WOODWARD — Senior Race Brant has been down this road before. Twice before. Junior Tanner Vermaas has not.
Both earned spots at the Class 2A State Wrestling Tournament, which begins at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Wells Fargo Arena.
Brant (50-7, 118 career wins) was denied wins in his first two trips to state and will begin his quest for redemption against fourth-ranked Blake Lawless of Albia (34-3, Sr.) at 152 pounds.
The duo met earlier this year, with Lawless scoring the victory, though Brant was, according to W-G head coach Dave Smeltzer, “in good shape in the match.”
“Race can beat him, no doubt about it, and I think both of them know it,” Smeltzer said. “Race just went for a move and it backfired on him. Against the best competition there is no room for error, but Race has wins over the kids who were ranked second, third, sixth and 10th at the time, so we have confidence he can get the job done.”
The other pairing in their four-man bracket features third-ranked Brock Jennings (41-7, Jr.) of Osage against Ryan Gorman (44-6, Jr.) of New Hampton.
Vermaas (50-6, 110 career victories) may be new to the floor at Wells Fargo, but he brings what Smeltzer calls “the right mindset and right attitude” with him.
“Tanner is fierce and no one is going to out-work him,” his coach said. “Does he have a tough draw? Yes, but he is a tough kid. I said before we saw the draw that I expected to see him on the podium and I still do.
“Same thing with Race,” Smeltzer added. “These guys have wrestled several top guys this year and are ready to take the next step.”
Vermaas has drawn top-ranked Daniel Sommerlot (46-0, Sr.) of Pocahontas Area/Laurens-Marathon, with second-rated J.J. Clark (42-2, Sr.) of Clarinda to battle Sam Mathis (43-4, Sr.) of Roland-Story in the opposite pairing.
“So much of success at state comes down to where you are mentally, because everyone who is there is going to be physically tough,” Smeltzer said. “All year we have been talking about hustle and working on going all-out for six minutes and that is what both of these guys are going to give you, every time out, no matter who is across from them.”