State Wrestling: What It Takes To Make The Cut - ABC5 News Des Moines, IA

State Wrestling: What It Takes To Make The Cut

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Addie Olson


Iowa's best high school wrestlers go head to head on the floor of Wells Fargo Arena each year.

"There's something special about the state of Iowa and you know you're going to have a full house," said Johnston Head Coach Aaron Tecklenburg.

Only 42 go home as Iowa state wrestling champions, but how well they do in front of thousands, depends on how much work they put in the rest of the year.

"It's not easy and it's not supposed to be. That's not what the sport was built on," said Tecklenburg.

Tecklenburg is Iowa's class 3A coach of the year.

He started at Johnston seven years ago. That's when he first met wrestler Henry Pohlmeyer.

"We knew right then and there looking at the kid that was competing at that age - hey here's a kid who's respectful, who's coachable. Hey here's a kid we can build something around," said Tecklenburg.

"I want to become somebody, which is why probably why I work so hard," said Pohlymeyer. "I want to become somebody. I don't want to be a nobody that doesn't have anything to their name."

Henry has the 106 pound 3A state title attached to his name. He took down the first 29 opponents of this year's junior season, pinning almost all of them.

His first loss comes at an Urbandale tournament.

"I can't say 'Oh, my wide receiver fumbled the ball, and that's why we lost the game,'," said Henry. "I didn't make the best shot, I didn't get that sprawl accurately and I'm the one to blame for it."

"It's all him and he wins or he loses," said Henry's mom, Michelle. "It's humbling, and it's hard on a parent, knowing that he's going to either win or lose."

Henry's parents have watched him cut weight and work out almost every day since he started, mostly, they've watched him grow.

"It wasn't about winning or losing," said Henry's dad, Steve. "It was about getting better and Henry bought into that and every year he just tries to get better and better."

He grew quickly.

"I expect more," said Henry. "Every single time I go out there and win a match I expect more out of myself. If I get a 20 second pin I expect to get a 5 second pin next time."

Henry calculates the cost of making progress.

"He's not a top–notch wrestler because he just shows up every day at practice," said Tecklenburg. "He's doing the extra workouts, he's doing the extra things."

After just barely missing a trip to state his freshman year, the extra things won Henry the championship as a sophomore.

"To see your boy there giving it his all and being successful in the state tournament - it can't get better than that," said Steve.

In a state that's defined by the sport, you better be willing to work harder than hardworkers.

"I think the biggest thing with wrestling and Iowa is that combination of people who live in Iowa, that hardworking, blue collar midwest mentality – I mean the sport just fits," said Tecklenburg.

Henry outlasts others who also put in the extra hours, because it takes more than time to beat Iowa's best.

"I push myself and I have the will and the determination to be better than everybody else," said Henry.

It takes mindset on top of muscle.

"I've seen Henry lose and I've seen him win a lot of matches but I don't know if I've ever seen him quit," said Tecklenburg. "That's one thing as a coach you're not worried about. This kid's not going to quit."

Henry makes his first loss of the season his only loss. At districts, his opponent forfeits in the championship match. Four Johnston wrestlers make it to state.

They know what it cost to get there, and that it still might not be enough.

"I think it's going to be a real challenge. It always is," said Steve. "There's no easy weight classes in the state tournament."

But the years of work are worth it for a shot at being called an Iowa state champion.

"If you're not excited about wrestling in the state tournament in Iowa then I don't know if there's anything else you can get excited about," said Tecklenburg. "You get fired up just thinking about it."

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