DES MOINES — Matt Ohnemus has run out of superlatives.
And that is understandable, the Central DeWitt wrestling coach has had to use a lot of them over the past four years.
Fortunately, Central DeWitt senior Keaton Zeimet’s accolades on the wrestling mat speak for themselves.
Zeimet capped his sensational prep career with one more piece of history Saturday morning, knocking off Benton’s Jaiden Moore by an 11-5 decision to earn third-place at 120 pounds at the 2A state wrestling meet.
It was the third straight year in which Zeimet finished third, accomplishing the feat in three different weight-classes: 106 as a sophomore, 113 as a junior and 120 as a senior.
Add in a fifth-place finish as a freshman and Zeimet has four state medals to his name, another program-first.
“What more can you say about Keaton that hasn’t been said?” Ohnemus asked. “At this point, four years in, you run out of superlatives to describe the type of wrestler, the person and the impact he has had on our program.”
After Zeimet’s victory over Moore — the two had previously met in Central DeWitt’s first tournament of the winter with Zeimet grabbing a 4-2 win, this time the Saber used two takedowns and three sets of nearfalls to build an 11-2 lead and never looked back — he leapt into Ohnemus’ arms for a hug.
Zeimet called it a release of four years of emotion and energy. Both wrestler and coach wished the moment would have come later that Saturday evening in the 2A finals, but the Saber dropped a hard-fought 4-2 decision to second-seeded and top-ranked McKinley Robbins of Greene County a night earlier.
Zeimet came close to a takedown in a scoreless first period and it was Robbins who struck first with a reversal in the second period. Zeimet earned an escape and, choosing bottom to start the third period, picked up another one to tie the match at two.
It was Robbins, however, who broke the tie, scoring the deciding takedown and making it hold up for a two-point victory. The undefeated sophomore would win the state title a night later, toppling Notre Dame-West Burlington-Danville’s Blaine Frazier — the only other grappler to get the better of Zeimet this season — with a 7-5 decision.
“Robbins was tough,” Ohnemus said. “[He] held position well and fended off Keaton’s offense just enough.
“The kid went on to win the state championship, and in my mind — on some other night, perhaps — Keaton could have done that too. But being in the finals just wasn’t meant to be.”
As tough as the setback was — “it was tougher emotionally since I knew it was my last year,” Zeimet explained — the Saber was ready to go Saturday morning to finish his career right.
“All I said was ‘What do you think, should we go do this thing one more time?’” Ohnemus said. “He looked at me and said ‘yeah, let’s.” I knew right then and there it would be a bad day to be someone else wrestling him that morning.”
Case in point, Zeimet opened his Saturday with his quickest match of the tournament, pinning Ethan Follmann — an eventual top-five finisher — of Atlantic-CAM in just 35 seconds.
It was the last of three bonus-point victories for Zeimet, who cruised into the semifinals behind a technical fall and a pin.
The senior was impressive in both bouts: he picked up a takedown just 28 seconds into his first-round match with Clear Lake’s Max Currier, then spent the remainder of the first period putting the Lion on his back. In all, Zeimet recorded four three-point nearfalls to take a 14-0 lead into the second period before ultimately earning the technical fall with a final takedown.
That sent Zeimet into the quarterfinals against a familiar foe — Rylie Anderson of Bondurant-Farrar. The two had met in each of the previous two state meets with Zeimet scoring a pair of decisions.
An early takedown for Anderson set the table for another close encounter between the two, but Zeimet had none of that, answering Anderson’s takedown with one of his own and turning it into a fall, just 84 seconds into the match — “It was like a flip switched,” Ohnemus said.
The pin was the 112th of Zeimet’s career, while Saturday’s fall made the final number, 113 — if you counted just the victories Zeimet ended with pins, it would be tied as the eighth-most wins in program history — while the final decision over Moore was the Saber’s 40th victory of the season and the 163rd of his career.
“He has lifted the bar so incredibly high for our program,” Ohnemus said. “For years to come, kids will be aspiring to do the kinds of things that Keaton has done for the Sabers.”
And that impact extends beyond the many victories.
“It will be really hard to say goodbye to him,” the Sabers head coach said. “As a wrestler, person and leader of this program.
“He leaves the program so much better than he found it and Saber wrestling is far better for having had Keaton come through our program.”