During my stint as a writer covering sports in northwestern Iowa, I gained a new appreciation for wrestling.
If you didn’t know, wrestling reigns supreme in Iowa.
I would be surprised if any state produces more NCAA Division I wrestlers, national champions and Olympians than Iowa.
Basketball and football draw big crowds, but wrestling has a different atmosphere.
The gyms are always packed with scouts, fans and opposing coaches alike taking in the competition at every level: from elementary to varsity.
My first day living in Le Mars, prior to starting the job, I went to a sports bar to grab some food.
When I looked up at the monitors, I was taken aback at what I saw: sectional wrestling on cable.
Have you ever seen high school wrestling on television? It doesn’t happen in most places.
That was my first crash-course on a sport I knew little about.
I tried to soak it all in, learning the various moves and techniques as weight classes zoomed on and off the screen.
I quickly realized that these weren’t just a bunch of musclebound blockheads throwing each other around — contrary to some people’s beliefs.
These athletes are incredibly intelligent, ever aware of their body movements, with extensive training.
All it takes is one move for a match to be over, so mental toughness is a must.
You can go the distance, into extra periods, or get pinned in less than 10 seconds.
A wrestler has to be constantly aware of the situation at hand, with foresight at his opponent’s next move.
While I know that wrestling often takes a back seat in Indiana sports fans’ minds, I think that the athletes who compete at the highest level should be recognized along with state-bound basketball teams.
In Seymour, senior Garret Johnson and freshman Brandon Penegar will represent the Owls at this weekend’s semistate in Evansville.
As I’ve written about in previous articles, Seymour quickly is becoming a wrestling program that’s not to be trifled with in the state.
Like their peers, Johnson and Penegar travel across the state — and outside of it — year-round wrestling in tournaments.
Johnson and Penegar have each eclipsed 30 wins this season, no easy feat.
These guys live in the weight room and on the mats — devoting all their time to their sport.
The Owls had a record regular season in wins, a sectional champion (Johnson), and sent 10 individuals to regional.
It’s a testament to third-year coach Todd Weaver and the program as a whole.
If you get a chance to head over to the Ford Center on Saturday, take it.
The competition will be fierce, and two Owls might make it to the grand stage.
Jordan Morey is the sports editor for The Tribune. Send comments to [email protected].