When the dust settled at a highly competitive Class 1A District wrestling meet in Wapello Feb. 13, the Wilton and Durant wrestling teams combined to qualify seven wrestlers for the state tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines Feb. 18-20.
The Brisker brothers, Kael and Brody, led a contingent of six Wilton wrestlers to qualify for state. Kael won the District title at 138 pounds, and will enter the state tournament ranked No. 1 in the weight class. Brody won the District championship at 106, and heads to state ranked 10th.
Other Wilton state qualifiers included Garrett Burkle at 113, Colton Cruse at 152, Kaden Shirk at 160 and Tyrrell Hughes at 220. All qualified as District runners-up. Cruse, Shirk and Hughes each had to win a wrestleback to punch their state tickets.
Durant’s lone state qualifier is Ethan Gast, who was District runner-up at 120 pounds.
At 106 pounds, Wilton’s Brody Brisker (45-4) cruised to a District title with two pins. In the finals, he pinned Highland’s Easton Schlabaugh, a familiar opponent that Brody had beaten earlier in the season. Brody qualified for his first state tournament with the wins.
Coming into his freshman year after two of his older brothers have made names for themselves inside the Wilton program, Brody said it comes with pressure he welcomes. “You have to live up the hype of the name, but I had good training this summer and have been rolling this season. Next week will be another tournament, beat everyone in your way and become a state champion.”
At 113 pounds, Wilton’s Garrett Burkle (35-9) collected a semifinal pin to set up a rematch from Sectionals a week prior with No. 5 ranked Bryce Thompson of Highland. In the finals, Thompson got up 10-1 early on Burkle before eventually winning by major decision 17-3. Burkle qualified for his first state tournament as the runner-up.
At 120 pounds, Durant’s Ethan Gast (38-5) got a key win in the semifinals 8-1 over Garret Dickey of Wapello. In the finals, he lost by tech fall to No. 2 ranked Brandon Paez of Lisbon 18-3. He fell into a wrestleback, where he pinned Braxton Davis of Mediapolis to secure his first ever trip to the state tournament.
“It feels great. All the hard work and cutting down to 120 was rough but being here pays off,” said Gast. “There was pressure because you know there’s one spot open. I needed to get that spot … State is going to be exciting. It’s what I’ve been working for.”
At 138 pounds, Wilton’s Kael Brisker (46-1) has been dominant since entering the weight class midway through the season. It was no different at Districts, as he collected two pins en route to a District title, including a pin over Lisbon’s Indy Harbaugh in the finals.
“I felt like I was cutting too much weight. I was always mad, a ‘hangry’ feeling,” said Kael of moving to 138. “Over Christmas break I saw a Lisbon kid move up. I thought, ‘there’s no one there, why not take a shot?’ I’m still stronger than most of the kids at this weight. I can eat, drink and feel great going into meets. But I have to go get the job done. Rankings are just on paper. At state, I want to show up, dominate and take home the title.”
“The Brisker boys have confidence in themselves. They know there’s six minutes to wrestle and they don’t get thrown out of their match. It’s a cool feeling to get brothers through. Kael was able to do it as a freshman with Trey, now to get it with Brody is special … Kael wants to be at the top of the podium. That’s it. And he has every opportunity to get there. He’s disciplined and focused. It’ll be one match at a time," said coach Gabe Boorn.
At 152 pounds, Wilton’s Colton Cruse (43-10) had quite a roller coaster ride. He got a crucial pin in the semis to set up a finals match with No. 7 ranked Lincoln Holub of Lisbon. In the finals, Cruse worked his way to a 5-3 lead, but Holub scored a takedown in the final 10 seconds, forcing overtime where he defeated Cruse 7-5. In an instant, Cruse fell into a wrestleback, where he built a 10-0 lead before pinning Evan Ross of Wapello to secure his first ever trip to the state tournament.
“It’s been a goal all four years to get to state. It’s exciting,” said Cruse. “When I took the lead (in the finals) I got excited. I knew he’d come with shots and couldn’t stop him, he eventually got one. In the wrestleback I had to stay positive and make it my match. At state I have to stay positive, wrestle my matches and see what happens.”
“Over four years he’s battled a lot of stuff off the mat. To keep it right between the ears and stay mentally tough, drop a close one then wrestle back to earn a spot. It was a tough spot but he did it. That’s huge. He stayed in control,” said Boorn of Cruse.
At 160 pounds, Wilton’s Kaden Shirk (38-14) pinned Durant’s Cameron Ruggiero (22-17) in the semifinals before losing by fall to No. 10 ranked Caden Ballou of Midland in the finals. Shirk fell into a wrestleback, where he defeated Kendal Pugh of L-M 8-0 to secure his first ever spot in the state tournament.
At 220 pounds, Wilton’s Tyrrell Hughes (28-8) lost his semifinal match by fall to eventual District champ Cole Clark of Lisbon. He then won two wrestelbacks in a row by fall, first over Ryder Michels of Bellevue. In the final wrestleback with L-M’s Spencer Kessel, he was down 7-0 in the second period before exploding for a chest-to-chest tackle to the ground and a quick pin of Kessel, which shocked the crowd, and perhaps himself, in the state qualifying win.
“I got a chance and I took the shot. I haven’t taken many shots all year. That’s the first one I’ve taken in a live match,” said Hughes of his explosion. “It felt right so I did it. I feel great. I wrote state on the board at the beginning of the year, and I made it.”
“That was probably the best and only shot all year, and that was a great time to do it,” said Boorn of Hughes. “He lacks a little on technique but he says he relies on feel. Perfect, but we need to work more on certain situations.”
“We have some boys who will have to readjust goals. We have some guys that top of the podium is where they want to be, and those are realistic goals,” Boorn continued. “You put in the work, and you get there an earn it.”