It seems strange to say that the Don Bosco wrestling program is “back” because on the one hand they never truly fell out of being an annual trophy contender, but after winning an impressive five straight traditional team titles dating from 2006 to 2010, and then winning again in 2012, the Dons fell out of the top spot. But now after seven years the Dons are prepared to change all that. Lately the Dons have been on everybody’s radar, especially here at IAwrestle.
In our latest release of Class 1A rankings there were 11 wrestlers ranked in the top 10, which is three more than second ranked Denver. Of that group of 11 there is a solid mix of veterans, over half of the ranked wrestlers are either a junior or senior and the remaining five are underclassmen. Not only has the program received recognition early in the season from local media coverage, but they have also received national attention as well. InterMat analyst Josh Lowe recently rated the Dons as the 45th best team in the entire country.
The ranking doesn’t come lightly. Despite being a 1A program the Dons have gone toe-to-toe with some of the larger schools in the state. The won the Keith Young Invitational in early December which featured Northeast Iowa heavyweight programs Waverly-Shell Rock (3A) and Denver (1A). Later that month they would win dual contests against West Des Moines Valley 45-29 and Waverly-Shell Rock 28-27 at the Battle of Waterloo. Waverly-Shell Rock is ranked #47 nationally.
And while the Dons have continued to have their presence felt on a team trophy contender level, last year’s dual title was the program’s first state title in the sport in six years, and their first dual victory in eight. During this stretch from the Don’s last title to the present, we’ve seen the rise of Alburnett (three titles), the return of another blue blood – Lisbon (two titles), and Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont all bring home state titles in 1A.
Like any good team, it all starts with strong leadership, which the Dons seem to have their fair share of. The upperclassmen group are highlighted by the #2 ranked Daniel Kimball, who got to experience a pair of top finishes last season. The first being the team’s dual title, followed by an individual state title at 106 pounds.
“It was a great feeling to be able to finally see all my work throughout the past years pay off in February.” Kimball said on reaching the top of the stand as an individual, “It was a great feeling in the moment but I think it has motivated me to keep improving and do it again this year.”
Achieving his individual goal has made Kimball even more hungry to obtain more success. It will all start with Bosco looking to repeat in the dual team race, where a title this year would give the Don an even 10 titles. Following that would be the traditional team race and as our rankings indicate, the Dons are in control of their own destiny to win the program’s 11th traditional title.
“It’s been very important to me to step up and help lead this team to go back-to-back in dual titles this year and also win the tradition title as well.” Kimball said, “After winning the dual title last year and coming within points of the traditional title, it has really motivated me and helped me to lead the rest of the team to make sure we get both titles this year as well as some individual titles on our team.”
Coming into this season the Don’s figured to be a strong team as they returned six state qualifiers from last year’s squad, and four of those garnered a podium finish. What couldn’t be predicted was the early success of the freshman class that has ultimately bolstered the team to where they are now. Right now the team features three freshmen in the top 10, #7 Garrett Funk (106), #4 Cade Tenold (152), and #2 Carson Tenold (160).
With the Tenold duo both ranked in the top five of their individual weight class they are no doubt the breakouts of this team. The lighter Tenold, Cade arguably competes at the toughest weight in Class 1A. The three wrestlers ranked ahead of him are Brady Henderson (North Linn), Kaleb Krall (Wapsie Valley), and Kory Van Oort (West Sioux) have a combined resume of eight state tournament appearances, four finals appearances, and one state title.
Carson is currently the second ranked wrestler at 160 pounds behind Akron-Westfield’s two-time state champion John Henrich, who is committed to wrestler for the University of Nebraska next year. Beating a wrestler of Henrich’s caliber would be considered a longshot for Carson, but then again not many would have predicted he would be able to bump up to 170-pounds in his team’s dual against Denver and pin #1 ranked Cael Krueger either.
“It’s amazing being apart of this program. You feel the whole community behind you at every meet and dual and I feel very lucky to be apart of it.” Carson Tenold said of his chance of leading the Dons back to the top, “I hope that I can do my part to continue the greatness of our program. Everyday at practice we see the past on our wall and we’re just working to add to it.”
With youth comes inexperience. While those five underclassmen are all ranked, none of them have yet to step onto the mat inside Wells Fargo Arena for their high school team. With just under two months until the season’s final postseason weekend, there is still a lot of time and work to be put in to achieve the final goal.
Titles are not won in December and there is still plenty of season for other teams to try and overtake Don Bosco for the top spot. That is where the veteran presence factors in, and where wrestlers like Kimball will be counted on to lead by example and help keep the team focused on the prize.
“The one thing I tell our younger guys on the team is that right now in the middle of December and early January the wins and losses don’t matter. It’s all about continuing to get better and improve. If they do that then the results will come in February when it really matters. It’s a long season and obviously we want to win every match but performing in February is when it really matters.”