HUXLEY — The Perry wrestling team sent four grapplers to Saturday’s Class 2A District 3 tournament Saturday, with the opposite ends of the emotional spectrum of full display as two Bluejays earned spots at the state tournament and two came up one win short of advancing.
“Two guys are going home feeling proud, while two others are truly heartbroken,” Perry head coach Mark Weber noted. “Seeing the work that all four individuals have put in this season/career … I feel for each of them. All four have been great competitors throughout the season, as well as great leaders in the practice room.”
Senior Erick Funez (32-15) earned a spot at 138 pounds for his first appearance on prep wrestling’s biggest stage, with sophomore 113-pounder Cole Nelson (ranked sixth at 35-6) securing his second consecutive trip by winning his bracket.
Senior Jacob Nelson (38-9 at 145 pounds) experienced an unexpected twist in his bracket and finished third, just missing a trip to Des Moines, while 10th-ranked junior Riece Graham (25-5) placed third at 106, also narrowly missing a date at state.
“I am always proud of our wrestlers for the fight they show when they step out on the mat,” Weber said. “It feels good to have another group going to state and wrestling at Wells Fargo Arena. It is a great experience and one that Erick and Cole will not forget!”
Nelson pinned West Marshall freshman Caden Vellinga (21-16) in 2 minutes, 35 seconds to advance to the 113 finals. He earned the top podium spot with a 3-0 win over Roland-Story senior Joe Hovick (42-6).
Funez pinned LaPore City Union senior Lane Hennings (28-18) in 3:10 but was himself pinned by East Marshall senior Carson Burchland (32-4) in 2:46 in the finals.
That dropped Funez into a wrestle-back with Gilbert sophomore Jake Shedarowich (38-16), who had Burchland, 7-0, but then defeated Hennings, 4-0. Funez was a 3-0 winner over Shedarowich, thereby earning a spot at Wells Fargo.
Jacob Nelson was a 5-1 winner over East Marshall sophomore Tim Benson (24-11), but drew an unexpected for in the finals after North Polk junior Nicholas Bockenstedt (28-7) pulled what was easily the upset of the tourney by pinning defending 138-pound state champion Jack Thomsen (42-2) of LaPorte City Union in their semifinal. Thomsen, a senior, had defeated Perry’s Kaleb Olejniczak in the 2019 state semifinals in at 138.
Thomsen dispatched Benson in 1:55 and was saved from automatic elimination when Nelson lost a heartbreaking 8-6 decision to Bockenstedt as the Ballard gym roared. The follow-up 145-poound second-place match was all Thomsen, who scored a 12-2 major decision to deny Nelson a spot at state.
Graham was handed an opening match 11-2 major decision loss by Nevada freshman Drew Robinson (32-6), who lost in the finals to BCLUW’s Carter Kolthoff (38-2, Soph), 6-3.
Kolthoff had pinned Woodward-Granger freshman Peyton Nixon (38-10) in 3:39, setting up a Dallas County scrap between Nixon and Graham. The latter won by major decision, 14-6, but, as Robinson had previously defeated Graham, he automatically advanced, stopping the Bluejay junior one win from Des Moines.
“Today was a prime example of why someone should wrestle — a day full of excitement and heartbreak all at the same time,” Weber said. “The emotional toll that each individual goes through during a wrestling season cannot be replicated in any other high school sport.”
“The feelings and emotions that each guy experienced today will stay with them for a long time,” he added. “I hope those feelings motivate them to keep improving in all areas of their lives, not just wrestling. They are all tough young men.”
The Perry duo will wrestle in Session II Thursday when the Class 2A State Wrestling Tournament begins at 1:30 p.m. First round and first round consolation matches will be held in Session II.