STATE WRESTLING: Robbins, Petersen hope to bag historic state titles
By BRANDON HURLEY
Battled tested and well-regarded, a dangerous duo has eyes on a historic achievement.
Anchored by a pair of state champions, the Greene County wrestling team once again hits Wells Fargo Arena with legitimate state championship hopes. The wrestling state tournament has arrived, and with it comes potential for several incredibly tantalizing matchups. The first round get underway Thursday morning in Des Moines, initiating three days of electric action.
Reigning state champions McKinley Robbins and Kale Petersen are hoping to snatch back-to-back state titles this weekend – no Ram has ever won multiple championships – though the path to glory certainly isn’t a simple one.
The three state-qualifying Rams in all are loaded with experience, as both Robbin and Petersen are making their third trip to state while Gavin Schueremann is back in the state tournament following a breakout sophomore campaign.
Robbins, wrestling at 132 pounds this winter, up two classes from the 120 class he was at last year, has never finished worse than second at the state tournament – finishing runner-up as a freshman before securing an undefeated state title in 2021, securing the Rams’ first wrestling state title since 1995. Robbins has prevailed in seven of his eight state tournament matches in Des Moines, already having eclipsed the 100 career win mark.
He rolled through the district tournament last weekend in Glenwood – capturing his third district title in three tries – pinning Creston’s Trey Chestnut in the semifinals before securing a 12-4 major decision over Atlantic’s Easton O’Brien in the championship match.
Gavin Scheuermann, making his second straight state tournament appearance, sports a 40-6 record thanks to his first district title in Glenwood at 152 pounds.
Class 1A state champion and second-ranked Kale Petersen, a transfer from West Fork, will also have a chance at another state title after prevailing at 120 pounds in Glenwood. The Rams are hungry, experienced and poised for a raucous environment.
A REMATCH AWAITS
A potential rematch stands in the way of Robbins’ second straight state title, who earned the top seed in the 132 pound bracket.
Top-ranked and second-seeded Blaine Frazier of West Burlington Notre Dame sports an undefeated record, having won 49 straight matches. His last loss actually came in last year’s 120 pound state title match, which Robbins won, 7-5 in a tense battle. Frazier was one of three wrestlers to defeat Robbins this winter, knocking off the defending state champion in a tournament in December. Robbins’ only other two losses came against the top-ranked wrestler in Class 1A (Underwood’s Gable Porter) and the top-ranked Class 3A wrestler at 132 pounds (Dowling Catholic’s Evan Frost). Those two are a combined 75-1 this winter, both earning the top seed in their respective state brackets. Robbins has sought out the best since his freshman year, proving he can hang.
Frazier is an absolute monster as well, hungry for his first state title. He’s been victorious in 95 of his last 99 matches, tallying a 46-4 record last winter, punctuated by the runner-up finish. The West Burlington-Notre Dame senior has reached the state semifinals three times and sports an impressive career record of 191-11, though has never captured an elusive state title.
The reigning state champion Robbins stands in his way yet again. The junior has only lost five matches in his career, having romped his way to the state championship match both trips to Des Moines. Greene County head coach Zach Beekman said the pressures of bringing home another state title has done little to rattle Robbins. The wrestler expects multiple state titles, even admitting he wants to get two more after last year’s victory.
“He has high expectations for himself and is able to keep everything in perspective,” Beekman said. “If he feels pressure you wouldn’t know it.”
Certainly, Robbins has the technique down. He’s been an elite wrestler for several years, easily one of the top grapplers in the entire state, regardless of class. Where Beekman believes Robbins has taken the biggest leap this year is in his diet. That, and making more of a point to learn from prior matches.
“McKinley has really dialed in his nutrition this year and understands the connection between his body’s fuel and his performance,” Beekman said. “He has also taken it upon himself to study matches and see where he could improve.”
