(Photo by Wayne Dominowski)
(SSA) – Quite a jump that Nate Monahan is making up the wrestling charts.
Monahan is wrestling in the 160-pound weight class after competing at 138 as a junior in last year’s Class 1A state tournament for the Woodbury Central Wildcats. Minus perhaps getting pinned in the title match of the Sergeant Bluff-Luton Invitational (Dec. 7), he’s doing just fine.
“I have been focusing a lot on technique and try not to worry about the weight aspect,” said Monahan, about an hour before he faced No. 7-ranked (Class 3A) Isaiah Spencer of Spencer in the SB-L Tournament semifinals.
“I’m working on the technical aspect of my wrestling and I do what I do best. So far, they are stronger. I feel I’m doing all right. I just need to work to keep my speed up. I feel I’m faster than compared to the guys I wrestle.”
Monahan, Class 1A’s fourth-ranked 160-pounder, exited SB-L with an 8-1 season record, winning three of the four matches he faced, two of them via pins. The second fall of the event for the Wildcats’ senior came in a minute and 13 seconds over Estherville-Lincoln Central’s Raul Diaz in the quarterfinals.
Monahan trailed 2-1 after two periods in the semifinal bout against Spencer, a Class 2A state tournament qualifier at 145 a year ago as a senior. Monahan took a 3-2 lead on a reversal with 1:36 remaining in the third period.
Monahan’s reversal sparked a wild finish. Spencer regained a 4-3 lead with a reversal, but with a minute left, the fourth-ranked Monahan tallied a reversal/two-point near-fall combination to take the lead for keeps in a 7-5 victory.
“I like to think I am good on my feet,” said Monahan. “I do all right most of the time. I like to think I’m a little faster than most guys I wrestle. So far this season I have been getting a lot of takedowns and working on what I do well. I try to work on my feet mostly. I’ll get some better competition in the coming weeks. Then, we’ll see how it goes from there.”
“That was a tough kid (Spencer) and we were losing that match in the third period,” said Thomas. “Nate knows he has that gas tank and that he’s going to be able to go as hard as he can for six minutes. It’s tough for everyone to match that level of work ethic. That’s what happened. As guys wear down, he stays at that high intensity level. The shots start coming easier and those finishes come easier. That’s what made the difference in that match.”
Thomas counted 25 takedowns from Monahan prior to the match in the SB-L Tournament finals against Papillion-LaVista’s Cole Price.
“Nate is off to a great start,” said Thomas. “He has always been a kid who works super hard. That’s the great thing about this sport of wrestling. You don’t have to have all the talent in the world, but if you are willing to put in the kind of work that this guy does, you can be successful and that’s what Nate is. He has had a lot of success in his career, but being up at 160 without having to cut any weight and really focusing on wrestling, that’s helping. It’s showing results.”
Monahan was listed at 5-foot-9, 166 pounds as an undersized offensive and defensive lineman for a Woodbury Central football team that went 10-2 and reached the Class A state football semifinals. Offensively, his blocking skills helped the Wildcats average 318.3 yards per game.
Defensively, Monahan registered 28 tackles, six tackles for loss, two quarterback sacks and a fumble recovery for a unit that posted four shutouts and held four other opponents to a touchdown or less. Needless to say, he liked the fact that he didn’t need to cut as much weight to make the varsity wrestling roster, but liked the sport of football, stating that it helped in terms of balance.
“It’s nice,” said Monahan. “Being a small lineman, I definitely have to use my center of gravity more. It’s easy to tell which linemen are wrestlers because they know how to work their hips.”
Monahan often spars with three juniors – 126-pound Beau Klingensmith, 120-pound Brackett Locke and 195-pound junior Ty Dennison in the wrestling room. Klingensmith is perhaps the best known of the three as he highlighted a 35-6 season by placing second at 113 pounds in last year’s Class 1A state tournament.
Monahan likes Klingensmith’s speed and ability to work the angles. Monahan said it makes him better on his feet facing someone like Klingensmith, who won the 126-pound title at SB-L, where he collected two pins and two technical falls.
Monahan made his state wrestling debut at 132 as a sophomore, where he dropped each of his two matches. The same results happened a year ago at 138, but he said he wasn’t as nervous.
He vows that this year he won’t let anything get to his head.
“This year, I’m going to try to blow it out of the water and do what I do best,” said Monahan. “I’m just going to wrestle my match. Beau and I work together a lot. We know what our goals are. We know what it takes to get there. Wade (Mitchell) was a state champ last year and we knew what he did to get there. We want to follow in his footsteps. We know what it takes to get there. We just have to put the work in.”
Thomas said Monahan’s signature move is the high crotch to the right side. It has led to the majority of Monahan’s 106 career victories.
“He’s good at cutting back to the other direction to a single leg,” said Thomas. “The biggest thing about him, he’s such a grinder. Nothing comes easy. A lot of guys think they have him. He is good about scrambling back into position and coming back on top of those scrambles.
“He enjoys the grind out there,” added the Wildcats’ head coach. “He enjoys working. We enjoy watching those guys score a lot of points. That is the kind of style we want to wrestle in our program. He has completely bought into that. He wants to wrestle at a high pace and score a lot of points. It’s not always easy against high competition, but it’s setting that pace in matches during the week that lets you come out in a semifinal match like that and have the gas tank to go.”