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Prairie Wrestling Sends Message with Tournament Win

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INDEPENDENCE With all it lost after last season, it wouldn't be a stretch to assume Cedar Rapids Prairie would have a bit of a rebuilding project in 2013-14.

But the Hawks sent an early-season message on Saturday at the Mustang Invitational in Independence by winning the tournament with 183 team points ahead of Linn-Mar (160.5) and Alburnett (157.5).

"We challenged the guys to rise up and just get better," said Prairie Coach Blake Williams. "We lost a lot of seniors last year, probably more seniors than we've ever lost, so this just shows that we're not going to roll over for people. We're going to be competitive, and that's what we're looking at.

"Hopefully we can take it a step farther each week."

Prairie placed eight wrestlers in either the championship or consolation championship, and had one in the final of the first four weight classes.

Williams said his guys were probably the underdog in each of those four matches, but that he was pleased with how they competed.

Sophomore Marcus England (4-1) won the 106-pound. match over Cedar Rapids Xavier sophomore Jeff Vipond in a 3-2 decision. Fellow sophomores Dylan Kleinschmi (113) and Sam Uthoff (120), and junior Zack Fiser (126) each fell in their tournament final matches.

"We got one of those four, and we knew we probably weren't going to be favored in any of them," Williams said. "Marcus really did a nice job. He fell behind early and found a way to come back and win.

"Yeah, (it's a bit frustrating for the other three), but they wrestled good kids and had good tournaments."

The Hawks had one other tournament winner in senior Skyler St. John (5-0), who won the 160-pound final over Linn-Mar sophomore Shea Hartzler (4-1) in a 9-6 decision.

This early in the season, St. John and his teammates are still in the building process and trying to get back into shape.

"There's competition here," St. John said. "We've just got to keep building. We've got to get more into shape and keep building from there.

"We're always trying to get better. We've been working hard in the (wrestling) room."

Senior Jesse Hynek (3-2) fell in a close 190-pound final, 12-11, to Linn-Mar senior Andrew Holladay, while two other Hawks senior Trey Blaha (5-1) at 152 and junior Jarod Cadena (4-2) at 182 wrestled back to win their consolation finals.

Blaha fell in the semifinal round to Osage senior Doug Perrin in a 6-4 decision, and said he knows he could've wrestled better. But despite the loss, he finished the tournament on a high note, and echoed his teammate and coach in saying the team's performance says a lot about where they sit.

"There's nothing really to blame on it, I just didn't wrestle to my ability like I know how," Blaha said. "It's always good to end positive.

"People might've thought we were going to be down this year because we lost a lot of starters, but this just proves that we're still going to be a top-notch team."

Plugging new guys into the lineup is never easy, and getting off to a start like this seems to bode well for the rest of the season.

Williams stressed that it's early in the season, and though he knows there will be a few bumps in the road, he likes what he's seen out of the Hawks so far.

"Having so many new guys in the lineup this year I think basically half the guys are new there are probably going to be some growing pains," Williams said. "The biggest thing is just to get better each week and learn from each match, each tournament, each meet and correct those mistakes you do make."

Other area teams also had good showings at the Mustang Invite.

Linn-Mar had three winners, all of them seniors. Alijah Jeffery (5-0) won at 120 pounds over Uthoff, Ross Lembeck (5-0) won at 152 pounds over Osage senior Doug Perrin and Andrew Holladay took the 195-pound final over Hynek.

Alburnett had two winners, with senior Zach Fowler (6-0) pinning Prairie's Kleinschmi at 113 pounds, and senior Dylan Winfield (6-0) pinning Independence senior Zach Kremer (3-1) at 170 pounds.

Independence also had two winners. Junior Chase Straw (4-0) won at 145 pounds over Linn-Mar junior Toby Northrup (4-1), while senior Kyle Fank pinned Xavier senior Sean Ickes (3-1) to win at 182 pounds.

Xavier and North Fayette Valley each had one winner apiece. Sophomore Clint Lembeck (4-0) won 132 pounds for the Saints, while junior Tyler Johansen (3-0) won at 220 pounds for North Fayette Valley.

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