Little Warriors Wrestling Club season a highlight of Central’s youth sports

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These 12 Little Warrior wrestlers competed at AAU Districts on Feb. 6, in Waverly, where the top four in each weight bracket qualified for state. Pictured (front, left to right) are George Reimer, Louis Reimer, Jace Pope, Treyton Massman, Jace Bormann; (back) Max Fettkether, Braxton Bormann (state qualifier), Owen Hammersland (state qualifier), Zane Embretson, Clayton Hubbard and Sam Belser (state qualifier). (Submitted photos)

Kindergartner Jackson Gray takes down his opponent at Central’s home wrestling tournament on Jan. 9.

Fourth grader Samuel Belser turns the corner on his NFV opponent to finish the takedown at Central’s home scramble meet on Feb. 20.

By Willis Patenaude, Times-Register


It was an eventful season for Central’s youth wrestling program, as the Little Warriors Wrestling Club completed a full season devoid of restrictions or interruptions from COVID-19. It was a welcome change for the 40 registered wrestlers ranging in age from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade, who started practicing in November in hopes of making a post-season run through grade based tournaments.  


During the regular season, the Little Warriors competed in numerous weekend tournaments across northeast Iowa, including placing third as a team at their home tournament on Jan. 9 and second at Ed-Co on Jan. 15. 


Coach Jarod Bormann said several wrestlers found individual success as well. 


In addition, the club started its own scramble meet that Bormann said was “aimed at creating another local opportunity for area wrestlers to compete for free, with no expectation of individual placings but rather more competitive matches in the post season.” 


Five teams participated in this year’s meet, including NEIA Wrestling Club, Waukon, MFL MarMac, NFV and Central. While no individual awards were handed out, Bormann mentioned the introduction of a new traveling trophy, described as a bust of a buck with golden antlers named Bucky, which the winning team takes home and claims for the year. The NEIA Wrestling Club from Decorah won the inaugural Bucky trophy, and it will remain with them until it goes back up for grabs at next year’s scramble. 


As the regular season came to a close, the post-season tournaments began. On Feb. 6, 12 Central wrestlers in grades third through eighth competed at the AAU District tournament at Waverly. According to Bormann, this is the largest number of wrestlers the youth program has had compete in the last 11 years. 


At the tournament, the top four in each weight class qualified for the state wrestling tournament in Des Moines. This year, three Central wrestlers qualified: fourth grader Samuel Belser who finished fourth, eighth grader Braxton Bormann who finished second and seventh grader Owen Hammersland who finished first. 


“Qualifying for state means these three are among the top 32 wrestlers in the state at their weight class,” Bormann explained. 


On Feb. 26, the three state qualifiers competed at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. According to the rules, with enough wins from day one, wrestlers have the chance to advance to day two as the top eight finalists in the bracket and a place on the state podium.


While each Central wrestler came up just short of advancing, Belser collected two wins before being knocked out of the tournament on day one, while Bormann and Hammersland both won three matches, coming up one match short of advancing.


“Belser has had his best season yet, and walking away from his first time at state with a couple wins under his belt is a huge achievement that I know he will carry into next year,” Bormann said. “Bormann and Hammersland have both qualified for state before, but this is the deepest they’ve gone into the tournament. I know coming up one match short of placing makes it sting a little more, but for Bormann, this will provide the motivation he needs as he moves on to high school next year. For Hammersland, I think this helped him realize he can be a serious contender for the podium next year.”


The final tournament of the season was for the littlest of the club wrestlers, the kindergarten through second graders. On March 5, five wrestlers from the club competed for the Little Warriors at the AAU Pee Wee State Tournament at Young Arena in Cedar Falls.


On day one, first graders Jace Fisher and Eli Belser fell just short of reaching a top-8 spot, as Belser was knocked out of the tournament after the second round, and Fisher, who was one win away from placing, eventually lost on the consolation side. 


Despite his best effort, Fisher came up short, similar to what happened at Pee Wee State in 2021, where he lost to the eventual fourth place finisher.


As for day two of the tournament, Central had three second graders competing, including Kashton Nading, Grayson Gossman and Treyton Massman. Nading was out after the second round, while Gossman collected two wins before suffering his second loss, meaning neither wrestler advanced far enough in the bracket to place. Massman, on the other hand, went the distance and found himself wrestling the last match of the tournament and winning, to finish fifth in the bracket.


“It’s always our goal to build confidence for each wrestler and be able to compete at the final tournaments of the season. Doing this will help ensure kids stay engaged with the sport and the program as they get older,” said Bormann, who completed his 11th year coaching the youth program.


Central’s high school wrestling coach, Joe Koehn, added, “We have slowly been growing in quality and in quantity throughout the years and it is starting to show at these state level meets. I see growth and kids getting better and gaining the confidence to compete at these bigger tournaments. I am very proud of how the kids wrestled and am very appreciative to have coach Bormann and all of the youth coaches who put in so much time to help develop these young kids.”

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