Waukon wrestling team battles lack of numbers, strong schedule to 7-16 season record in 2015-16

The 2015-2016 Waukon wrestling team battled its way to a 7-16 season record, fighting through not only another tough Northeast Iowa Conference schedule but also another season without a full line-up. That taxing tandem kept the Indians from posting a Northeast Iowa Conference dual meet victory for the fifth consecutive season.
Despite this season’s trials and tribulations, fourth-year coach Matt Pladsen points to the many highlights that played out throughout this 2015-2016 campaign, including a pair of seniors who wrestled to advancement to the Class 2A District Tournament and eventual third-place finishes behind some of the top wrestlers in their respective weight classes. “Miles Howe (113 pounds) finished third behind fourth-place State finisher Riley Wright of Denver-Tripoli and fifth-place State finisher Noah Fye of New Hampton, a pretty tall order considering both of them were in our district,” Coach Pladsen explained. “Joe Frieden (182 pounds) also finished third at districts behind second-place State winner Nick Baumler of North Fayette and a tough kid, Elliott Ryan from Independence. Once again, another tall order.”
Pladsen also pointed to the Northeast Iowa Conference (NEIC) runner-up finish by Frieden and third-place NEIC efforts by Howe and fellow senior Carter Fuhrman at 160 pounds, along with junior Kyle Gordon wrestling to the 152-pound title at the NEIC Junior Varsity Tournament. “We had a number of wrestlers finish out the year with 20 or more wins, which is pretty impressive considering we wrestle in the toughest conference in the state of Iowa,” Coach Pladsen said.
All four of the seniors who lasted the duration of the season ended up exceeding that 20-win landmark. According to statistics reported from this season’s TrackWrestling website, www.trackwrestling.com, Howe ended the season with a 44-11 match record, Fuhrman finished 38-15, Frieden compiled a 30-12 mark, and fellow senior Dawston Regan ended up 24-19. Those seniors also put up further team leadership number of 28 falls for Howe, 231 team points for Fuhrman, and 30 escapes by Frieden.
“I’ve had these four seniors in the wrestling room all four years and have watched them grow into great young men, great teammates and great leaders,” Coach Pladsen said. “I wish them the best in their future endeavors, and without a doubt they will succeed in whatever life brings to them.”
A near balance of wrestlers from each of every other grade level rounded out this season’s lineup, one of those from each grade also topping the 20-win, and even 30-win, plateau. Junior Blain Swenson (31-15), sophomore Tristan Hansmeier (37-18) and freshman Miles Hansmeier (33-21) are each set to return with those pacesetting numbers for their respective grade levels.
“We have a great group of kids out, they come to the wrestling room every night, practice hard and never complain,” Coach Pladsen shared. “I tell my wrestlers all the time, ‘iron sharpens iron,’ so they continue to wrestle hard and push each other every day to get better.”
It was leadership contributions such as those from each grade level that led the Indians to some additional season highlights pointed out by Coach Pladsen. “We had many wrestlers throughout the year stand on the podium in every tournament we went to,” he noted. “Also, as a team we placed towards the top in the Wapsie Valley, Starmont, Elkader and Riceville Tournaments. You have to take into consideration that we were also giving up four to five weights every meet or tournament; that hurts. Once again, I always have told the kids, ‘why not me?’ meaning ‘I can be that guy to stand on top of that podium or beat that rated kid in the state’.”
It will be that returning level of achievement fueled by what was learned from this season’s veteran leadership that Coach Pladsen looks to build on for the future of his program. “That’s where I believe the season starts now,” he said. “One day a week for two hours working strictly on technique and situations on the wrestling mat. It’s apparent to me that those individuals that take the time to make themselves better in the off-season are wrestling in February at State. I also believe kids need to be out for other sports, and the weight room is so important.”
Along with sharpening skills in the off-season, Coach Pladsen is also working to improve on the other challenge that’s been looming over the Waukon varsity mat program for several seasons. “Of course, we continue to struggle with numbers at the high school level, and I’m seeing other schools as well,” he said. “Our youth program has good numbers, but as the kids reach junior high level they either decide to quit or lose interest. That’s where I go back to saying off-season technique can pay off. When you improve on your technique and mat skills, you start to win matches; and when you’re winning matches, it becomes fun; and when it becomes fun, the kids feed off that.”
Coach Pladsen also knows that achieving that level of fun takes an even higher level of hard work. “Wrestling is not only hard work, discipline and sacrifice, but you have the mental aspect of it also, which brings me right back to the off-season preparation that is so important,” Coach Pladsen summarized. “I want to thank everyone for coming out and supporting the wrestlers this year, and also the parents of my wrestlers to give me the greatest seat in the gym - matside. It takes a special kid to be a wrestler, and great parents. I’m excited for a busy off-season coming up with some freestyle tournaments and two or three camps. Also, we will keep the wrestling room open throughout the summer for open wrestling for all ages.”


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