Iowa prep legends become Hawkeyes

Feb. 15, 2008

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IOWA CITY, Iowa — It’s state wrestling tournament time in Iowa — an event that highlighted outstanding careers for several current members of the University of Iowa wrestling team. Now the top-ranked Hawkeyes are reaping the benefits of bountiful in-state recruiting harvests.

Sixteen different Iowa wrestlers competed at the Iowa state meet and combined, they won a whopping 29 individual championships. Jay Borschel was a four-time champion at Linn-Mar and Dan LeClere matched that gold-medal feat at North-Linn. Ryan Morninstar was a three-time champion from Lisbon and the UI roll call of two-time champions includes Matt Ballweg (Waverly-Shell Rock), Chad Beatty (Wilton), Matt Fields (North Cedar), Montell Marion (Des Moines Roosevelt) and Joe Slaton (Cedar Rapids Kennedy).

“It’s a big deal,” Slaton said. “It’s the biggest thing in high school — just like the NCAAs for us. When it was in “the Barn” (Veteran’s Coliseum in Des Moines) the fans were pretty much on top of you and you had to fight your way to the mat. I loved it.”

Capturing one title were Stew Gillmor (North Scott), Tyler Halverson (Cherokee), Aaron Janssen (Emmetsburg), J.J. Krutsinger (Waterloo Columbus), Nick LeClere (North-Linn), Jordan McLaughlin (Belmond-Klemme), Blake Rasing (New Hampton) and Vinnie Wagner (Osage).

Slaton, LeClere, Morningstar, Borschel, Beatty and Fields were all in the lineup for the Hawkeyes on Friday during a 28-7 thumping of No. 21 Indiana. Beatty turned in one of the more exciting finishes of the dual, rallying for a 9-7 win over Hoosier Joe Fagiano at 197 pounds.

“The thing I liked most about the state tournament was the Grand March at the end,” Beatty said. “It’s unbelievable to think of all the great wrestlers that walked in the same place.”

Against Indiana, Slaton used a riding time bonus to defeat Andre Hernandez 3-2 at 133. LeClere posted a 23-8 match termination against Scott Kelly, Borschel won by 11-3 major decision over Trevor Perry, Beatty defeated Fagiano and Fields came on strong late to defeat Nate Everhart, 7-3. Brandon Becker of Indiana won a 9-0 major decision against Morningstar.

“The Iowa state tournament is a huge tradition,” Borschel said. “It was just fun to be a part of that. It has been a stepping stone for so many great wrestlers.”

Many of the greatest of the great have moved on to become Hawkeyes and wear the black and gold singlet in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. That tradition seems destined to continue. There were four prep Iowans who signed letters of intent to join the Iowa wrestling program next season — Nate Moore (Iowa City West), Matt McDonough (Linn-Mar), Mark Ballweg (Waverly-Shell Rock) and Grant Gambrall (Iowa City West). It’s no coincidence that all four have qualified for Saturday’s Class 3A state finals at their respective weight classes.

“There are going to be a lot of nerves and a lot of excitement,” Beatty said. “The guys who are there in the finals, it’s not by accident.”

It is also no accident when an elite class of high school champions decides to continue to grow and prosper at the University of Iowa.

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