Young Bombers produce three state qualifiers in 2018-19

Joe Randleman Staff Writer
Jim Chism turned in a strong senior season for the Ballard wrestling team in 2018-19. Chism went 23-15 and won both a Raccoon River Conference and Class 2A sectional title at 170.

An individual state champion and two other state qualifiers provided the Ballard wrestling team with some big highlights in 2018-19.

Ballard suffered a drop off from last year in dual competition after losing three state placewinners in runner-up Jarrett Miller, third-place finisher Tate Battani and fourth-place finisher Ben Lee, along with veteran leader Colin Anderson. The Bombers went 15-14 in dual competition in 2018-19 after finishing 23-8 and earning a trip to state duals a year ago.

“My overall take on the season is that it wasn’t quite up to our normal standards, but that being said, I saw improvement as the season went along,” Ballard head wrestling coach Steve Mickelson said. “We are young and inexperienced. The athletes continued to work and get better each week. With continued work in the off season, good things are ahead for these underclassmen.”

The Bombers went 4-3 in Raccoon River Conference duals and were runner-up at the conference tournament. Ballard placed second at the Class 2A sectional meet in Alleman to qualify for regional duals, where the team came up short against Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont by a 59-21 score.

Individually, the Bombers found plenty of success. They produced their first state champion since Alex Silberstein in 2015 when Skyler Noftsger capped an amazing career by taking first at state in 2A at 160 pounds.

Noftsger, ranked No. 1 by The Predicament for most of the season, defeated Red Oak’s Justin McCunn in the state finals by an 8-3 decision. He opened state with a 9-3 win over Bondurant-Farrar’s Neal Larsen, edged No. 5 Baylor Crigger of Camanche by sudden victory, 4-2, in the quarterfinals, then knocked off No. 2 Wes Cummings of Prairie City-Monroe in the semifinals by a 10-7 score.

For the season, Noftsger was 39-1 with 74 takedowns, 23 pins and two victories by technical fall. Noftsger, who placed fourth at 152 last year, second at 138 as a sophomore and also qualified for state as a freshman, ended his career with a 153-25 record, 285 takedowns and 89 wins by fall.

“Skyler finally captured a state title,” Mickelson said. “He’s been a three-time medalist and has worked hard in the room. He had a good career. I’ll be excited to see him compete at the next level at South Dakota State. I believe he will continue to get better and fine-tune his skills.”

Sophomore Gage Long gave Ballard a second place-winner at state. Long took eighth in 2A at 132 points.

Long lost in the first round, defeated Okoboji’s Hunter Abrahamson by a 13-2 major decision in the consolation first round, then rallied to knock off No. 7 Jackson Rolfs of Decorah by a 10-7 decision in the consolation second round. Long lost by technical fall to Solon’s Zeb Gnida in the consolation third round, then was pinned by Clarion-Goldfield-Dows’ Remington Hanson in the seventh-place match.

Long ended the season with a 38-15 record after going 29-16 as a freshman. In 2018-19, Long recorded 84 takedowns and 20 pins.

Joe Hofbauer was Ballard’s other state qualifier. The senior lost by fall in both of his matches at state, but still finished with an outstanding 26-5 record at 195 after going 36-34 over his first three seasons.

“Joe has been a fun athlete to work with,” Mickelson said. “He’s just a hard worker and I believe that he finally believed this year he could get the job done, and he qualified for the state tournament, one of his goals. Unfortunately, it didn’t end like we both had planned, but he will be missed in the room.”

Hofbauer won a RRC championship and finished the year with 58 takedowns and 29 pins.

Jim Chism (170), Tim Lang (126), Sam Andrews (220) and Joe Jordan (152) were Ballard’s other senior competitors this season.

Chism went 23-15 and won both a RRC and sectional title before placing third at districts. He recorded 40 takedowns and 11 pins.

“I felt Jim was going to punch his ticket to state this year,” Mickelson said. “He was wrestling really well at the end of the year, but came up just short. He battled some small injuries, but always was there — working hard.”

Lang went 20-23. He had 13 pins and 33 takedowns.

“Tim is an athlete that was back in the varsity lineup this year after not being there last year,” Mickelson said. “Tim was always in the room, working and wanting to learn and spent time working on things that would help with technique.”

Andrews finished 21-12 with 36 takedowns. He also scored eight wins by fall.

“Sam Andrews is an athlete that started late in the sport, but grew tremendously through the years,” Mickelson said. He’s a strong athlete and an exceptional worker in the room and was a major contributor to the team.”

Jordan went 6-10 with 12 takedowns and one win by fall.

“Joe was another athlete that started late in the game,” Mickelson said. “Joe is a competitor and was always willing to do what was asked and stepped up when needed.”

Reese Broer (120), Mason Askelsen (182), Alex Bangs (138 and 145), Rylee Davidson (285), Chris Lee (113), Wyatt Borg (145 and 152) and Gavin Estabrooks (138) were Ballard’s other regular varsity competitors.

“Our biggest challenges this year I believe was our inexperience,” Mickelson said. “Although we had a few seniors in the lineup, we had a lot of wrestlers that stepped into the lineup without a lot of mat experience. We also had several injuries and dealt with some skin issues during the middle of the season.”

“I think our biggest growth occurred more in the mental side,” Mickelson said. “The athletes started to believe that they could compete, even though they didn’t have the experience. There is a lot of potential, they just have to work hard and realize it and turn the potential into reality next year.”

Broer went 25-18 with 59 takedowns and eight pins and Askelsen 23-17 with nine pins and 49 takedowns during their sophomore seasons. Both wrestlers made it all the way to districts.

Bangs was 22-26 in his junior year with 41 takedowns and 10 pins. He also qualified for districts.

Davidson compiled a 19-20 record with 15 wins by fall in his junior season. Lee was 17-19 with nine pins as a freshman, Borg 15-24 with 11 falls as a sophomore and Estabrooks earned eight wins with four pins as a junior.

Sophomore Elijah Moore added six wins at 106, freshman Nate Nessa was 7-2 at 160 as a freshman, filling in when Noftsger took some time off for a knee injury, and sophomore Jack Chism tallied four victories wrestling primarily at 182.

Next season the Bombers will miss its strong senior class. Bu they will have more overall experience, led by a returning state qualifier in Long.

“I believe we have a bright future,” Mickelson said. “We made some huge improvements all through the year. If they can continue to improve and work during the off season, I look for good things to happen. I think all the underclassmen who competed on varsity should continue to grow and make huge improvements next year. We have some incoming freshmen that have been working hard in their off season already that could step up and contribute as well.”