July 19, 2024

Record-breaking 11 Panthers advance

The Panthers send 11 wrestlers to state, a new school record.

ATLANTIC — The Panthers may already be state champions, but they weren’t done making noise. Saturday at Atlantic, Creston advanced 11 of 14 wrestlers to the state tournament, a new Creston record topping the nine sent in 2015.

“It’s been a pretty special week for Creston,” Coach Cody Downing said. “I just think we don’t have a weak spot. We have a really balanced lineup.”

Four Panther wrestlers took first in their weight class at Districts Saturday in Atlantic to advance to state. From left, Max Chapman (285), Austin Evans (144), Brandon Briley (138) and Christian Ahrens (120).

Four of the 11 became district champions after an undefeated day and 13 of 14 wrestlers earned top-three finishes. The Panthers took gold as a team, scoring 224.5 over Atlantic’s 143.

“I feel like everybody is riding the high and we’re going to keep riding the high for the rest of the season,” senior Austin Evans said. “I think everybody’s a little worried when they see they have to wrestle someone with a C on their chest — we have that little edge on them right now.”


It’s no surprise Christian Ahrens (35-4) earned the 120 bracket. IAWrestle ranks Ahrens No. 2 in the state, and he showed it Saturday with two first period pins to take the gold.

“Going into next week I’m full of excitement,” Ahrens said. “I’ve been wrestling well all year; I plan to keep on going. Nothing will knock me off my groove and we’re hoping to walk away with another bracket next week.”

Ahrens finished eighth at state a year ago and comes into this year’s tournament ranked fourth.

Christian Ahrens pins Gavyn Winters of Greene County in the 120 finals. Ahrens won the weight class.

“I wrestle better at Wells Fargo,” he said. “I feel good. I don’t plan on losing.”

Last season, Brandon Briley (36-14) was on the sidelines at districts. This season, he’s a state champion, a 138 district champion and a state qualifier.

“I’m feeling amazing honestly,” Briley said. “It’s my first time making it to state individually. I came up short my freshman and sophomore years. It feels great to finally punch my ticket.”

Briley took a 7-3 decision over Kalvin Ayes of Atlantic in the semifinals before advancing to face Remington Fry of Prairie City-Monroe in the finals. Fry found the first takedown, but Briley got away. After a good second period, Briley was up 6-5 to start the final two minutes.

One of Briley’s strengths as a wrestler is his endurance, something he uses to wear opponents down in the final minutes. Briley did that against Fry to come away with a 9-7 decision and a bracket.

“I wanted that one maybe worse than he did,” Downing said. “He put in the time, he’s one of our hardest workers. He’s a guy you can always count on. He fights like crazy. I wanted that match so bad. That’s the type of kid that’s easy to get behind.”

In his first state appearance, Briley comes in ranked 16th. “My plan is to place,” he said. “I’m hoping to place and have fun with my teammates.”

At 144, Evans (41-6) came away with a big finals win over ranked Tucker Wheeler (46-4) of PCM. The 5-2 decision came after a technical fall against Adam Boeck of Van Meter in the semifinals.

Austin Evans holds Tucker Wheeler of PCM in the finals.

Last week, Evans fell in the state duals to the No. 2 and No. 3 ranked wrestlers at 144, but he said the losses weren’t all bad. “It really showed me where I’m at,” he said. “I knew what I needed to work on this week coming in from last week. Seeing where I was at last week, fixing what needed to be fixed and then coming out today against another hard opponent, it was really beneficial.”

In the finals, Wheeler found the first points with a takedown, but Evans came back to score five unanswered points and take the win.

“One of Austin’s things, when he gets behind in a match, those are the ones he generally loses,” Downing said. “Today he battled through that and wrestled hard and got a win. I think he’s in a good spot.”

Evans placed seventh at state at 138 a year ago. This season, IAWrestle ranks him at fifth and that’s where he’s seeded in the state bracket.

“At this point, it’s all just survive and advance and enjoy it,” Evans said. “It’ll be a fun ride.”

Creston’s heavyweight wrestler Max Chapman (34-6) has been on a roll, pinning his last eight opponents, seven of them being first-period pins. He wrestled for less than two minutes Saturday to claim the heavyweight district bracket.

“I feel pretty good, pretty confident in myself. Anytime I win a big match, it’s another reason to push myself to go harder,” Chapman said. “The more I win, the more I have a shot at being the best, is how I look at it.”

This is Chapmans’ second trip to state, but he didn’t place a year ago. This season, IAWrestle ranks Chapman fifth and he is the seven-seed in the state tournament.

“I want to let the wrestling speak for itself, but I think there are going to be big things coming from the state tournament,” Chapman said. “Not just from me, but from a lot of kids on my team.”


Seven Panthers placed second at districts to punch their ticket to state. Some made it by falling in the finals and not having to wrestle back. Some fell in the finals, but won their wrestle back. And a few battled through the consolation bracket for their shot at a wrestle back, winning it to advance.

“I thought we all wrestled tough,” senior Will Bolinger said. “It’s hard to beat a team that’s on a roll.”

