DES MOINES — Aiden Evans has been wrestling on a gimpy knee for about the last month. A hamstring injury limited him to 21 matches last season.
Even less than full strength, Evans found his way onto the medal stand for the second consecutive year Saturday night at Wells Fargo Arena.
The Bettendorf junior collected a pair of wins in the consolation round to place third in Class 3A at 120 pounds.
“Life throws some things at you that you can’t control,” said Evans, who was sixth as a sophomore. “You’ve got to deal with the cards you’re dealt and play the best hand you’ve got.
“It definitely hasn’t been the most comfortable feeling these past couple of weeks, but I did a pretty good job of sucking it up and getting the job done.”
Evans injured the knee during the final match of the Midwest Shootout in Bettendorf in mid-January. He missed some time, including the Mississippi Athletic Conference tournament, but returned for the postseason.
After a 6-2 quarterfinal loss, Evans won four matches in the wrestlebacks to finish the season with 42 victories. He was uncertain yet if he'll need surgery on the knee.
“I didn’t wrestle to my potential on the front side, but any time you can claw your way back and show your toughness and show your worth given the circumstances is a great feeling,” he said.
Evans was one of six wrestlers from the Quad-Cities area to finish third.
North Scott’s Jake Matthaidess (3A/152), Central DeWitt’s Keaton Zeimet (2A/106), Camanche’s Baylor Crigger (2A/160), Maquoketa’s Taven Rich (2A/285) and Midland’s Damon Huston (1A/106) took bronze.
It was Zeimet’s second state medal. For the other four, it was their first.
Crigger (45-2) was particularly emotional after his second-period pin in the third-place match. It was his final bout in a Camanche singlet.
“It has been a long career of ups and downs,” he said, “but Camanche is my home. I have the best support system out there. We had over 50 people here to watch Eric (Kinkaid) and me.
"Things are looking up for Camanche, and I’m proud to be the start of it.”
Crigger plans to wrestle at Loras College next season, joining former teammate Brice Everson.
Matthaidess was one of four medalists for the Lancers. He was 4-1 in the tournament with three pins.
“I was definitely on a mission this week,” Matthaidess said. “The coaches have been telling me all I need to do is trust my gas tank and push the pace. If I do that, hardly anybody can wrestle with me in the state. I think I proved my point there.”
The Lancers bring back two medalists in Matthaidess and Deven Strief (fifth at 138) along with qualifiers Josh Connor (113), Cael Bredar (120), Trenten Doty (132) and Zachary Campbell (160).
“We’ve got the chance to surprise a lot of people next year,” Matthaidess said.
Zeimet (37-2) moved up two spots on the podium from his freshman season. The sophomore, the school's highest place winner since 2002, collected four wins in the tournament, including a first-period fall in the finale.
“It felt really good to end the season with a pin,” Zeimet said. “It was a cherry on top of a good season.
“I just need to get back in the wrestling room, train harder and work more technique and keep building on this for next season.”
Rich, in just his second season of wrestling, had a first-period fall and a win by medical forfeit Saturday. He exceeded his expectations with a third-place finish.
“Definitely an overwhelming feeling to take third,” he said. “I definitely proved myself wrong.
“I’m going to come back here next year all amped up and fired up to win a state championship.”
Kinkaid, West Liberty’s Kobe Simon (2A/220) and Midland’s Brett Schoenherr (1A/220) each took fourth. Among those to finish fifth were Strief and Davenport Central’s Manny McGowan (285).