STATE WRESTLING: AGWSR’s Meinders sets bar as a sophomore

DES MOINES – The AGWSR coaching staff spent the days leading up to the Iowa High School State Wrestling Championships preparing sophomore 195-pounder Clay Meinders for nothing more than his first-round match against Panorama’s Taylor Hein.

Meinders finally heeded those lessons when it determined where he would stand on the podium.

The school’s first sophomore placewinner in 27 years, Meinders made good on his second opportunity against Hein and scored an 8-5 decision in the seventh-place match of Class 1A on Saturday at Wells Fargo Arena.

Meinders survived his opening-round loss by fall to the Panorama senior – in 54 seconds, no less – and endured the back side of the bracket to become the school’s first sophomore placewinner since Brian Benning took second at 167 for Ackley-Geneva in 1986.

“I knew I needed to keep working my butt off, my goal was placing, (and) it feels great,” Meinders said after the triumphant rematch. “You don’t want to end the season with a loss, that will haunt you the whole year.”

He finished 3-2 in his tournament debut, 38-9 for the season and satisfied a need for revenge after letting his first-round bout with Hein (39-13) get away from him. Meinders’ double-leg takedown attempt during Thursday’s opening round turned out to be ill-fated as Panorama’s two-time state qualifier countered correctly and put AGWSR’s lone state entrant on his back.

Two days later, Meinders got what he was looking for – another shot at Hein.

“I was hoping I’d get a chance to see him again,” he said. “The whole plan was to beat him in the first round. I think I overlooked him, that was my first mistake.

“I’m happy with how it turned out. Things could have been different either way if I’d beat him the first time.”

The gameplan for facing Hein was to wrestle for the long haul, hoping to get deep into the match. Meinders never got that chance on Thursday, but he displayed better patience the second time around and went into the second period trailing 2-1.

A reversal and two near-fall points in the second period gave Meinders the lead for good, and Hein had nothing left in his tank late in the third when facing a three-point deficit.

“We knew (Meinders) was going to have some butterflies that first-round match,” said AGWSR coach Chad Gerbracht. “That happened, then he recovered.

“I wasn’t worried one bit. That was the match we prepared for all week. He weathered the storm in the first period, his composure was real good.”

Meinders is AGWSR’s first placewinner since senior Evan Johnson took fifth at 189 in 2011, while also becoming the Cougars’ first sophomore to win a match at state since Jacob Schwebke had a 1-2 showing at 125 pounds in 2006.

Schwebke went on to become a two-time placewinner at state. Meinders could be the program’s first three-time medalist since Benning took second, third and first from 1986-1988.

“This is just a starting point,” Gerbracht said. “We’re not satisfied. We know Clay could make it higher than (seventh) the next two years.”