Linn-Mar Going Back to State Duals
By K.J. Pilcher and Josh Christensen, Reporters
MARION The season has presented its share of challenges for the Linn-Mar Lions.
They have endured injuries that have led to some disappointments along the way. Even though they are not totally healthy, the Lions are close.
The Lions adopted the attitude of making their mark in the postseason, performing like they did when they had their best lineup intact.
"Obviously, the year hasn't gone the way we wanted it," Streicher said. "You can still put a pretty darn good stamp on the end of the year."
Fifth-ranked Linn-Mar dominated its way to a fourth straight state duals berth last night with a 53-18 victory over No. 12 West Des Moines Dowling last night in a Class 3A regional dual at Linn-Mar. The Lions will face Mississippi Valley Conference rival Cedar Rapids Prairie in the state dual quarterfinals Feb. 19 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines at 9 a.m.
The senior class has reached the state dual tournament every year, and the team qualified for the fifth time in school history. Third-ranked 195-pound senior Andrew Holladay said he didn't envision accomplishing that feat of four trips to the state duals when he was a freshman.
"I really didn't know what to think, but you hope for it," said Holladay, who had one of seven Linn-Mar pins against Dowling. "It's a big deal for us as a team. We've talked about that all week, too."
Linn-Mar (22-6) had the dual well in hand by the time the Maroons had even won a match. The Lions started at their strength, putting four ranked wrestlers on the mat.
Sixth-ranked Noah Ajram opened with a decision at 113 pounds, and that was followed by No. 1 120-pounder Alijah Jeffery's fall. Seventh-ranked Damon Griffin at 126 and No. 5 Matt Wempen at 132 added a decision and major decision to put Linn-Mar up 17-0.
"We had our moments," Streicher said. "You have to look at position by position where we thought we needed to improve, and (we) told those guys not to get slowed down."
The Lions rolled with three straight falls from Manny Jeffery at 138, A.J. Geers at 145 and top-ranked 152-pounder Ross Lembeck. Manny Jeffery and Geers trailed by a point in the second before earning their pins.
Shea Hartzler at 170 and Sam Nowak at 220 also had pins as the Lions won 10 of 14 matches.
"We were aggressive," Geers said. "We got the falls."
The convincing performance provided an exclamation mark on the state duals accomplishment heading into Saturday's district tournament for traditional state tournament qualifying.
"We came out strong," Holladay said. "We did what we had to do to dominate the whole thing."
Streicher did not want to address the team's approach to competing in the state duals next Wednesday.
"No comment," Streicher said.
Some teams in the past have tweaked state duals lineups since the traditional tournament begins the next day.