Meinders moves into quarterfinals
DES MOINES — Smile. Win. Smile. That about sums up Caleb Meinders’ afternoon.
The AGWSR senior followed in his own steps, earning a 3-0 decision against Sibley-Ocheydan’s Erick Olvera during Thursday’s Class 1A Iowa High School Wrestling Championships at Wells Fargo Arena.
It took a just takedown and an escape to get the job done in the first round at 220. Beforehand, Meinders was so excited, he forgot to grab his wristband from the scores table. Without missing a beat, the No. 3 220-pound wrestler trotted to the table with a forgetful smile on his face.
“It’s quite the experience being down here at state,” Meinders said. “It’s been a tough ride. My sectionals, we had three, including me, of top-rated kids in the state. It’s pretty big to get out of there. There’s a kid who’s actually down here [but in the stands] who’s a solid wrestler and I have a lot of respect for him.”
It was the first time in two weeks Meinders earned a takedown in a match. Although he wrestled a little more reserved in his lone match Thursday, when the opportunity presented itself, it was too hard to pass up.
“It actually felt pretty good. I don’t know, it was there and I decided to take the chance,” Meinders said. “At state, you’ve got to chances here.”
Meinders earned the takedown in the first period, going up 2-0 early. With time winding down in the second, Olvera looked as if he might even the score with a takedown of his own.
But all Olvera could do was control Meinders’ right leg momentarily before the AGWSR grappler wrestled out of Olvera’s grasp to get his third and final point out of an escape.
“I didn’t know much about him,” Meinders said. “Coach told me to keep my cool like last year, and go out there and wrestle like I’ve been doing all year. I didn’t know much about him. I just knew he made it to state and another solid wrestler that deserved to be here. I just had to go out there, work my stuff, work my moves and it came out in my favor.”
Meinders noted Olvera definitely had a different body type and wrestling style than he was used to. But that didn’t force him to alter his gameplan.
“The plan is to win. I don’t plan to change anything,” Meinders said. “If you’re changing things now, you shouldn’t be down here. You’ve just got to do your moves and do them well.”
Just like last year, Meinders secured a spot on the winner’s side of the 220 bracket. But he ended up falling in the quarterfinal match, before making his way to the podium for a seventh-place finish.
Now, he’s already following in his footsteps. He said he recognizes the value of getting a first-round win and the potential it provides.
“It’s very important to win that first match. If you win that first match, you get the rest of the day, rest of the night off and get fresh for [this] morning. I’m really happy I get to go back to the hotel and just take a nap, relax and go out and eat.”
This year’s quest for a state title will not come without its challenges. Meinders matches up with the No. 1 wrestler in Drake Johnsen of Logan-Magnolia. Johnsen is 49-3 this year, and Meinders knows he’ll have to be at his sharpest if he wants to correct history.
“Oh yeah, he’s a tough one,” Meinders said. “Solid opponent, I’ve heard a lot about him. I’ve just got to wrestle my match, wrestle aggressive and things will go my way.”
Meinders and Johnsen will wrestler in the first Class 1A 220 quarterfinal match beginning immediately after the Class 3A quarterfinals wrap up. The 3A and 1A quarterfinal session runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Should Meinders win, he would wrestle again tonight in the 1A semifinals, a session beginning at 7:30 p.m. If he loses, he’ll wrestle in the 1A second-round consolation round, immediately following the 3A consolation.