It was another successful season for the Ballard wrestling program as the Bombers claimed a conference championship and sent three wrestlers to state.
Ballard posted a 14-8 dual meet record on the season and the Bombers were a perfect 7-0 against Raccoon River Conference competition. On Feb. 1 Ballard crowned four individual conference champions to win the RRC meet in Boone – giving the Bombers their first conference title since 2011.
In the postseason, Ballard took third at the Class 2A sectional meet in Story City. The Bombers advanced six wrestlers to districts, but they were unable to return to the state dual tournament.
At districts the Bombers moved Mitchell Broer, Alex Silberstein and Nathan Macki on to state. Broer won a district title and Silberstein and Macki both came in second.
Broer and Silberstein both went on to place at state.
"We continued to grow as the season progressed," Ballard head coach Nick Britton said. "Winning the conference tournament and dual titles are great, but we fell short of accomplishing our team goal of participating in the state dual tournament. We also fell short in a few individual goals, but had some great victories along the way."
Injuries played a part in Ballard not being at full strength during the second half of the season. But Britton also said a lack of focus also hurt the Bombers in their quest to return to state duals.
"Our biggest weakness was the absence of a sense of urgency," Britton said. "We were inconsistent at a lot of weights when it came to the mental mindset that it takes to win matches."
But the Bomber coach was proud of the wrestlers that improved during the season and stepped up during the postseason.
Broer, Macki and Silberstein led the way for the Bombers with their state runs.
"State tournament week is always fun," Britton said. "Every minute was an adventure, and ‘just enjoying the ride’ was used quite a bit during that week."
Broer capped an outstanding career by qualifying for state for the fourth time and making his third trip the podium.
Broer placed eighth at 119 as a freshman and fifth at 126 as a junior. In his senior season Broer took fourth at 132, finishing 41-7 with 15 pins, six technical falls and seven major decisions.
"Mitchell is a phenomenal technician," Britton said. "His career will put him on the leader board (at Ballard) in a lot of categories. It is safe to say that he is one of the most successful wrestlers to have competed for Ballard that did not win a state title."
Broer ended his career with 157 victories. In addition to his state accolades, he was also a four-time conference champion.
Macki returned to state for the third time in as many tries. But for the second year in a row, he wasn’t at 100 percent entering the tournament after spending most of the season out with a shoulder injury.
"He wrestled the second half of the season with a torn rotator cuff and that certainly affected him during the postseason," Britton said. "When he puts it all together and is healthy, there are not too many people that can beat him."
Macki went 21-10 with 12 pins and one major decision at 126 pounds. He finished second at both the sectional and district meets and came up short in both of his matches at state.
Silberstein was the breakout performer for Ballard.
The junior was coming off an 18-22 sophomore campaign where he wrestled mostly at 285. Silberstein started off this season at 285, but moved to 220 and ended up taking second at both sectionals and districts to qualify for state.
At state Silberstein turned heads. He posted a 3-2 record to place seventh and earn a spot on the medal stand.
"Alex is the epitome of believing and achieving," Britton said. "At the beginning of the year we talked about goals for the year, and his was to qualify for state. I pushed back and told him he needs to be on the stand. The turning point was when we came home from the South Hardin Invite and he didn’t have a very good day. From then on it was ‘what do I need to focus on to get better?’ It was a very enjoyable state tournament week for him."
Silberstein went 38-16 this season with 19 pins, one technical fall and one major decision.
Ethan Estabrooks and Tyler Kyhl joined Broer as the senior leaders for Ballard.
Estabrooks competed at 120 and posted a 25-11 record. He recorded 16 pins and one technical fall.
"Ethan fell short of his goals, but he had a great senior campaign," Britton said. "He scored a lot of team points throughout the year that allowed us to win dual meets. Ethan will definitely be missed."
Kyhl went 31-12 at 195 in 2013-14 with 19 pins and two victories by major decision.
"Tyler is a working machine," Britton said. "He demonstrated leadership throughout the season and had a breakout year. He fell short of his goals as he wrestled against one of the toughest (195-pound) sectional brackets in the state. But he will forever be known as a hard worker who put in the effort, day in and out, to improve himself."
Andrew Rasmussen added a 15-25 record at 152 pounds with 13 pins as the other senior regular for Ballard.
The other Ballard wrestlers to compile a winning record with more than 10 varsity matches were freshmen Bailey Heinen and Kenton Brekke, sophomore Easton Moody and junior Louie Howlett.
Heinen went 24-16 with 10 pins and two major decisions at 113 and Brekke finished 23-18 with eight pins, three major decisions and one technical fall at 145. Moody finished 9-8 with seven pins at 220 and 285 and Howlett ended up 15-13 with 10 pins at 120 and 126.
Ben Claussen went 23-23 with four pins at 182 as a junior and Will May finished 16-17 with nine pins as a sophomore for Ballard. Derek Wright finished 9-12 at 138 as a junior and Rachel Watters was 6-14 as a sophomore at 138.
Jed Miller added a 6-11 record at 106, Max Moulden went 6-6 at 170, John Fleenor and Kenny Randolph scored two victories apiece at 113 and 285 respectively and Quentin Luke and Eli Hartog both added one varsity win for the Bombers.
Next season Ballard will aim to repeat as RRC champions, return to the state dual tournament and send more wrestlers to state individually. But it will be a challenge trying to replace the senior class.
"Hopefully we will have a group of guys that are committed to working hard in the offseason," Britton said. "With the returning roster and a quality group of eighth-graders coming up, we always look forward to the future."