Courtesy of the Des Moines Register
There were more than murmurs that this was supposed to be the year Southeast Polk came back to the Class 3A crowd and gave someone else a chance to take home the state title.
It was all set up for Fort Dodge or Valley or some other program to step in and seize the gold trophy on the final night of the high school wrestling season.
The Rams lost seven medalists, including five state finalists, from last year's title team. They had lineup craters to fill with the departure of a senior class that accounted for nearly 70 percent of the team's scoring output last year inside Wells Fargo Arena.
But no program in Iowa high school wrestling restocks better these days than Southeast Polk. And nobody in 3A put together a better three-day performance this week than the Rams.
Southeast Polk locked up its third traditional state title in four years during Saturday morning's medal round. The Rams went 7-3 during the consolation session to put the title race to bed.
"We were talking at the beginning of the year that we needed to do this when nobody expects us to do it," Southeast Polk coach Jason Christenson said. "That makes it great and it proves some people wrong. Some people in our own program even said, 'What are you going to do when those (2015 seniors) graduate?' When you take steps like that, it makes your program even stronger when you don't go away when you're supposed to."
Fort Dodge entered the season — and this week's tournament — as the team to beat. With seven returning medalists, three top-ranked wrestlers and two defending champions, the Dodgers had their best team in decades.
They woke up Saturday morning with a chance to bring home the school's first state title since 1985. But a six-point Southeast Polk lead swelled to 23 during the consolation semifinals.
"I thought we wrestled aggressively, we just didn't get the wins we needed," Fort Dodge coach Bobby Thompson said. "(Southeast Polk) wrestled spot-on this tournament."
Entering Saturday night's finals, the Rams had won 29 of their 39 bouts in the tournament. They dropped just one match where they were favored based on rankings.
"Our kids came to fight," Christenson said. "We just brought it every day."