Four teams set for “The Best in the West” at West Gym

By Matt Levins For The Predicament

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CEDAR FALLS — West Gym has a long and rich history when it comes to the University of Northern Iowa wrestling program.

On Jan. 12, four Iowa high school teams are hoping to add to that legacy.

North Iowa Cedar League rivals Denver-Tripoli, Dike-New Hartford and Wapsie Valley will be joined by Class 2A’s top-ranked New Hampton on Jan. 12 at West Gym for a quadrangular between teams with rich and storied histories when it comes to wrestling.

The meet is being called “The Best In The West” and is slated to begin at 6 p.m.
It is sure to be a meet that will be talked about for years to come and will add another chapter to an already lengthy history book for West Gym.

“It’s Denver’s year to host the annual meet and we figured with four outstanding teams, our gym wouldn’t be big enough to hold it. So we started to think outside the box,” Denver-Tripoli head coach Chris Krueger said. “We’ve always wanted to wrestle at West Gym, so our school got the ball rolling on this thing. We have three of the top teams in the North Cedar League in Denver-Tripoli, Wapsie Valley and Dike-New Hartford and New Hampton has one of the best teams we’ve seen in the state the last three or four years. To wrestle in West Gym is going to be exciting for all four teams. You have four quality coaches. The Wapsie Valley coach (Donny Adams) was the district coach of the year last year. The Dike-New Hartford coach (Tony Norton) was the conference coach of the year last year. I was the Bob Siddens Award winner a couple years ago. And the New Hampton coach (Nick Hemann) has one of the best teams in the state and they are ranked No. 1 in Class 2A. To be able to put these four teams together and wrestle in West Gym … what better way to promote the sport than this?”

“I think it’s going to be a great environment for it,” Norton said. “We’re wrestling two of the top teams in our conference and the No. 1 team in 2A. It should be a fun night. There is a lot of history in that building and there should be a good crowd.”

“The Best in the West” will feature four teams ranked in the top 10 in their respective classes. Wapsie Valley is ranked eighth in Class 1A, while Dike-New Hartford in 10th. New Hampton is the top team in Class 2A, while Denver-Tripoli is ninth.

The meet also will feature 19 wrestlers currently ranked in the top 10 at their respective weight classes. New Hampton, which is loaded from top to bottom, features eight ranked wrestlers — Dylan Robinson (No. 1 at 106), Michael Millage (second at 126), Noah Fye (sixth at 132), Keaton Geerts (No. 1 at 138), Keegan Tenge (fifth at 145), Ryan Gorman (fourth at 160), Areon Day (eighth at 195) and Noah Hopp (eighth at 220).

Denver-Tripoli has six ranked wrestlers — Gabe Lewis (seventh at 113), Blake Steege (eighth at 120), Riley Wright (third at 120), Caleb Wilson (seventh at 138), Cael Krueger (eighth at 152) and Brock Farley (seventh at 285).
Wapsie Valley has three ranked wrestlers — Donny Schmidt (second at 126), Kaleb Krall (fourth at 138) and Colin Schrader (seventh at 152).

Dike-New Hartford has a pair of ranked wrestlers in Jacob Ragsdale (second at 106) and Trent Johnson (second at 152).

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“We are pretty fortunate to have this opportunity. It’s exciting to be in their company,” Norton said. “We are working hard and I’m sure the other teams are working hard, too.”

Aside from the history being made in the West Gym, it is also a tremendous opportunity for the wrestlers to compete in an NCAA Division I gym and environment. For many, it will be their only chance to experience that.

“They will be fired-up to be there and ready to go,” Norton said. “When all is said and done, you treat everyone with respect and you just go out and wrestle.”

“We have Creative Impact sponsoring the event. We’re trying to make this a huge event that will help out wrestling,” Krueger said. “Any way you look at it, this is going to be great for wrestling."