ELDRIDGE — Deven Strief tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee a month ago at a weekend tournament in Solon.
The North Scott High School senior could have easily decided to hang up his singlet and call it a wrestling career at that point.
“If I was wrestling in college, I probably would have been done for the season when my injury happened,” Strief said. “But since I know this is my last shot, I didn’t want it to end like that. I wanted to keep going.
“I couldn’t see myself on the sidelines watching my teammates out there battling.”
Strief returned to the mat Wednesday night for his first competitive match since the injury Jan. 16 and recorded a 56-second pin at 160 pounds to spark North Scott past Iowa City West 48-31 in a Class 3A regional final at The Pit.
Sixth-ranked North Scott advances to the state dual tournament for the fifth time in seven years next Wednesday at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
“This means a lot,” North Scott coach Drew Kelly said. “Coming into the year, we weren’t ranked or on anybody’s radar. We’ve got great kids that just go to work, especially coming off a fall season where it took us a little bit to settle in with our lineup.
“Once we did, we just kept improving every week.”
Iowa City West reached the championship match with a 44-30 victory over Pleasant Valley. The Trojans closed with bonus-point wins in the last five weight classes (113, 120, 126, 132, 138) to take the dual.
North Scott, meanwhile, seized control of the final in the upper weights.
After Iowa City West won two of the first three bouts, North Scott responded with six straight pins — AJ Petersen (182), Ryan Campbell (195), Joey Petersen (220), David Borchers (285), Drew Metcalf (106) and Trace Gephart (113). Four of those matches never reached the second period.
“We just kept going after them,” Metcalf said. “It was pretty big there. We got a win and just kept the momentum.”
Strief recorded North Scott’s first win of the night.
Kelly and the coaching staff contemplated whether to even put Strief out there.
“He popped in the office (Wednesday) and pretty much said he’s ready to go if we need him at any time,” Kelly said. “If there was any doubt, we wouldn’t have put him out there.
“The way he’s been training and wrestling in the room the past week, it is pretty impressive to see. It was important for him before we get to the district atmosphere (Saturday) to get back out under the lights and get a match in. You always know what you’re going to get with him. He was on from the start.”
Strief, a fourth-place finisher at last year’s state tournament at 145 pounds, has been fitted for a knee brace. The coaching staff has put him in different wrestling positions to see how he can tolerate the pain in practice.
“He’s one of the toughest kids we’ve had come through here,” Kelly said.
Strief said he doesn’t feel too much discomfort during workouts.
“There are certain positions it is worse than others,” Strief noted. “I just overcame it. I kept taking shots on it and was able to build a pain tolerance.”
Strief is scheduled to have surgery on the knee March 31. He’s attending school at the University of Iowa next fall and hopes to eventually go to medical school.
First, he wants to make one last run at a championship.
“I’m going to give it a shot,” Strief said. “In the end, whatever happens, happens. I’ll leave it all on the mat; that’s my mentality.”
Kelly won’t count him out.
“It is a credit to him and his mindset of, ‘How can I get this done?’” Kelly said. “He’s adapting and figuring out how to tweak things with his style.
“He’s got the mindset to do it. It is his senior year, he’s motivated and feels pretty confident.”