Waukon wrestling program takes another step forward with a 7-17 record during 2014-2015 season

The Waukon wrestling program took another step forward during the recently completed 2014-2015 season, as this year’s matmen improved their overall season dual meet record to 7-17, up from just five wins last season. A combination of seasoned veterans and skilled underclassmen helped fuel that latest forward step.
“I would have to say that we, as a team, have made huge strides,” Waukon wrestling coach Matt Pladsen said. ‘We had a lot of underclassmen that finished up with 20 or more wins, which is huge as you look down the road for the years to come. Once again, we had a super group of kids out this year. I think the kids, as well as myself, would tell you they had a lot of fun but yet they came to the room ready to buckle down and push each other to make each other better.”
That improved win total, however, still did not include a dual meet victory against a Northeast Iowa Conference team. For the fourth consecutive season, the mat Tribe finished winless against its fellow Northeast Iowa Conference opponents, that league being much improved overall this season.
Making it most difficult for the Indians in any dual competition was the fact that they had to give up at least three forfeits due to a lack of wrestlers at their lightest weight and two of their heavier weights throughout the entire season. Couple that with some key injuries that took some veteran matmen out of the Indian line-up for most, if not all, of this season.
“We had a few injuries throughout the season,” Coach Pladsen said. “(Senior) Marshall Lyons was missed in the line-up with his ankle injury. (Junior) Carter Fuhrman and (sophomore) Blain Swenson each came up with a late season injury, but showed good signs of improvement this season. I know both of them are looking forward to next year.”
Lyons was a multi-year letterwinner for the Indians who was forced to miss his entire senior season due to a broken ankle suffered during the fall football season. Although unable to compete on the mat, he still offered his veteran experience to his teammates, one of six seniors headlining this season’s upperclassmen leadership.
Those six seniors included Adam Benzing, Gunnar Grangaard, Marshall Lyons, David Miller, Lane Stewart and Stefan Remund. “I would like to thank all my seniors for letting me have the privilege to coach them,” Coach Pladsen said. “They are a great group of kids and I wish all of them the best of luck in their future endeavors. They will be missed, not only as wrestlers but also as leaders.”
This year’s senior group will not only take some of this season’s best win and other statistical totals, but also some of the best career totals in recent years, as Adam Benzing and Gunnar Grangaard made consistent high-end contributions to the varsity mat Tribe in each of the four years of their high school wrestling careers. Benzing left the greatest impact in being the only Waukon wrestler in the last four years to reach every wrestler’s desired destination, the State Tournament, having done so in both his sophomore season and wrapping up his career with a sixth-place finish among Class 2A 145-pounders at this year’s State Tournament.
“I really felt that all the kids wrestled really well the last few weeks of the season; they left it all out there, and that’s a good sign of what’s to come!” Coach Pladsen said. “Adam Benzing advancing to Districts and then on to the State Tournament, I believe, is the starting point to the future of adding more individuals in the future to Wells Fargo in Des Moines.”
Benzing and Grangaard were each 30-match winners this season, pacing a group of at least a half dozen Indian matmen who racked up 20 wins or more this season. With a majority of those 20-plus match winners eligible to return next season with varsity letterwinning experience, further steps forward appear to be on the horizon for the Waukon wrestling program, but it won’t necessarily just happen based on this year’s improved efforts.
“As I  said earlier, we made big strides throughout the season, and there were a lot of matches we were right in the match but just got out of position and came up on the short end,” Coach Pladsen explained. “That’s where I think we have to lace up the shoes in the off-season and really work on technique. Whether its camps, clinics or just rolling around in the room one or two nights a week throughout the summer. I also tell my wrestlers it is very important that they are in the weight room throughout the year getting bigger, faster and stronger. I told my wrestlers, look at it like wrestling is a piggy bank - the more coins you put in it (meaning camps, weightlifting, wrestling clinics, or just in the practice room one or two times a week), the more coins you will take out at some point in time (State Tournament). I tell my wrestlers all the time, ‘Why not me?!?!’ Somebody has to stand on that podium, no matter if it’s a tournament, sectionals, districts or the state tournament!”
Coach Pladsen knows that commitment like that goes far beyond just the individual wrestler. “As you know, wrestling is so much mental, and with the long grind of the season it is so important to keep your wrestlers focused on what we had set our goals on as a team, and that’s why I always said it takes a special kid to be a wrestler but it also takes great parents to be a parent of a wrestler. That’s why I would like to give every parent a special thank you for having the opportunity to coach their son. It was a great season. Throughout the year, whether it was a tournament or a dual meet, I  had either a referee, coach or fan come up to me and comment on not only our improvement in wrestling but the sportsmanship and great group of kids we had out, and that was great to hear,” he said.
This season’s steps forward were noticed beyond the Tribe’s wrestling room or mat. “We had three home meets this year, and it was great to see the turnout at each meet by the community,” Coach Pladsen said. “Also, it’s been great to work with (assistant coach) Mason (Berns) and what he has brought with him to the wrestling room. Nobody will want to miss it, because we have a great group of underclassmen coming up with a lot of talent. I can’t wait to get next year underway and be able to start working with these kids. I do believe there are a lot of good things to come for the Waukon wrestling program.”