Knights mount up for state tournament

Ahrendsen, Mehlert, Schmitz and Worthen district champs

The Union Knights came away from the 2A district tournament with four champions. Headed to Wells Fargo Arena for the state tournament are, from left, Hunter Worthen (160, jr.), Adam Ahrendsen (182, sr.), Stone Schmitz (152, jr.) and Lincoln Mehlert (145, sr.). Photo by Allison Graham/NT Telegraph.

Saturday wrestling in February has long been a fruitful endeavor for the Union Knights high school wrestling team.

In 2021 that is something which has remained constant, despite so many routines and traditions altered this past year during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Four Union wrestlers, including Adam Ahrendsen, Lincoln Mehlert, Stone Schmitz and Hunter Worthen, advanced to the Iowa High School State Wrestling Tournament after emerging as champions from the Class 2A district tournament in Williamsburg on Feb. 13.

Ahrendsen, the senior UNI commit and 2020 state champion, cruised through his 182-pound bracket with wins by fall over Kade Pekarek of BCLUW-SH and Austin Roos of Benton Community.

Knights fans have had to keep a close eye on the mat lately as Ahrendsen required no less than one minute to dispatch each of his last four opponents. Only one wrestler, second-ranked Spencer Mooberry of Osage, has been able to take the undefeated champ to a decision finish this season.

Union's Lincoln Mehlert (top) flattens out Dane Thompson of East Marshall/GMG for a pin in the semifinal district match at 145 lb. Photo by Allison Graham/NT Telegraph.

Ahrendsen (19-0) will start the state tournament as the top-seeded wrestler and will take on Ayden Frazer (20-7) of Washington. The 182-pound bracket looks as favorable as it could be with three of the top five ranked wrestlers positioned on the opposite side as Ahrendsen. Should Ahrendsen reach the semifinals, he projects to face Cade Everson (40-2) of Camanche.

Schmitz will make his third appearance at the state tournament after defeating Logan Aicher of BCLUW-SH by fall and Teegan McEnany of Independence with a 15-0 technical fall Saturday. Schmitz also celebrated his 100th career victory Saturday during his semifinal win over Aicher.

In his junior season, Schmitz is looking to earn his first state medal after early-round losses ended each of his last two trips to Wells Fargo.

Schmitz will begin his tournament against Zander Ernst (37-3) of Ridge View. Should he advance further into the championship side of the bracket, the road to the finals looks to go through No. 2 Grifen Molle (45-1) of West Burlington Notre Dame. Molle pinned Schmitz earlier this season at the Cascade Invitational, though he’s been relatively untested against much of the 2A field at 152.

For Mehlert and Worthen, 2021 brings a fresh opportunity to make their mark in Des Moines after district losses shut them out of the tournament last year.

Stone Schmitz (right) works a takedown against Logan Aicher of BCLUW-SH on Feb. 13 in Williamsburg. Schmitz pinned Aicher for his 100th career victory and will compete in the 152 lb bracket at the state tournament beginning on Feb. 18 in Des Moines. Photo by Allison Graham/NT Telegraph.

Mehlert, the senior 145-pounder, won his semifinal district match over Dane Thompson of East Marshall/GMG with a pin in the third period and then his championship match with a 6-1 decision over Andres Cantillo of Grinnell.

Although Mehlert (32-5) enters the tournament as a district champion, the bracket seeding dealt him no favors. He’ll begin against No. 7 Logan Peyton (28-10) of West Delaware, who he lost to by a narrow decision at the Jerry Eckenrod Tournament earlier in the season.

In the quarterfinals, Mehlert would likely see top-seeded, 2020 state champion Matthew Lewis (33-4) of Centerville and either No. 4 Landon Fenton (35-2) of PCM or No. 5 Jackson Rolfs (28-2) of Decorah in the semis.

At 160 pounds, Worthen started his district bracket with a win by fall over Logan Walton of East Marshall/GMG and a statement victory over No. 6 Landon Kirby of Grinnell by an 11-4 decision.

Worthen recovered from a first-period takedown by Kirby, scoring a two-point reversal and two near-fall back points to end the first period up 4-2.

Adam Ahrendsen (right) quickly handles Kade Pekarek of BCLUW-SH (left) during the district tournament on Feb. 13. Ahrendsen is undefeated in his senior season and will enter the state tournament as the favorite in the 182 lb. bracket. Photo by Krystal Schmitz.

It was all Worthen the rest of the way, as he scored seven points in the final two periods while holding Kirby to only a third-period reversal. Worthen also celebrated his 100th career victory at the district tournament along with Schmitz.

Third-ranked Worthen (33-4) will face Zander Reed (42-9) of Central Decatur in the opening round and could have to contend with No. 4 Garrett Seaba (31-2) of Clarion-Goldfield-Dows and No. 2 Wyatt Appleseth (43-0) of Panorama before the championship round.

Two-time state champion Hayden Taylor (35-0) sits atop the 160-pound bracket as is the favorite among the field.

It was a tough day at the office for Union’s 132-pounder Kolten Crawford.

The senior had his sights set on another podium finish at the state tournament after qualifying and finishing fourth last season.

Union's Hunter Worthen (top) controls Logan Walton of East Marshall/GMG (bottom) during the semifinal round of the Class 2A district tournament in Williamsburg. Worthen defeated Walton and Landon Kirby of Grinnell to take the district championship along with his 100th career victory. Photo by Krystal Schmitz.

But the district competition in Williamsburg was steep with top-ranked, 2020 state runner-up and Linn-Mar transfer Brandon O’Brien of Independence and 2020 state place-winner, No. 4 Logan Arp of South Tama populating the four-man bracket.

Crawford took Arp into deep water during the district semifinals, scoring escapes after two first-period takedowns and outscoring the South Tama junior 3-2 in the second period.

Things slowed down in the third however with Arp scoring the only points of the period.

Crawford ended with a 7-5 loss to Arp and did not get a chance for a second-place wrestle-back as O’Brien pinned Arp in the championship round.

Crawford finished third at the district meet with a win by fall over West Marshall’s Caden Vellinga and will finish his season with an overall record of 25-7.

Kolten Crawford (left) concluded a successful high school wrestling career with the Knights after taking a 7-5 loss to Logan Arp of South Tama (right) in the semifinal round of the district tournament on Feb. 13. Photo by Allison Graham/NT Telegraph.

The four Knights wrestlers headed to the state tournament will take the mats at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines on Feb. 18 during the third session of the day that begins at 6 p.m.

Tickets for the state tournament will go on sale to the general public beginning at noon on Feb. 16.