Bolinger (40-5) and Lincoln Keeler (29-12) both competed at the state meet last year but were forced to wrestle back for a shot at this season’s tournament after falling in the finals.

In the 165 finals, Bolinger fell to fourth-ranked Brent Dennhardt of Greene County, forcing him to face off with Grady Godwin of Saydel to make it back to state.

“It was a long day, a tough day. I was a little nervous for that last one,” Bolinger said. “You just trust what we’ve done all year, believe in yourself and wrestle. There’s not much worrying is going to do for you. Cody’s preached that all year.”

Bolinger pinned Godwin in 39 seconds to claim his spot at state. Bolinger didn’t place a year ago, but comes into this tournament seeded 10th.

“My goal is to get on the podium,” he said. “If I wrestle hard, move my feet and do well on top, I think I’ll have a chance.”

This is Keeler’s third consecutive trip to the state meet after he won his wrestle back against Jayden Harter of Atlantic in a second-period pin.

Lincoln Keeler gets back points on Jayden Harter of Atlantic in the battle for second.

A year ago he wrestled in the 126 bracket where he didn’t place. This year he is the 17 seed.

Three boys didn’t have to wrestle back after losing in the finals because they’d already defeated the third-place wrestler. This was a relief for Milo Staver after he got knocked out a year ago during his wrestle back.

“Last year was pretty heartbreaking making it to the finals and then having to wrestle back and losing,” Staver said. “It feels great to finally make it to state.”

Staver comes into the state tournament seeded 14th. “My goal for next week is to wrestle the best I can and to ultimately place,” he said.

Senior Quinten Fuller made it to state as a sophomore, but as a junior, he faced a really tough 215 bracket. “I felt good,” he said about this year’s bracket. “I came in seeded first.”

Fuller (35-10) pinned his first opponent in 24 seconds before falling to Keegan Snyder of Perry, the 10th ranked 215 wrestler. Fuller advances to the state tournament where he is seeded 15th.

The first Creston sophomore to qualify that day, Brodrick Phelps (28-16) pinned his first opponent and defeated his second in an 8-4 decision to earn a spot in the 126 finals.

Aiden Smith, the No. 2 ranked wrestler from Atlantic, took down Phelps quickly, but the silver medal still sends Phelps to state.

“It feels amazing,” Phelps said of joining nine seniors at state. “I’ve looked up to them since I was in middle school. Just to be here with them and completing goals they completed feels amazing.”

Phelps comes into the tournament as the 19-seed.

“People made it about the senior class this year and that’s fine, they’re a great group of seniors,” Downing said. “But we’ve got some younger guys that are getting pretty good and are really bought into what we’re doing. I’m happy we’re taking two underclassmen that can pass the torch on to the next group next year.”

Lane Travis (33-13) was the second sophomore to punch his ticket after battling back through the consolations.

In the semifinals, Kaliber Fry of PCM won in a 14-4 major decision over Travis. Fry would go on to win the 113 district title.

In the consolation matches, Travis pinned his first opponent and defeated his second in an 18-0 technical fall. He faced Braxton Hass of Atlantic in the wrestle back for second place — one of the most intense matches of the day.

Neither scored in the first period. In the second, Travis chose to be in the down position. Hass earned two back points before Travis escaped and earned his own takedown. Hass started down in the final period, escaping to tie the score at 3-3 and send the bout into overtime.

Lane Travis earns back points on Roman Kile of Saydel in the consolation semifinals.

“That was quite the match,” Travis said. “In overtime, he tried to throw me but I stuck it and that helped me win.” Travis’s sudden-death victory earned him a spot at the Wells Fargo Arena where he’s seeded 18th.

“It feels really good,” he said. “Me and Brodrick, two sophomores going up. We punched our tickets and we’ll be back next year.”

The final qualifier of the day was senior Jagger Luther. In the first bout of the day, Donovan Hedrington of Atlantic won in a 7-3 decision over Luther. In the consolation semifinals, the two wrestlers faced off once again for a shot at a wrestle back for second place.

This time it was Luther who came out on top with the 7-3 decision, sending him to wrestle for second place against Nate Richards of PCM.

Richards had the first take down and took a 3-0 lead in the second period. Luther got his own takedown to go into the final period down one point. He came back to score three unanswered points in the final period to take silver and punch his ticket.

Luther is seeded 22nd in his first trip to the state tournament.

Placing third were sophomores Kylen Parsons (106) and Jackson Pettegrew (150).

With a lot of high hopes for this state tournament, Downing said the key is to wrestle loose. “If we wrestle like we’ve wrestled the last week, two weeks, we’re going to be in a good spot,” he said. “We’ve got a target on our backs now. They wrestled with that target, and they took it seriously.”

The Panthers wrestle the at 9.a.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Saturday will be two sessions, one at 9:15 a.m. and the finals beginning at 5:15 p.m.

Cheyenne Roche


Originally from Wisconsin, Cheyenne has a journalism and political science degree from UW-Eau Claire and a passion for reading and learning. She lives in Creston with her husband and their two little dogs.