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Redhawks continue shaping their own program

December 4, 2019
CJ Eilers - Editor ( , Traer Star-Clipper

2018-19 Dual Record: 13-11

Head Coach: Andrew Knaack

Last season for North Tama wrestling marked the first year the Redhawks had been independent in 25 years. Led by Andrew Knaack, a North Tama Alumni and two-time national qualifier at Wartburg College, the Redhawks achieved individual and team success early in the 2018-19 season. Five wrestlers for the program would finish with 20+ wins, yet no one was able to qualify for an individual State berth.

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"Last year was a fun experience that grew our program," Knaack said. "The big area I noticed was in our little kids program. We were up 10 kids last season. "We lost some kids in junior high, so don't have any new eighth graders that came up. However, we got a few new kids out. Kids last year learned more about me and what I expect. Many who didn't have success in the past had a taste last year. Now they'll build off of that to compete."

Chase and Tyler Morrison, each a win away from State last season, have graduated from North Tama along with Zade Podhajsky. The Redhawks will be a younger team this season with only two seniors in Cory Isenhower (26-12) at 170 lbs and Zane Nelson (13-13) at 132 lbs.

"We don't have five or six seniors on this team, but two in Cory and Zane," Knaack said. "There's a large group of juniors who know what I expect. Most played football this past season, so they know what success is to build off of. I'm hoping to fill 11 of the 14 weights. We don't have any small enough 106 lbs. Being able to fill that many weights will help a small school like us have a successful season."

One major difference to this season will be starting off with a familiar face in Knaack, who took over the program last year after the split from Gladbrook-Reinbeck.

"I didn't see the split coming last year and I was skeptical about it," Nelson said. "Knaack made it an awesome program for me and the other wrestlers. I enjoy it now. Overall, we are in better shape compared to the start of last year. We've all become better people and better wrestlers."

North Tama will look to Nelson for an improved season this year, yet will also get the benefit of younger wrestlers such as Nathan Kucera, Logan Rausch and Xander Bradley growing in the previous season.

"Cory can build off his 26 wins last year and I'm looking at younger kids like Logan, Nathan and Jay Hill to step up their roles," Knaack said. "The freshman who saw the mat last year will see their role expand. Xander Bradley will take a big step. Jay didn't get to wrestle for us until Sectionals and he's a big, athletic kid for us."

After placing third at Sectionals last season, junior Noah Weber will also be asked to improve off his 21-10 record and transfer his success at running back in football over to wrestling.

"I plan to push myself hard in every practice, to be the best I can be," Weber said. "Coach is telling me to be smarter, not giving up good position or extra points. I love wrestling because it's an individual sport. I know my hard work will pay off this season if I'm more offensive this season."

The Redhawks will play a busier schedule this season that kicks off with a trip to second-ranked Union and against Aplington-Parkersburg. North Tama will also face off against larger schools such as New Hampton, Waterloo West, South Tama, Des Moines Lincoln and others throughout the 2019-20 campaign

"Union is loaded and it's something to come out of the gate against the best team in 2A in my opinion," Knaack said. "We'll learn off that and continue to grow. We'll see big schools and then have two home tournaments to see new competition. It's not easy knowing we're wrestling some of the best teams in the State this season."

North Tama will also host two tournaments this season after drawing enthusiastic crowds back for home tournament and duals last year.

"It was crazy last year to see all the support we got at our first home meet," Nelson said. "It helped us get through the season and we really enjoyed the crowd."

With year one behind and the second season ahead, Knaack hopes to advance the Redhawks to more success in terms of dual wins and get wrestlers to the State tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines in late February.

"The goal every year to get someone to the State tournament and I'm hopefully we can two or three guys their this year," Knaack said. "My goal starts with getting this program there and then placement in the tournament."

North Tama will open their season at Union against the Knights and A-P on Thursday, Dec. 5 before their first tournament at Jesup on Saturday, Dec. 7.



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