One group was dominated by youth, the other led by seniors, but together the Central DeWitt and Northeast wrestling teams accomplished something that had not been done in over a decade.
With Sabers junior Keaton Zeimet bringing home a second straight third-place finish in Class 2A and Rebels senior Ty Schmidt taking eighth in 1A, both Observer-area squads were represented on the awards stand for the first time since 2009.
Now, the challenge will be to repeat the feat much sooner that the last time.
The return of both of Central DeWitt’s state qualifiers will be a big help.
Zeimet became the first Saber to medal in three different state meets, part of a momentous junior campaign that also saw him win his 100th match and set the program record for career pins.
The 113-pounder’s 41 victories are tied for the third-most in one season and he currently sits fifth all-time in career victories with another season left to go.
Joining Zeimet in Des Moines was fellow junior Cole Miller.
The 285-pounder surged late in the season, winning his first varsity tournament at the 2A sectional meet and then his second a week later at the district meet — finishing things with his 21st fall — to qualify for state.
Joining Miller and Zeimet is a whole host of returnees as just a single senior, Jeff Fuller, saw varsity action this year (an injury prevented a second senior, Matthew Roling, from joining Fuller in the lineup).
That includes five 20-match winners this winter.
Junior Robert Howard, a two-time district qualifier, was second on the team with 32 victories, and sits just 14 wins away from 100 career victories.
Sophomores Cael Grell and Carter Donovan brought home 27 and 25 victories, respectively, and each led the team in a category — nearfalls for the former, reversals for the latter.
Sophomore Mitchell Howard had 23 wins in his first extended varsity action, while Koal Bossom had 21 wins and led the team with 27 escapes.
All told, the Sabers are set to return a whopping 18 wrestlers who saw action in at least five varsity matches this year.
Northeast says goodbye to three senior starters
It proved to be a February to remember for Schmidt in his final campaign with the Rebels.
The 170-pounder opened the month by becoming just the second Northeast wrestler to bring home a River Valley Conference championship, and he did it by pinning his way to the title.
A week later, Schmidt earned a second-place finish at the 1A sectional meet to advance to the district meet for a second straight year.
There, Schmidt wrapped up another second-place finish to become the program’s first state qualifier since 2012.
And the senior was still not done making history. Schmidt bounced back from a first-round setback in Des Moines to win his next two bouts, with the latter victory — in overtime, no less — clinching the Rebels’ first state medal since 2010.
Schmidt is one of three senior starters in the upper weights who are set to depart.
Schmidt led the Rebels with 31 victories, 21 of them coming by fall, while also pacing the team with 54 takedowns, eight reversals and 13 nearfalls.
Senior 285-pounder Peyton McLane brought home 22 victories of his own with 12 falls, 27 takedowns and 25 escapes.
Senior Cody Ploog chipped in 14 victories, completed 34 takedowns and led the team with 31 escapes.
The Rebels will look to ease the trio’s absence with continued development from some new faces.
Junior Jace Rathje won 19 matches in his first varsity campaign, finishing second on the team behind Schmidt with 40 takedowns.
Freshman Zayd Evans showed the ability to rack up plenty of points — he had a pair of technical falls and had 12 nearfalls in his 14 matches — while junior Maclane Murrell and freshman Daniel Rowland will look to build on the 28 combined varsity matches they had this winter.