Robbins, sporting a career-best record of 42-3, drew NFV’s Caden Kerr in the first round of the 132 pound bracket. The junior sports a 10-5 record this year. Robbins will likely square off against 12th-ranked Aiden Fiora of ADM (25-3) or 11th-rated Blake Engel of West Delaware (31-7) in Friday morning’s quarterfinals if he were to win his opening round match. The Class 2A semifinals will be held at the 2:45 afternoon session on Friday.
CAN HE DO IT IN 2A?
Kale Petersen (9-0) is quite the complimentary beast to Robbins. The junior qualified at 120 pounds in Class 2A this winter after capturing a state title in Class 1A last year as a member of the West Fork High School squad. Petersen has won 36 of his last 37 matches and spent much of this season ranked No. 1 at 113 pounds, though he’s only wrestled in nine matches this winter, sporting an unblemished record. Petersen is one of the state’s top wrestlers, boasting a career record of 60-9, having lost just once since his freshman year when he tallied a 24-8 record, finishing sixth at state.
He’ll likely meet Webster City’s Cam Phetxoumphone in the 120 pound title match. Phetxoumphone has won two straight state titles, defeating Robbins at 106 pounds in 2020 before securing a second state championship in 2021 at 113 pounds.
Phetxoumphone has yet to drop a match this year (38-0) and was 35-1 last winer after tallying a perfect 42-0 record in 2020. He boasts a career record of 155-7 as one of the best wrestlers in Webster City High School history.
Petersen’s athleticism puts him a cut above the rest. He’s made light work of his opponents after jumping up two weight classes from 106. The stage certainly won’t be too bright for the Class 1A state champion despite a leap in class. He excels when it matters most, capturing a pair of pins and a major decision during last year’s state tournament before throttling his opponent 16-9 in the state title match.
Petersen’s quickness is what helps him excel, Beekman said.
“He is difficult to slow down and doesn’t stay in one position very long,” the coach said. “He can score a lot of points in a short amount of time.”
Petersen is seeded second in the 120 pound bracket, having drawn Cresco’s Kole Johnson (24-10) in the opening round.
He’ll likely face-off against South Tama County’s Amare Chavez, ranked eighth or 10th-rated CJ Davis of West Burlington Notre Dame in Friday’s quarterfinals.
Gavin Scheuermann only gained steam after qualifying for state as a freshman. He more than doubled his win total from a year ago and has his eyes firmly on making some noise in Des Moines after losing back-to-back matches at 2021’s state tournament. The sophomore 152 pounder has taken tremendous strides this winter, which led to his first district title last weekend. He’s poised to put the state on notice thanks to his impressive 40-6 record.
“I think the overall experience (of state) is going to help calm his nerves as he enters this year’s state tournament,” Beekman said. “Gavin is already very composed and knowing he has already faced high level competition all season, he will be ready to go.”
Beekman says Scheuermann’s confidence is where he’s witnessed the biggest leap. The sophomore believes he can win every time out.
“He knows he is good enough to compete with the best,” Beekman said.
Scheuermann is matched up with eighth-ranked Cole Butikofer of Crestwood (35-4) in the opening round Thursday morning. If Scheuermann advances, he’ll likely square off against top-seeded Garret Seaba of Clarion-Goldfield-Dows in the quarterfinals, who’s ranked fifth by Iawrestle. Top-ranked Gabe Sanders of Vinton-Shellsburg (21-0), a two-time Utah state champion, garnered a middle-of-the-road seed. Second-ranked Chase Thomas of Osage (39-6) is seeded second overall.
With two state champions patrolling the Greene County wrestling room all season, Beekman said their presence helped ramp up the confidence level, across the board.
“The expectations are really high,” Beekman said. “It may feel or seem different from an outside perspective, but in the room, everyone is held to the same standard with the same expectations.
Our young guys really benefit a lot from having two guys with that level of experience to push them to get to that level.”
Friday’s state semifinals will be held during the afternoon session at 2:45 p.m. inside Wells Fargo Arena. The finals round will commence at 6 p.m. Saturday, with a strong chance of two Ram wrestlers competing for titles, yet again.