Returning to the mats with a letter for the 2019-20 season are (front, l-r) Garret Lovstuen, Cael Gulrud, Dawson Headington, Austin Wilkins; (back) Caden Keck, Elijah Mitchell, Dawson Palmer, Nate Rolfs and Jackson Rolfs. Not pictured is Kyzer Engen. (Photo by Becky Walz)
Returning to the mats with a letter for the 2019-20 season are (front, l-r) Garret Lovstuen, Cael Gulrud, Dawson Headington, Austin Wilkins; (back) Caden Keck, Elijah Mitchell, Dawson Palmer, Nate Rolfs and Jackson Rolfs. Not pictured is Kyzer Engen. (Photo by Becky Walz)

There’s a strong core of athletes to build a team around for the Decorah wrestling program as Viking alum Lee Fullhart steps in to lead the squad for his first season.

Fullhart replaces Jeff Freidhof who retired after 19 years in the program as an assistant and head coach. A three-time state champion for Decorah, a four-time All-American at the University of Iowa and a NCAA champion at 190 pounds, the new coach is ready to see what the Vikings can do on the mats. He will be assisted by Gene Adams, Matt Simon, Paul Snell, Bob Holkesvik and Bruce Sacquitne.

Different finish

For the 2018-19 season, Decorah had 16 letter winners, three with 30-plus wins. For the year, the Vikes put together a dual meet mark of 9-10. In dual standings in the Northeast Iowa Conference, they finished fifth and on tournament day finished stronger in fourth with one champion and one runner-up.

The Vikings hosted the Class 2A Sectional 10 meet, with four grapplers finishing in the top-two to move on to the district meet. Junior Jackson Rolfs (132) won a sectional title while the trio of Austin Wilkins (106), Dawson Palmer (182) and Andy Murphy (195) were runners-up.

Keeping the dream of being a state champion alive, three Decorah grapplers punched tickets to the state meet at the Class 2A District 5 meet at Independence. Advancing to the big stage as champion was J. Rolfs, while Palmer and Murphy finished runner-up.

Murphy finished his senior campaign with a seventh-place finish at state and a season mark of 31-16 with 15 falls.

Graduating after the season were Luke Dieschbourg, Mikel Fullhart, Brendan Lovstuen, Mason Heim, Murphy and Daniel Schwartzhoff. 

Looking to

The Vikings return 10 letter winners this season, starting with their four with postseason experience.

At 132 pounds a year ago, Jackson Rolfs dominated the NEIC, sectional and district meets to earn his ticket to state before hitting No. 1 Eric Faught in the quarterfinals to finish the season 35-8. He enters his junior campaign with an overall record of 66-17 with 42 falls.

Dawson Palmer earned his first trip to state as a junior, going 30-15 at 180 pounds. He looks to improve on his career mark of 56-54 with 38 falls.

Returning as a district qualifier from a year ago is sophomore Austin Wilkins (120) with a 22-18 record which includes 11 pins.

Kyzer Engen (152) was a state qualifier during the 2017-18 season at 113 pounds and fell short of a repeat trip to Wells Fargo Arena last year, finishing the season at the sectional meet with a 19-15 season record and a career mark of 80-33.

Others back with a letter include juniors Dawson Headington (160 lbs., 2-8 for the ’18-’19 record), Garrett Lovstuen (160/170 lbs., 8-12), Nate Rolfs (160/170 lbs., 3-14), Cael Gulrud (182 lbs. 3-10); and seniors Cade Keck (285 lbs., 7-17) and Eli Mitchell (195 lbs., 19-17).

“As a coaching staff, we feel that we can make a lot of progress throughout the season and wrestle our best at the end of the season,” said Coach Fullhart. “We have a great group of guys who are working very hard in the wrestling room and in the weight room who are excited to get out on the mat and compete. We will focus on improving every day as team. If we do that, the results will take care of themselves.”

Promising newcomers to the program include junior Knute Hovden who will wrestle at 113 pounds for the Vikings in his first year of competition. With a tremendous amount of experience, freshman Brady Stille looks to compete at 138 pounds, while fellow freshman Ben Wymer will grapple at 132 pounds.

Others on roster include seniors Nils Holkesvik, Parker Monroe, Shurkurillo Ergashov; juniors Kody Bodensteiner, Xavier Chloupek, Isiah Duffield, Brandon Gulrud, Parker Hubka, Matthew Jensen; sophomores Keaton Boydston, Landan Folkedahl, Landen Marlow, Oskar Paulson, Caleb Peel; and freshmen Ethan Folkedahl, Erik Hjelle, Corbyn Palmer and Lane Rolfs.

In the league

When it comes to the Northeast Iowa Conference, things could shake out a multitude of ways. Early on, Fullhart sees Waverly-Shell Rock as the front runner.

“We feel the conference will be very competitive with a number of competitive teams and individual wrestlers,” added the new head coach.

Girls’ league

As the number of girls interested in wrestling continues to grow, so are the opportunities as Decorah High School agreed to form a High School Wrestling Club at its November meeting.

Currently, female wrestling is not a sanctioned sport with the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union (IGHSAU); however, the support is there. 

The DHS girls wrestling club currently has 12 girls learning the sport under the direction of volunteer coaches Matt Simon, Bob Holkesvik and Paige Hageman. The girls’ club will wrestle its own schedule, including tournaments at Waverly-Shell Rock, Central Elkader and Independence. The season will end with the girls’ state tournament Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 24-25, at Waverly-Shell Rock.