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Bulldogs' Schmit qualifies for boys' state wrestling tournament
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PREP WRESTLING | CLASS 3A DISTRICT MEET

Bulldogs' Schmit qualifies for boys' state wrestling tournament

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After Ella Schmit dropped her championship match at Saturday's district wrestling tournament, the Bettendorf junior's eyes quickly wandered over to the adjacent mat at Bettendorf High School.

Schmit was waiting to see if she would have to wrestle back for second place.

But after Davenport North's Jeffery West secured a third-place win at 106 pounds over North Scott's Drew Metcalf, Schmit had made history.

With her runner-up finish, Schmit became just the third girl in Iowa history to qualify for the Iowa High School Athletic Association's boys' state tournament.

Several minutes later, Ottumwa 106-pounder Jasmine Luedtke placed second at her district meet and will join Schmit among the 672 wrestlers at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines next Thursday.

"It is a little bit of relief," Schmit said. "It is pretty stressful coming in here knowing you lose one match early and you're done, but this is pretty cool. It is what I've been working toward."

Cedar Falls' Cassy Herkelman and Ottumwa's Megan Black became the first two girls to qualify in 2011. Nobody had done it since then until Saturday.

"Ella continues to be amazing," Bettendorf coach Dan Knight said. "The fight that she has is tremendous, but she's definitely not satisfied.

"It is not a stretch to think she could place (at state). She'll have to wrestle well, but finding a way to get two wins and getting on the podium, it is very doable for her."

Schmit (15-3) pinned West in the semifinal round in 3 minutes, 22 seconds.

In the finals, she lost to Davenport West's Ayden Nicklaus 8-3. Schmit led 3-2 going into the third period before Nicklaus executed a four-point move.

It was a much closer result than her defeat to Nicklaus at the conference tournament two weeks ago.

"I feel I'm definitely in better shape than I was at MAC," Schmit said. "It is pretty cool to be able to hang in there with him for that match.

"A lot of girls can stick with the boys when they're younger, but when they hit puberty, the boys mature and get stronger and the girls get discouraged. It is cool I could stick with it and not stop after I grew up. This is a different level."

Schmit will have plenty of eyes on her in Des Moines. There was a camera following Schmit around for most of Saturday's competition. That will intensify at the state meet.

"I don't let any of that stuff get to me," she said. "I just need to keep my head down and stay humble.

"It can put a lot of pressure on someone and makes you almost feel like you have to win. I don't like that feeling. So I'll keep my eyes away from (social media), focus on the good and keep wrestling."

The Bulldogs qualified a district-best nine for the state meet.

Jayce Luna (120 pounds), Dustin Bohren (126), Logan Adamson (160), Bradley Hill (220) and Griffin Liddle (285) claimed district championships.

Hill, a state place winner at 170 last year, remained undefeated on the season.

"It is always nice to have an undefeated season and knowing you're wrestling well the whole year," Hill said. "I've just got to close the deal."

North Scott, the team champion, advanced eight to the state meet. The Lancers have five champions in Trace Gephart (113), Josh Connor (138), Peyton Westlin (145), AJ Petersen (182) and Joey Petersen (195).

The Petersens each pinned their way through the bracket.

"They come out high pace right away and that is hard to deal with," North Scott coach Drew Kelly said. "Guys don't want to wrestle like that for a full match, and they can put you away.

"They're wrestling with a lot of confidence right now."

Both locked up cradles in the championship match.

"We both have such long arms, can get that locked up, have good grip strength and aren't letting anybody out," AJ Petersen said.

"Right now, I feel like I can beat anybody."

North Scott, 0-for-3 in wrestle back matches a year ago at districts, got its final qualifier when 170-pounder Seth Madden squeaked out a 4-3 win over Bettendorf's Austin Barta in the second-place wrestle back.

The 170-pound class, won by Muscatine's Tim Nimely, featured three state-ranked wrestlers and four with winning records.

"Madden, he's been a grinder all year," Kelly said. "There have been a few bumps along the way, but he's continued to work hard. I'm proud of him."

Pleasant Valley qualified five for the state meet, the most since coach Jake Larsen's first season.

Sophomore Caden McDermott (152) was the Spartans' lone champion.

"I felt like I protected my legs a lot better and had way better pace than I've had," McDermott said.

McDermott was motivated after coming up short at districts a year ago.

"I was thinking about that a lot (Friday night) and I didn't want the results that happened last year to happen again," he said.

Larsen called it a turning point day for his program.

"I'm really proud of their effort today, one of the better district meets we've had since I've been coaching at Pleasant Valley," he said.

Davenport North, Davenport West and Muscatine each qualified two wrestlers.

North's Eleazar Valerio won the 132-pound bracket and Cade Sheedy was second at 195. Travis Hodges joined Nicklaus as qualifiers for the Falcons.

Nimely and Togeh Deseh, second at 285, moved on as well for the Muskies. Nimely (33-1) is vying for his second state medal.

"My frame of mind is great right now," he said. "A lot of people aren't expecting me to be one of those guys up there to pull upsets, but I know I can do it.

"I've been there a couple times and I know what to expect."

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Sports Editor

Sports editor, with my emphasis on covering the Mississippi Athletic Conference and Iowa area high schools. I've been in sports journalism for 20 years, the last eight at the Q-C Times.

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