A year ago, Ankeny Centennial advanced 12 wrestlers to the Class 3A state tournament–the most in school history.
Now, eight of those 12 wrestlers are back, the most returning qualifiers the Jaguars have ever had under coach Jay Groth.
“We are an experienced crew,” Groth said. “We are working hard to raise the bar to get to the next level. We have a bunch of young men who have put in a lot of time in the offseason lifting, training, wrestling and living the winning lifestyle. We want to win team and individual titles at the state tournaments.”
After placing eighth in the Class 3A state duals tournament last February, Centennial went on to finish 12th in the traditional tournament. The Jaguars scored 81.5 points.
Seniors Lucas Bruhl, Jack Cahill, Ari Ehlts and Cody Vandermark are back from that team along with juniors Isaac Bruhl, Mitchell Grider and Andrew Roland. Sophomore Cale Vandermark is the other returning qualifier.
“We have talent and depth and numbers in the room,” said Groth, whose team posted a 21-9 dual record last season, including a 4-4 mark in the CIML Conference.
Leading the way will be Lucas Bruhl, a two-time state placewinner. He went 19-5 and placed sixth at 138 as a sophomore, then went 44-3 and finished third at 145 last year.
Earlier this month, Bruhl committed to play baseball at North Iowa Area Community College in Mason City.
“It was a tough decision (to give up wrestling after this year),” Bruhl said at the time. “It has always been a big part of my life and will be hard to leave behind, but baseball has always been my favorite and I have always dreamed of playing Division I baseball. With wrestling season starting, I am pumped to leave it all out there one last time. This will be my last chance to bring home gold and make history for Centennial wrestling!”
The Jaguars have yet to crown an individual state champion.
“Lucas is an exceptional athlete, and we are happy that he can pursue his goal of playing baseball,” Groth said. “Lucas can definitely win a state title, but I don’t think he will be our first state champ because we have seven wrestlers ahead of him (in the lineup) that plan on winning titles before we get to his weight class. We have some more that want to follow him to the top as well.”
Isaac Bruhl and Cale Vandermark are the team’s other returning placewinners. Vandermark went 43-8 and placed fourth at 106, while Bruhl went 25-8 and placed seventh at 138.
Ehlts, meanwhile, joined Lucas Bruhl and Cale Vandermark as a district champion, helping the Jaguars to a runner-up finish in the team standings. He went on to finish with a 34-14 record at 160.
Cody Vandermark won three matches by fall at the state tournament before losing in the blood round. He finished with a 41-13 mark at 113.
Roland, who won twice at the state tournament, went 23-19 at 126. Cahill went 17-20 at 195, while Grider went 27-21 at 220.
Jamison Larsen, Ryan Muller, Tyler Brennan, Jackson Anonson, Brook Keller and Max Dickinson are other returning wrestlers with some varsity experience.
“What we need to do is commit to raising the bar in every aspect of our lives during the season,” Groth said. “Train harder than ever, push each other, set our goals high and have a plan to achieve them. Sleep more, eat right and live the lifestyle all day every day. I stole that from (Grand View coach) Nick Mitchell.”
The Jaguars will open the season on Tuesday by hosting a non-conference double dual meet against Albia and West Marshall.
“This is going to be a fun season, and we are going to enjoy ourselves,” Groth said.