The 98th Iowa high school state wrestling tournament commences today at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. There are 53 wrestlers from the area vying for state championship glory.

Here are five story lines we'll be tracking this weekend. 

Trying to run the table

Davenport Assumption's Julien Broderson (182 pounds), West Liberty's Bryce Esmoil (195) and Louisa-Muscatine's Hunter Connor (182) are the only three wrestlers in the area without a loss and have an opportunity to finish with a perfect season come Saturday night. 

Broderson (35-0) is chasing his second straight title after missing out on the state tournament as a freshman. Esmoil (49-0), who became West Liberty's first state champion since 2000 last February, is looking for his fourth state medal. Connor, one of two L-M wrestlers in the field, is 40-0. 

Of the 672 qualifiers in the three classes, 21 enter the tournament undefeated on the season. 

Must-see matches

Arguably, the most intriguing opening-round bout comes in the first match of the tournament Thursday morning.

In Class 2A, two highly touted freshmen — Centerville's Matthew Lewis and Central DeWitt Keaton Zeimet — face off at 106 pounds. Lewis (37-2) is ranked second and Zeimet (41-1) third. 

With Lewis falling to top-ranked Jarod Kadel of Columbus/WMU in the district final, it left him as a runner-up. By the luck of the draw, it has him butting heads with Zeimet, a district champion.

Zeimet, the first freshman from Central DeWitt to ever qualify for the state tournament, has not dropped a match to an Iowa opponent this winter. 

There is one head-to-head area tussle in the first round — Bettendorf's Joe Tyson vs. North Scott's Austin Clark at 152 pounds in 3A. The Bulldogs' Will Jefferson has a tough opener against seventh-ranked Nathan Marchand of Southeast Polk. 

At 160 in 3A, North Scott's third-ranked Jake Matthaidess clashes with second-ranked Zane Mulder (39-1) of Dallas Center-Grimes.

In fact, four of North Scott's seven qualifiers will face an opponent ranked in the state's top six to start the tournament.

One more crack

Wilton's Trey Brisker closes his illustrious high school career this weekend. He hopes it is on top of the podium in Class 1A at 152 pounds.

Brisker has accomplished about everything in a Wilton singlet except win a gold medal at state. He's racked up 180 career victories, claimed four sectional titles and pocketed three state medals (a second and two thirds).

Brisker is 48-1 this season and ranked No. 1 in his weight class. He would not face a ranked opponent until at least the semifinal round. 

Comets in the trophy hunt

West Liberty figures to be the mix for a top-three team finish in Class 2A. The Comets bring eight wrestlers to the tournament, the second most in their classification behind New Hampton/Turkey Valley's nine. 

Coach Jeff Wiele's team has big-point potential with four wrestlers ranked in the state's top five — Will Esmoil (first, 132), Coy Ruess (fifth, 138), Joe Kelly (third, 152) and Bryce Esmoil (first, 195). Several of them are expected to rack up significant bonus points.

If West Liberty can receive any point contributions from its other four qualifiers, it should be enough to get them a trophy. 

West Liberty has only one top-three finish in school history. It took third in 1994 behind Clarinda and Osage. 

Two more four-timers?

Fort Dodge's Brody Teske (Class 3A, 126) and Underwood's Alex Thomsen (1A, 126) are looking to become the 26th and 27th wrestlers in Iowa to capture four state titles. 

Teske and Thomsen split two head-to-head meetings this season, the lone career setback for each wrestler. Teske is a Penn State recruit and Thomsen will continue his career at Nebraska. 

Dubuque Wahlert's Josh Ramirez also is chasing a fourth consecutive high school title. After winning three championships in Louisiana, Ramirez aims for his first in Iowa. 

— Compiled by Matt Coss


Sports Editor

Prep sports editor, with emphasis on covering the Mississippi Athletic Conference and Iowa area high schools. I've been in sports journalism for 17 years, the last five at the Quad-City Times.