STATE WRESTLING: Meinders improves state standing with bronze

DES MOINES – AGWSR junior Clay Meinders doesn’t always do things by the book. He sometimes prefers to freelance his way around the mat.

Holding a lead against 10th-ranked Matt Fett of Audubon, Meinders tried a suicide cradle and the move nearly backfired. Moments later, the Cougar junior pulled Fett to the mat, collected three more back points and that ended up being enough to lock up the 12-7 win and a bronze medal at 220 pounds at the Iowa High School State Wrestling Championships at Wells Fargo Arena on Saturday.

“I was totally against it,” said AGWSR coach Chad Gerbracht of Meinders’ decision to try to the suicide cradle with a lead. “Sometimes you need to pull it out of the bag, but you usually don’t do that when you’re ahead. We wanted to play it safer with this one. He was pretty comfortable on the bottom and was able to score some big back points though.”

Meinders (42-2) admitted after the win that trying the cradle with a 7-4 lead wasn’t the smartest decision, but was happy he came out with the win regardless.

“I was pretty scared,” said Meinders of being turned to his back. “That’s why it’s called the suicide cradle I guess. I thought it was there. Obviously it wasn’t, and I will probably be hearing about it from coach the rest of the night and probably until the next season, too.”

Meinders went 2-0 on the day to lock up third place and his only losses of the year came to Fort Dodge St. Edmond senior Vinnie Harvey. Harvey beat Meinders, who is ranked No. 4, by fall earlier in the season but managed just a 3-0 win in Friday’s semifinals.

Meinders was seventh at 195 last season and came into the weekend hoping for a top-three finish. Now that he can cross that goal off his list, the AGWSR junior wants to go for it all in his final season next year. He’s already the highest finisher to ever don an AGWSR singlet.

“It feels great. My goal was at least top three and getting the goal feels really good,” said Meinders. “I knew it would be a tough one last night but I was 3-0 otherwise. I wanted that win but today was a new day and I had an opportunity to take home third so I took advantage of it and was able to do it.”

He started off the day with a win over No. 3 Travis VanderStreek of Central Lyon in the consolation semifinals. The match was scoreless after one period and VanderStreek’s escape early in the second gave him a 1-0 lead.

That’s when Meinders went to the ground game, taking control from the top position before eventually putting VanderStreek (45-6) on his back for the pin.

“He did a great job. He came in focused. He’s had some good matches down here. It’s a tough tournament,” said Gerbracht. “He lives for these kinds of tournaments. He doesn’t get real rattled.”

It was an unusual run for Meinders, who admitted Saturday morning that he hadn’t taken a single shot the entire tournament. Normally that doesn’t result in a third-place finish, but Meinders is good enough on the mat that he still managed to score points and ultimately returned home with a top medal.

“He has some moves that we didn’t see down here. He has a duck-under that we didn’t see,” Gerbracht said. “He has a back-side carry. I told him to try that stuff but sometimes the other guy just doesn’t give you what you want. He created some opportunities though.”

Fett (48-10) grabbed an early 2-0 lead in the third-place match. Meinders got away just before the first period expired to score an escape point but nearly got the two-point reversal.

Meinders used that little window of momentum to his advantage and, after starting on the bottom, got away from Fett with a reversal and was given an additional point for locked hands. Then, two three-point near-fall situations put the victory on ice. Meinders was warned for stalling late in the match, but that was a move he could afford to make with a five-point lead.

“It felt good. Knowing that I could get out that fast gave me a lot of confidence going into the second period,” Meinders said of his ability to get around Fett for the reversal. “When you get ahead you don’t want to do anything stupid, but you don’t want to stall it all out. I think I did a little of both of those. It ended up being good.”

Meinders has one year left to climb even further up the podium steps. And he is making it very clear that the next time he walks toward the medal stand, he wants to stroll all the way to the top.

“It feels good this year, but why make third (the highest finish ever at AGSWR) when I can make it first,” said Meinders.

Notebook

Harvey ended up losing 4-3 to top-ranked Ryan Parmely of Maquoketa Valley in the championship match. VanderStreek wound up fifth as he beat Lawton-Bronson’s Blake Sappingfield, 5-2. Guthrie Center’s Cale Crowder beat Alburnett’s Robbie Carrothers, 8-2, in the seventh-place match.