March 07, 2021

MA’s Shaha, NV’s Cooney wrestle into finals on Day 1 of John J. Harris

Shaha completes a four-peat; Cooney falls to 2019 John. J. Harris champion

CORNING – Mount Ayr and Nodaway Valley saw much of its success at the 66th annual John J. Harris Wrestling Tournament in Day 1, seeing nearly all of its points scored come in the 106-145 weights Friday night.

Due to the altered format for the tournament, weights 145 and under competed from start to finish Friday night.

For the Raiders, this saw their best wrestlers compete all together. Class 1A No. 3 Drew Ehlen (106), Jarrett Webb (113), Bryce Shaha (132), Payton Fleharty (138) and Class 1A No. 8 Trae Ehlen (145) all competed Friday night and were the only Raiders to wrestle past the first-round elimination format. Nodaway Valley sent Elliot Cooney (120), Ben Breheny (126) and Jaxon Christensen (138) through the first round.

Eliminated by pin in the first round Friday was Mount Ayr’s Josh West (120). Nodaway Valley’s Zackery Gebbie (132) also fell in the first round, getting pinned in the first period.

One of the most notable storylines of the Raiders Friday was the work of Shaha. A three-time champion with wins at 106, 113 and 126 at John J. Harris, Shaha dominated his way through the 132 field to become a four-time champion.

Shaha had a first-round bye, pinned Clarinda’s Michael Mayer, technical falled Central Decatur’s Devin Adams 15-0 and then paired up with Triston Barncastle of Creston/Orient-Macksburg.

A young, growing Barncastle was no match for the former state-qualifier Shaha. The Mount Ayr product blew past him in a 12-0 major decision. The win locked Shaha in as the first four-time champ at John J. since Creston/O-M legend Chase Shiltz did it across four weights from 2014 to 2017.

“It means a lot,” said Shaha, “These are childhood dreams come true. ... It was finally my time to get it done, so I just went out there and got it done.”

“He’s had that goal all year,” said Mount Ayr co-head coach Eric Ehlen. “He was worried that this tournament was going to get cancelled. He really wanted to be a four-time John J. Harris Tournament champion. That was pretty cool for him.”

Nodaway Valley’s Cooney cruised into the 120 final with back-to-back first period pins on Bedford/Lenox’s Colby Nelson and Missouri Valley’s Riley Radke. In a grueling final battle, Cooney fell just short in a 7-3 decision loss against Riverside’s Jace Rose (Class 1A No. 4), who won his third straight title at the tournament.

The match for Cooney was one the team expected, and is a sign of improvement for the 2020 state qualifier against strong opponents.

“He’s improved a lot on his feet, and I knew we would wrestle against Jace Rose better. I was predicting they would wrestle each other,” said Nodaway Valley head coach Jesse McCann. “It was a good bracket and a good test for him for state, especially since Jace Rose placed, to see where we’re at. Obviously, we’ve still got some things to work on, but Elliot has shown he’s improved and he’s closing that gap.”

Battling back Friday

Mount Ayr’s Ehlen brothers were unable to capture their first John J. Harris title this season.

Drew Ehlen, after falling to Tegan Slaybaugh of ACGC in the semifinals, pinned his way to the third-place match against Clarinda’s Kaden Whitt.

Whitt went down by pin against Drew Ehlen in the first period at 1:27, locking up a third-place finish for the Raiders’ lightweight. It was his third pin of the day, the first coming over Bedford/Lenox’s Mizael Gomez in the quarterfinal and the second coming over Winterset’s Kasen Cochran in consolation.

“That got him all worked up,” Eric Ehlen said on Drew falling into consolation. “He started wrestling like he wrestles. Absolutely fired him up when he should have been fired up in the beginning. He probably would have been in the finals.”

Trae Ehlen’s day was short, falling in the semifinals against Central Decatur’s Logan Jones at 2:43. After coming up wobbly, Trae was removed from competition for the rest of the night as precaution. He did not place.

“We were just in a bad situation where we had (Jones’) leg up against our throat, and he totally went unconscious,” said Eric Ehlen. “He just cut off his own oxygen and was kind of a freak deal. He’ll be alright and will bounce back.”

Also competing in consolation was Webb, who fell in the semis to 2020 champion Class 1A 113 No. 8 John Schroder of Riverside by pin at 3:29. On the back end of the bracket Webb again fell in the consolation semis to Red Oak’s Brandon Erp, this time by pin in 48 seconds. He ended his day with a 10-7 decision win over Atlantic’s Cruz Weaver to lock up fifth.

Fleharty’s day started with a win over Wayne’s Trent Terrell but was followed up by a major decision loss (9-0) against Creston/O-M’s Garon Wurster. Fleharty followed up the decision loss with a match against Nodaway Valley’s Christensen, who beat him by pin at 5:54 in the first round of consolation.

Ben Breheny (126) and Christensen (138) of Nodaway Valley both battled back to a third-place match in consolation. Breheny wrapped up his day fourth and Christensen was third.

After falling by a 16-8 major decision in the semis, Breheny worked back to the third-place match against Winterset’s Jake Porter. Porter took Breheny down and pinned him in 2:16.

Breheny’s day ended at 3-2, racking up two wins by pin and a 6-5 decision victory.

Christensen had a quarterfinal loss to Southwest Iowa’s Kyle Kesterson to bring him into the consolations, but three straight wins saw him place third. For third, the two faced off once again, this time Christensen prevailing over Kesteson in a 13-8 decision win.

It was Christensen’s second decision win in a row, the prior one coming in a 12-7 decision over Missouri Valley’s Fred Veatch.

Early exits Saturday

Saturday was a quick day for both Mount Ayr and Nodaway Valley with both falling into consolation early and falling victim to the tournament’s new “one-and-done” rule.

Mount Ayr’s Keaton White and Braydon Sweitlik each were bounced in single elimination with a pin at 3:45 and a 3-1 decision loss, respectively.

Class 1A No. 5 Jaydon Knight (152) opened his afternoon with a pin in 3:19 on East Mills’ Jack Gordon. Knight’s day then saw him forfeit back-to-back matches against Kennan of Bedford/Lenox and Tyler Raybourn of Clarinda. He did not place.

For Nodaway Valley, its day was also very limited. Two wrestlers hit the mat for the Wolverines, with one wrestling his way to a third-place finish.

Jevin Christensen (152) finished third after falling into consolation with a loss to Winterset’s Tyler Brown. Jevin Christensen battled back, winning a consolation semifinal match against Tyler Raybourn in sudden victory.

With the score even at 4-4, Jevin Christensen scored a takedown in sudden victory to get the match-winning points. He then went on to win his third-place match with a third period pin on ACGC’s Cale Rowley at 5:16, reversing on a takedown while trailing 8-3 on points for the win.

NV’s only other wrestler Saturday was Brandon Raasch. Raasch was eliminated from competition after wrestling a tournament-opening pig tail match, which he won by pin. He was then bounced out with a first-round loss by pin to Wray from East Mills.

For complete results from Friday and Saturday’s tournament, you can click here.