown with 3 seconds left.

Top-ranked Mason Knipp of Waterloo Columbus Catholic edged Warner 3-2 in the semifinals, getting an escape and takedown in the last period. Warner scored on two escapes in the bout.

Now on the consolation side of the bracket, Warner took on ACGC’s Payton Jacobe, who is a very familiar foe of his and was ranked ninth. This time, Warner won by 3-2 decision, which sent him to the third place match.

“We wrestle each other so much anyway, I would’ve rather he be on the other side of the bracket and get a higher medal than what he did. He deserves it. He’s a great person and great athlete,” Warner said.

Warner opened the bronze medal match against second-ranked Cody Fox of East Buchanan and led 1-0 going to the third period by escaping Fox.

Fox knotted the match at 1-1 with an escape, but Warner quickly shot and got a takedown for a 3-1 lead, before Fox quickly escaped to bring the match within a point with 1:09 left.

“I was just being cautious, like I have,” Warner said. “I was being heavy with my hands, not pushing too hard and not trying to get into any bad situations. I tried to throw. It kind of worked out, but it was out of bounds. It got into a nail-biter at the end. He got into my leg, but I just sat there in a high-low position and that’s how I finished it off.”

Three others finish at state

Three other Nodaway Valley/OM grapplers finished their seasons at the state tournament: senior Carmine Shaw at 144 pounds, and sophomores Ty Strode (120) and Keyin Steeve (126).

Shaw had one of the more thrilling matches in the early-goings of the tournament when he slapped a five-point move on Alburnett’s Dawson Becker for a 7-4 win in the first round.

Eventual champion Corbin Reisz of Logan-Magnolia pinned Shaw in 3:01 to send him to the consolation side, where he ended his state run in a loss to Sibley-Ocheyedan’s Dawson Beyer by fall in 1:51. He opened up on the consolation side with win against West Central Valley’s Trent Naragon by 10-3 decision.

“It was cool to have the [close win in the opener], but I was probably most happy with my win [over Naragon]. I felt a lot lighter, quicker and smoother in that match,” Shaw said. “I would say that was really my best match I’ve wrestled in high school, in my third match here. To be here with these dudes, it’s been special here at the state tournament, especially with it being my senior year.”

Kuemper Catholic’s Caleb Hoffman beat Ty Strode in the first round by 6-1 decision, then Strode lost to Southwest Iowa’s Gabe Johnson 5-0. Strode was especially happy with how he got to his offense in the first round match, he just couldn’t capitalize.

“It was nice making it here, but we’re still unsatisfied,” Strode said. “We want to be on the podium next year.

Steeve was pinned by Earlham’s Payton Harger, who is ranked fourth, in the opener and was pinned by North Mahaska’s Joel DeJong in his first round of consolations to see his season end.

“To get here, it’s an honor, but the outcome wasn’t what we wanted,” Steeve said. “Me and Ty, we’re going to train harder than ever and be on that podium next year.”

‘Everyone got us here’

Co-head coach Kolby Baier was understandably elated for the team’s two medalists, but he also credited the entire team of 23 wrestlers who helped the five get to state who got there.

As a team, the Wolverines broke the program record for wins with 20 in dual meets. They reached the regional duals for the second year in a row. There’s much to be proud of, Baier said.

“It’s a good feeling to finish with five guys at the state tournament and a couple of guys reaching goals. Not everyone could come, but everyone got us here,” Baier said. “All the dual victories, we took every guy and it took every practice partner to do it. None of these guys could’ve done it without the rest of the team. It’s awesome to see it all come together and to have Ashton and Trent hugging and cheering with their buddies afterward.”

Coach Honnold said the support from Wolverine fans throughout the season, but especially at the state tournament, was impressive.

“We challenged the community to have a sea of purple here and they showed up. We had probably 60 people who showed up this week,” Honnold said. “We have six of the best coaches in the world. Poor Coach Baier, he’s the whipping stone for Ashton and Trent. Coach Baier is a huge part of the success of those guys, but all our coaches are. We have a lot of good things going and a great culture going right now at Nodaway Valley.”

Caleb Nelson

Caleb Nelson

Caleb Nelson has served as News Editor of the Adair County Free Press and Fontanelle Observer since Oct. 2017. He and his wife Kilee live in Greenfield. In Greenfield and the greater Adair County area, he values the opportunity to tell peoples' stories, enjoys playing guitar, following all levels of sports, and being a part of his local church.