1.) Michael Wells- Clarinda
2.) Adam Grell- Dewitt-Central
3.) Maury Noonan- Emmetsburg-Armstrong-Ringstead
4.) Aaron Drain- Mediapolis
5.) Brett Karkosh- South Tama
6.) Kyle Forness- Waterloo Columbus
To this day, I can’t look at that podium picture without feeling at least a “vibe” of anxiety. This may have been one of the deepest weight classes I’ve ever seen with some district drama that was crazier than anything I’ve ever seen. Incredibly stressful for many, many people.
* So the champion was Michael Wells from Clarinda. He was one of the best and most dominant wrestlers in the 2003 class. He was just a Junior that year. He placed 2nd the year before as a Sophomore. The guy who beat him in the finals that year was also at this weight in 2002…. and it is not a guy on the podium. It was a guy named Trevor Arbegast from Davenport Assumption.
* It should be noted that Michael Wells more or less dominated his way through the tournament, which was incredible at the time and especially in hindsight. Things may have not gone the way he wanted the next year, but holy cow, he made a statement by strolling through this bracket as a Junior and nobody can ever object to it or take it away from him. A HUGE feat.
* My best friend in HS was the guy who got 4th place in this bracket. Aaron Drain. He was and always will be like a brother to me. He was Mepo’s first ever 4X state qualifier, but only placed as a Senior in 2002. Drain was a guy who peaked about a month after the season passed of he kept on it. He won at least 2, maybe 3 National Folkstyle titles in HS and each time, the brackets he would win would consist of guys who placed higher/won his brackets at state. Drain just peaked late. Simple as that. And we were so shook up at what he faced at districts that year, for naturally, all of us wanted to see him qualify for the 4th time and strike gold opposed to some catastrophe occurring at districts… and that year, a district catastrophe was more likely than most years, for it included the following guys: Trevor Arbegast (Assumption, returning state champ), Ian Alke (West Liberty, returning 6th place finisher), Adam Grell (placed 6th in 2000 and 2nd here obviously) and himself. Just one misstep or one simple bad day and his wrestling career was over. That went for all of them, for all 4 of those guys were Seniors. We kept waiting for one of them to back out and go to a different weight, but none did… they all stayed firm and claimed the weight as their territory and they weren’t going to dodge anyone to do so… You got to respect all 4 of those guys for doing that. Anyways, Drain best Alke at sectionals and Grell pulled what was considered an upset over Arbegast in the other sectional. This set up first round matchups of Drain vs. Arbegast and Grell vs. Alke. Drain and Grell both edged out Arbegast and Grell in hard fought matches. Grell defeated Drain in the finals to solidify his spot, which was interesting for a lot of people who didn’t know him already had him penciled in as the “odd man out.” Alke then eliminated the returning state champ, Arbegast in the wrestle-back, setting up an “winner goes, loser stays home” matchup between Drain and Alke. Drain had defeated Alke by MD the week before, but that match was basically determined in the first 45 seconds in which Drain put him on his back twice with two outside carries. That was the only difference in the final outcome. And West Liberty was well-coached and had a week to prepare on countering that particular move…. which Drain’s biggest weapon in his arsenal. We knew that a rematch may be closer. And it was. Came down to the wire. Drain won either by a point or two in regulation or maybe OT. The emotion fueled pretty significant conflicting reactions between both squads; one heartbroken and bordering the lines of acting salty, the other overcome with glee and bordering the lines of over-celebration. A pretty huge spat erupted between Mepo and West Liberty. It was pretty clear that this weight class had weighed very heavily on the fans, coaches and family of all 4 guys that year. I went home feeling so happy for Drain, but man was it difficult to witness a couple of brilliant wrestlers like Trevor Arbegast and Ian Alke have their HS wrestling careers squashed simply because of a stacked district.
* Noonan was a real talented E-AR kid who sometimes gets overlooked when discussing that era of Eburg wrestling, for he was on a number of powerhouse Eburg teams with guys who won state or made the finals such as; the Naig brothers, Dusty Finer, Ohrtman, Travis Hinners, Justin Kerber, Mark/Ryan Sturm, Ben Strandberg, Mitch Preston, etc. Noonan was right there with all those guys. Placed 3rd twice in 2 insanely tough brackets. The other bracket he placed 3rd in was the one that my brother placed 7th in as a Senior the next year with Moza Fay, Tyler Brewer, Dan Scarberry, etc. Solid, solid kid who was tough to score on. And on a side note, he went out of his way to clear a couple spots for my brother and I at Vets so we could get a better view of Mepo’s Micah Keller winning state in ‘05. Always thought that was cool of him.
* Brett Karkosh was the one who beat Drain somewhat handily and it surprised us all when he had a couple stinker matches which resulted in him placing lower than him. Solid kid.
* Kyle Forness…. That kid was tough as hell and every year was a name that was frequently mentioned as a guy who should win state at whatever bracket he was at. This was his Freshman year, so he took a couple of big losses there, BUT the fact that a Freshman was able to place in THAT bracket was just incredible. Huge accomplishment for him.