Genobana, Weber aiming for the top

By Jeff Budlong for The Predicament

Nathaniel Genobana

Isaiah Weber

DES MOINES -- Two wrestlers, five combined trips to the championship match, zero titles.

Centerville senior Nate Genobana and Independence junior Isaiah Weber are seeded first and second at 138 pounds, and both are looking to break through on Saturday night.

Weber said he believes the hungriest wrestler in the bracket will win the title. But how do you decide between two of the hungriest wrestlers in Des Moines this weekend?

"He has come up short twice so I bet he is pretty hungry himself, but I do feel that I am the hungriest," Genobana said.

"Experience is a lot, but it is not the most important," Weber said. "I think whoever wants it the most is going to get it. I just remember what I have put into this with all the blood, sweat and tears."

The duo stayed on track for a potential finals showdown by claiming Class 2A quarterfinal victories Friday afternoon at the Iowa High School Wrestling Tournament. 

Genobana used a last-second takedown to break a 1-1 tie with Crestwood sophomore Chase Thomas to win 3-1. Weber was a 6-0 winner over Sioux Center's Deo Keokhamthong.

"It was 1-1 in the third period and I knew he was getting tired and I felt him break a little bit, so I just kept the pressure on him because eventually he will give up the takedown," said Genobana of the winning score. 

Weber was methodical in his matchup, scoring a takedown in each period to record the win.

Genobana is looking for his first state title after making it to Saturday night three times. He lost to ADM's Andrew Flora 1-0 in the finals as a freshman, Drake Doolittle of Webster City slipped by him 9-4 as a sophomore and Williamsburg's Jalen Schropp denied him a year ago 8-3.

"Coming up short three years in a row in the finals sucks," he said. "A lot of it is mental because I feel I could have gotten the job done three years in a row. I struggled with the mental aspect of the sport for a couple years and stopped thinking negative thoughts during my match."

Two of his three losses this year have come to Class 3A Cole Ferguson of Waukee by scores of 3-2 and 9-2. 

A win for Genobana would end a string of disappointments that extends back to youth state his eighth-grade year when a semifinal loss sent him to a third-place finish.

"It would mean the world," he said.

Weber is familiar with the Centerville program having lost to Matthew Lewis in the state finals each of the past two years, a 6-0 decision last year and a pin two years ago. He has taken lessons and applied them.

"You can't let the nerves get the best of you," he said. "You can have some nerves but you can't let them affect the way you wrestle. Go in there and wrestle the same every time."

Using that mentality, Weber improved to 38-1 on the season with his lone blemish on the season coming via injury default.

Weber credits the gains he has made to attending Sebolt Wrestling Academy and getting to wrestle with some of the best wrestlers in the state. Weber said he couldn't find success in any other sports, so dedicating himself to wrestling only made sense.

So far, it has paid off. Now he wants the big pay off.

"Being [in Wells Fargo Arena] when you are a kid is just crazy and it flipped a switch for me," he said. "It is crazier being on the mat looking up than being in the stands and looking down."