This year’s Creston wrestling team boasts an abundance of depth in the middle weights as the Panthers look to defend their Hawkeye Ten title and return to the State Dual Tournament.
“Our first week of practice was intense and we had great enthusiasm and attendance,” said fourth-year head coach Cody Downing. “They want to be back in state duals. We’re riding that enthusiasm a little bit. We’d love to host regional duals again (by being ranked in the top eight in Class 2A) and I think we have a shot. We have some great measuring sticks early in our dual schedule.”
The season starts with a bang on Tuesday at home in a quadrangular involving Winterset, Nodaway Valley and Interstate 35. Creston’s opponents in the event beginning at 5:30 p.m. are Nodaway Valley and Winterset.
“Winterset has seven state qualifiers back, plus one that’s injured,” Downing said. “Before Christmas we see Atlantic, conference favorite Glenwood with six state qualifiers back, and Humboldt. They are all good 2A teams.”
The Panthers will participate in a unique event on Dec. 19 in Humboldt in a rare Sunday competition, one day after competing in the nearby Fort Dodge Invitational. Both Iowa State coach Kevin Dresser and Purdue coach Tony Ersland are Humboldt natives, so they arranged a dual between their teams in their hometown gym, preceded by a high school dual involving Humboldt and Creston at 1:30 p.m.
Last year the Panthers went 22-6, including 10-0 in Hawkeye Ten duals and the conference tournament championship. Creston topped Bondurant-Farrar to earn its 14th appearance in the State Dual Tournament, finishing eighth.
Among the graduation losses was state third-place finisher Jackson Kinsella at 195 pounds, with 54 victories that included 36 falls. Kinsella is now wrestling at Nebraska-Kearney. State qualifiers Kaden Bolton (152) and Keaton Street (145) were among other graduating seniors. Varsity regulars Garon Wurster (district qualifier at 138) and Andy Weis were other seniors, along with Adam McElwain and Tyson Stuart.
A squad of 43, including a handful of wrestlers waiting to begin practice with injuries, is preparing for the 2021-22 season. Among them are two state qualifiers in senior Triston Barncastle, eighth at 132 pounds last year, and sophomore Lincoln Keeler, a qualifier at 113 pounds in 2021.
Among the returning district qualifiers are senior heavyweight Chris Wilson, senior Briley Hayes, sophomore Austin Evans and sophomore Brandon Briley.
“It seems like everyone on the team weighs between 130 and 160 pounds,” Downing said. “That’s where we have the most depth. Our varsity lineup could look different from week to week. We have some great competition in the room every day. Our JV kids will have opportunities to compete in varsity tournaments, so we’ll probably have some kids going back and forth based on wrestle-offs in the first few weeks.”
Weight class outlook
Senior Justin Parsons are sophomore Christian Ahrens will likely man the opening weights of 106 and 113 pounds, Downing said.
Keeler has aspirations of wrestling at 120 pounds eventually, but may open the season at 126. Freshmen Jesse and Jarret Miller and East Union transfer Milo Staver are candidates in the 120-126 range.
Starting at 132 pounds, the Panthers boast multiple wrestlers with varsity experience. Evans, Briley and Trey Chesnut have all been varsity regulars and look to compete at 132 or 138. That range also includes sophomore Carson Rieck and juniors Carter and Owen Henderson.
Barncastle, who had a successful cross country season while coming back from a knee injury that will require surgery after the wrestling season, hopes to land in the 145 or 152 spot in the lineup. Others in that range include Chris Aragon, Gavin Bolton and brothers Briley and Brennan Hayes.
Sophomore Will Bolinger, a qualifier for Cadet Freestyle Nationals in Fargo, North Dakota over the summer, is still recovering from fibula and tibia leg fractures in the football season finale at Atlantic. He will be a candidate in the 152 and 160 range when he returns later in December, Downing noted.
“We’ll have some really fun battles when everyone is healthy,” Downing said.
Kaden Street and Austin Seaton are the favorites to represent the Panthers in the 170 and 182 weight classes, along with Ty Morrison. The 195-220 group includes Jagger Luther, Quinton Fuller, Max Chapman and Wyatt Barber.
If Chapman doesn’t immediately move down to 220, he could be a contender at 285 along with Wilson and Andre Davis.
“It’s similar to last year in the aspect that we could look a lot different after Christmas when certain individuals settle into their weight classes they aren’t in early in the season,” Downing said. “We lost a lot of points in last year’s seniors, but they would be the first to tell you that a lot of these kids who were mostly JV last year are ready to contribute. I expect some people to really step up for us.”
Two girls — sophomore Savannah Sistad and freshman Mila Kuhns — are members of the team and will gain some opportunities in girls meets along with the regular JV and varsity schedule.
“We’ll try to get them some of their own meets until we have an official girls team,” Downing said. “If girls wrestling isn’t sanctioned by the state next year at this time I’d be shocked. There’s a lot of momentum for it, and our school needs to be out front with it, with our wrestling history. Right now we’re just waiting for some guidance from the state associations.”
Downing is assisted again by Chris Loudon and Kruz Adamson, along with volunteer assistants Casey Tanner, Wade Bolinger, Jeff Bevins and Tanner Webb. Former Panther Jared Bevins has moved from Centerville to become Clarinda’s head wrestling coach, assisted by his brother, head football coach Collin Bevins.
(* — letterwinner)
Seniors — *Justin Parsons, *Triston Barncastle, *Briley Hayes, *Chris Wells, *Chris Wilson, Andre Davis, Tyson Smith.
Juniors — * Owen Henderson, *Carter Henderson, *Trey Chesnut, *Kaden Street, *Chris Aragon, *Ty Morrison, *Austin Seaton, Riley Wipperman.
Sophomores — *Brennan Hayes, *Jagger Luther, Gavin Evans, *Austin Evans, *Will Bolinger, Boone Pryor, **Quinton Fuller, *Lincoln Keeler, Carson Rieck, *Max Chapman, *Christian Ahrens, *Brandon Briley, Wyatt Barber, Savannah Sistad, *Gavin Bolton, Brice Hull, Milo Staver.
Freshmen — Will Stuart, Jesse Miller, Jarret Miller, Gavin Larson, Stephen Sistad, Weston Trapp, Tyson Looney, Luke Travis, Mila Kuhns, Tristan Evans, Camden Smith.