Tuesday, October 23, 2018
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Jim Ecker, President & Editor

Metro Sports Report

Kennedy's Sheldon is symbol of perseverance

DES MOINES - Kennedy senior Ryan Sheldon has a tattoo on the upper-left side of his back, just under his muscular shoulder, adorned with Asian letters.

"I think Chinese," he said Thursday with a smile, perhaps a little sheepish that he didn't know for sure what language was represented.

The language doesn't matter to him, but the translation does.

"Perseverance," he said.

The word is appropriate, because it sums up Sheldon's wrestling career at Kennedy. He qualified for the state tournament as a freshman and sophomore, but did not place either time. He came back last year and finished eighth at 152 pounds, now he's back for a final try this season with bigger goals in mind.

Sheldon cruised to an 11-2 victory over Mike Freeman of Des Moines Roosevelt in the opening round of the Class 3A state tournament Thursday morning at Wells Fargo Arena. That raised his record this season to a sparkling 39-1, with the only loss coming to a nationally ranked wrestler from Minnesota.

Perseverance, in any language.

"I know I'm not the best natural athlete," he said. "But I figure as long as I work hard and keep going and keep thinking positive that good things will happen for me."

Sheldon had a good start in Des Moines, but Metro wrestlers struggled overall with a 10-18 record in opening-round bouts. They redeemed themselves somewhat with a 10-8 mark in the wrestlebacks, making Metro grapplers 20-26 for the day.


Northrup forfeits historic match

DES MOINES -- Joel Northrup of Linn-Mar put his principles above his individual goals Thursday morning.

Northrup forfeited his opening-round match in the Class 3A state wrestling tournament to Cassy Herkelman of Cedar Falls because he did not think it would be proper for him to compete against a girl, based on his religious beliefs.

Herkelman and Megan Black of Ottumwa, both freshmen, became the first girls in state history to qualify for the state tournament this year, both of them in the same weight class with Northrup at 112 pounds.

"I have a tremendous amount of respect for Cassy and Megan and their accomplishments," Northrup said in a statement given to the media after the forfeit. "However, wrestling is a combat sport and it can get violent at times.

"As a matter of conscience and faith, I do not believe that it is appropriate for a boy to engage a girl in this manner. It is unfortunate that I have been placed in a situation not seen in most other high school sports in Iowa."

The forfeit dropped Northrup into the losers bracket of the 112-pound bracket and means he can finish no higher than third in the state tournament at Wells Fargo Arena. Northrup placed third at 103 pounds at state last year as a freshman and was considered a candidate to win the 112-pound title this year as a sophomore.

Northrup won his consolation round match with a major decision over Sam Jameson of Glenwood, 9-0.  He lost a triple overtime decision to Tyler Willers of Pleasant Valley Friday morning and was knocked out of the tournament.  Herkelman lost in the quarterfinals and consolations and also was eliminated.


A game like none other

As a guy who's been around the block a few times, I have learned one thing: Don't ever think or say to a fan that you've seen it all in the world of sports, because I guarantee you haven't.

And so it was in the recently concluded Linn-Mar versus Jefferson basketball game. The fans attending Tuesday night got to see something they probably will never seen again at the high school level, where two players on one team scored 30 points apiece and the other players on the team scored 10.

In my experience, I don't believe over time that two players have done that in a Metro game, maybe ever. And there was a reason Matt Bohannon and Marcus Paige needed those 30 points apiece, because the two "bigs" for Linn-Mar, Ian McBrayer and Josh Montague, were both out with injuries.

It's also remarkable that Jarrod Uthoff of Jefferson had amazing numbers of 26 points, 14 rebounds and at least a half-dozen blocked shots. It was high school basketball at its best, and a near-capacity house was treated to the type of basketball that the Metro has produced in this 2011 season.


Respect the Northrups' decision

The Class 3A portion of the state wrestling tournament had barely started this morning when the first big jolt of the meet occurred.  Linn-Mar sophomore Joel Northrup defaulted his first round match at 112 pounds to Cassy Herkelman of Cedar Falls, one of the first two girls to ever qualify for the state meet. Readers of the Metro Sports Report were aware this was going to happen because of an exclusive report our Jim Ecker had Tuesday night.

Northrup cited religious beliefs as his reason for not wrestling a girl.

While some may choose to condemn Northrup and his family for their choice not to compete, I believe we should respect their decision.

Because he defaulted, Northrup sacrificed his chance to win a state title. He was third at 103 pounds last year and was regarded as a title contender this season. He still could match that third-place finish by battling back through the consolation round. He won his first round consi match with a major decision over Sam Jameson of Glenwood this morning.

But he will not be a champion.

This is not to say that girls should not be allowed to wrestle.  The rules are that they can and, with numbers being what they are in many programs, they will be wrestling varsity competition.

And this is not a lament for the terrible luck Northrup had in being paired with Herkelman in the first round. Fate seems to find a person in these situations.

This is to acknowledge that Northrup was placed in what he and his family saw as a moral dilemma and had the fortitude to make the hard decision, to sacrifice a possible state championship for their beliefs.

For that, they deserve our respect.


Lions 21-0!!!

With their two big men still on the bench with injuries, the Linn-Mar boys sent their 10 seniors off with a bang on Senior Night Thursday in the regular season final by pounding Dubuque Wahlert, 71-50.

The win gave the 4A top-ranked Lions (21-0, 16-0 MVC) their second consecutive undefeated conference season. In the last three years, they are 47-1 in the  Mississippi Valley, the only blemish coming two years ago against Cedar Falls.

"That's a great accomplishment," said Linn-Mar Coach Chris Robertson. "I couldn't be happier for our seniors to go out with a win."

Next up is a home game next Friday night against Xavier or Ottumwa as substate tournament play begins.

Robertson said of his two senior stalwarts, 6-foot-6 Ian McBrayer should be ready to suit up. He's been hobbled by a groin injury.

The good news for 6-foot-7 post man Josh Montague is that he will not face surgery for a strained  ligament. Roberston said he's in therapy now and might be back in a couple of weeks if the team continues winning.

In their absence, however, Linn-Mar may have found an able substitute Thursday night in 6-foot-7 sophomore string-bean Derrick Gogg. He came off the bench and more than  held his own against the shorter but far bulkier Wahlert crew around the basket.

The rail-thin Gogg scored eight points but also clogged up the middle on defense and battled for rebounds.


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