Southeast Polk's, Gabe Christenson, is no stranger to the Iowa wrestling community. The talented, soon-to-be junior, is already a two-time state place winner, with the most recent being a 4th place finish at the Iowa High School state tournament as a sophomore. While the high school season is still months away Christenson has turned his sights to what he can accomplish during the summer.
"At the beginning of the summer my goal was to make a world team, but that didn't happen. I gave it everything I had in Akron and finished 3rd in Greco and 8th in Freestyle. That was a good start because I had some pretty big wins. That's done and I've moved past that and now it's about getting some big stop signs at Fargo."
With one of the biggest national tournaments quickly approaching Christenson likes where he is sitting with his preparation for the tournament.
"I'm feeling really good about it. I've been wrestling a lot and lifting a lot. I know I'm getting better. I can tell by watching myself or how I'm competing with some of the best in the country. I'm shortening the gap and passing them. I've been really focused on achieving that goal."
While summer wrestling is in full swing, many can't ignore the success that Southeast Polk continues to have at the Iowa State wrestling tournament. While their wrestling catches the attention of fans during the 3A portion of the tournament, it's maybe their dynamic stretching at the beginning of each session that also catches the attention of fans, wrestlers, and coaches too.
"I look forward to those warm-ups and obviously, I look forward to the State Tournament. It's one of those fun things that we do. It keeps us loose. Looking at it from the outside it's one of the more stressful times, but during the year we train for it with the Cheesehead. We have that experience against tough opponents. Friday morning, Friday night, and Saturday sessions can be pretty stressful, and we're having fun, and you can just go out and wrestle. Coach Smith is lot of dancing and with Coach Morrow it's more situations: like hunting on an African Safari, jumping out of a plane, or going skiing down a mountain. My personal favorite is the ping pong, and I always make sure I'm screaming like in a tennis match. It's just fun."
While Southeast Polk has become a traditional power in the state of Iowa, Christenson is clear on his goals for the upcoming high school wrestling season.
"State champ. I mean that's been the goal all four years. I've come up short, but next year it's state champ. In state its state champ. Team champs, and for myself state champs. That's what we shoot for at Southeast Polk. It doesn't matter if you're a JV guy in your first year (on varsity) or a senior and it's your last year the goal is to be a state champ."
Whether it's during the summer wrestling season or the high school season, Christenson has continued to make rapid growth. At weights that are often times dedicated to upper classman, Christenson finished sixth as a freshman at 182 before earning a fourth place finish as a sophomore at 195 pounds. It's clear that his coaching and mindset have contributed to his success.
"I like to think every year that I want to grow enough that if I were to wrestle myself a year later that I would tech myself. That's my goal. Coach Smith has helped me so much. To scramble, to go upper body, to just keep going. That has helped my wrestling so much."