Ten observations from Day 2 of the traditional state wrestling tournament:

By Jeff Budlong for The Predicament

Ben Kueter (IC High) won by decision over Caleb Helgeson (Johnston) (Dec 6-3)

Muscatine heavyweight Togeh Deseh may have lost his quarterfinal match, but it would be hard to argue that anyone gained more on Friday. Deseh was at a ceremony where he was sworn in as a naturalized citizen of the United States Friday morning before making it back in time to wrestle later in the day.

  • It seems likely that Iowa football fans will enjoy Griffin Liddle in a couple of years. The Bettendorf junior is 18-0 after posting three pins to reach the heavyweight finals at state. He has that man-among-boys look on the mat, and the Hawkeyes have shown how they can develop good athletes with a wrestling background.
  • When watching some of the top wrestlers in the state – whether it is Fort Dodge’s Drake Ayala, Mason City’s Cullan Schriever or bigger wrestlers like Southeast Polk’s Gabe Christenson – I am constantly impressed with the speed at which they are able to execute. I imagine it is like a football player who says the game slows down. They make what is not supposed to be easy look effortless.
  • Listen, one of the first things you learn in sports journalism is there is no cheering for your team or an individual. That said, I will always be cheering for Wade Mitchell when he pulls on the Northern Iowa wrestling singlet beginning next season. The defending state champ who had his senior year lost to an ACL injury during the football season is in the corner helping coach for Woodbury Central this weekend.
  • Youth will be served in the Class 3A state finals at 160 pounds. Iowa City High freshman Ben Kueter will take his 23-0 record up against Linn-Mar freshman Tate Naaktgeboren, who is 36-2.
  • Waverly-Shell Rock just keeps stacking up one good performance on top of the other. The Go-Hawks send five to Saturday night’s finals with semifinal victories. W-SR started fast and never slowed down all weekend.
  • Heavyweights can draw the short straw at the state tournament as their matches are always going on while some fans file out for the session. But kudos to Logan-Magnolia’s Barrett Pitt and Bedford-Lenox’s Devin Whipple for putting on a show for the fans that remained. Pitt claimed the 5-3 win in the ultimate tiebreaker.
  • How intense was the wrestling on Friday? Mat No. 2 had to be replaced because a tear in it continued to get bigger forcing the change.
  • No matter how many years I come to the state tournament, the semifinal round is always the most exciting. It also is the most gutting for those who got so close to a dream to just miss out. It is what makes the sport so great and tough wrapped in one.
  • Finally, wrestlers, coaches and fans, let’s get ready for the best scene in Iowa sports – the Grand March.