Bomber grapplers turn in another successful season: Ballard goes 17-9, qualifies four for state

Joe Randleman
Tri-County Times
Gage Long capped an outstanding career with a 37-10 record at 138 pounds and his third-straight trip to state for the Ballard wrestling team in 2020-2021. Long was one of four Bombers to qualify for state this season under first-year coach Casey Christensen.

The Ballard wrestling team turned in another winning season in dual competition and also produced two placewinners at the state tournament in 2020-2021. 

The Bombers followed up last year’s 20-4 season with a 17-9 dual record this winter under first-year coach Casey Christensen. The Bombers took fifth as a team at the Raccoon River Conference meet and placed second at the 2A sectional meet in Knoxville. 

Ballard advanced five wrestlers to the district meet in Adel. From there four wrestlers went on to state – a big improvement from the one grappler the Bombers sent to Des Moines a year ago. 

At state Ballard had two wrestlers earn a spot on the medal stand.  

“I was very pleased with the leadership of our upperclassmen and the development of our younger guys,” Christensen said. “Many wrestlers made nice strides and will be ready to help lead next year. We had a great dual season and were able to do well in individual tournaments as well.” 

Every team in the state had to deal with the uncertainty of COVID-19 to start the season. A rise in cases during November threatened several tournaments and duals and kept everyone on edge, but the Bombers persevered and ended up making it through the season in fairly good shape. 

“This was a constant battle and required us to be vigilant every day,” Christensen said. “I was very proud of the kids for taking it seriously. As a result we were able to have every scheduled event.” 

The silver lining in dealing with COVID is that it helped make Ballard tougher mentally. That is the area of growth Christensen was most pleased with. 

“We have a ways to go on technique,” Christensen said. “But I feel our team understood that we need to fight every match out there on the mat and believe we can win.”   

Christensen was happy with the development he saw in several of his wrestlers. 

“While we had many team accomplishments, like beating many 3A teams in duals and finishing second at the South Hardin tournament and sectionals, I feel some of the best highlights were guys like Lane Kahler learning how to win tough matches,” Christensen said. “Also, Luke Hartsook getting tougher on top, Reese Broer taking down Drake Ayala, Gabriel Christensen getting a state medal as a sophomore, Jayden Swain stepping in at varsity and winning a match, having Nick Wacha earn a trip to state after only two years on the mat and watching a guy like Wyatt Borg cradle up yet another opponent.” 

Senior Mason Askelsen, Gabe Christensen, Gage Long and Wacha were the four Bombers to qualify for state. 

Askelsen and Christensen both placed seventh at state in their first ever appearance on the big stage. 

Askelsen made state for the first time as a senior. He was undefeated during the regular season and ended up 31-2 with 63 takedowns and 18 pins at 195 pounds. 

“I think Mason Askelsen had a memorable year,” Coach Christensen said. “He only had two losses and they were at state and one was to the state champ.  He was so mentally strong and I felt the other kids learned by watching him.  He was a huge positive.”  

Gabe Christensen went 39-8 at 160 as a sophomore. Christensen was the team’s lone RRC individual champion as well as a sectional and district champion and he finished with 66 takedowns and 19 pins. 

Long made state for the third year in a row. An eighth-place finisher at 132 as a sophomore, Long wrestled at 138 as a senior and went 37-10 with a 1-2 record at state and a total of 21 pins and 71 takedowns.  

Wacha was a surprise entrant at state after starting the season as a JV wrestler. He was 15-11 with 11 falls and went 0-2 at state wrestling at 220 as a junior. 

Broer made districts for Ballard after winning a sectional title. He went 22-20 at 132 with 15 takedowns and eight pins. 

Borg, Hartsook, Kahler and Jeremiah Wilkinson also topped 20 victories for Ballard. Borg finished 21-13 with 17 pins and takedowns apiece at 145, Hartsook 22-19 with 33 takedowns and 17 pins at 120, Kahler 21-22 with 17 pins and 38 takedowns at 126 and Wilkinson 21-17 with 25 takedowns and 19 falls at 170. 

Senior Jack Chism was 18-12 with 22 takedowns and 16 falls wrestling primarily at 220. Junior Blake Fleischmann was 15-21 with 20 takedowns and 12 pins at 152 and sophomore Landon Broer 12-10 with 15 takedowns and eight pins at 106. 

Brady Ehresman was 16-14 13 takedowns and nine pins as a senior at 285. Jack Shepherd won seven matches at 113 as a sophomore, Nicholas Onstot had three wins at 106 as a freshman, senior Thomas Locker 6-6 at 195 and Thomsen Harrison 6-7 at 145. 

“Having Nic Onstott win some matches and fill a needed hole at 106 was great,” Coach Christensen said. “Brady Ehresman was able to stay healthy and just missed out on a trip to state.” 

Next season Ballard loses Long, Askelsen, Reese Broer, Chism, Borg, Wilkinson, Locker, Ehresman and Cory Hennick. But the Bombers bring back Gabe Christensen, Wacha, Fleischmann, Landon Broer, Kahler and Hartsook and that gives them a solid core to build around for 2021-2022. 

“We look to continue to have a full line-up,” Coach Christensen said. “We have a very solid group of eight graders coming in the room, however they were not allowed to have a wrestling season, so we will have to display patience with them.  Many may step into the line-up as freshmen. We have a solid group of returning wrestlers, especially in the upper weights.”