West Delaware solidified its reputation as one of Iowa’s top wrestling programs in 2019, winning the Class 2A Dual and Traditional Tournament championships along with head coach Jeff Voss and his staff earning Class 2A Coaching Staff of the Year recognition.
A season that started with a tremendous amount of promise and optimism saw the Hawks go 18-3 in dual competition, sweeping their way to regional dual wins over Washington (84-0) and Camanche (75-6) — earning the top-seed in Des Moines — before beating Sergeant Bluff-Luton (58-20), Crestwood (51-28) and WaMaC rival Solon (45-12) at Wells Fargo Arena to claim the dual team state championship.
West Delaware won the WaMaC title at Van Horne, followed up with a dominant sectional win in Manchester, and qualified eight wrestlers for the traditional tournament in Des Moines at the district meet at Central DeWitt — Ryan Phillips (132), Jadyn Peyton (138), Cael Meyer (145), Mitchel Mangold (152), Wyatt Voelker (170), Jack Neuhaus (182), Jordan Bries (195) and Carson Petlon (285).
Seven of the eight state qualifiers made the award stand — with all eight contributing team points as the Hawks won without the benefit of a top-three finisher. Phillips, Peyton and Voelker led the way with fourth-place finishes, Mangold and Petlon were fifth, and Meyer and Neuhaus earned eighth place medals. Bries won his opener before bowing out in second-round consolation action.
“I could tell the first week of practice that our work ethic was equal to the size of the goals this team had,” said Voss. “Setting goals and having a vision of where our team wants to go is easy. Putting the work into achieving something great is another thing. I knew right away that the work ethic was there to achieve something special without knowing exactly where this team would go.”
A good deal of that work ethic was a reflection of the leadership shown by an outstanding senior class, according to Voss.
“The senior class had an impact the first year they came into the room as freshmen. They were multi-sport athletes and showed progress in all their sports as they went through high school,” said Voss. “They were instrumental in building the ‘We before Me’ part of our team culture. They were not all in the varsity lineup their senior year, however, they were great teammates and cared about every member of the team. They showed great perseverance, humility in victory and dignity in loss. They held themselves and their teammates to a high standard for effort and maintained a great attitude when facing adversity.”
Voss knows another big reason for the success of his program is the outstanding coaching staff he has assembled.
“We are very blessed to have a great coaching staff — starting at the middle school level, “ Voss said. “Kevin Harbaugh has been coaching for 33 years and Doug Engel for 10 years. They do a great job getting kids involved in wrestling and teaching them the techniques and attitude we expect at the high school level.”
“The high school staff has been together for a long time — Kris Lenz 34 years, Scott Litterer 27 years, Pat Phillips 17 years, Mitch Peyton 12 years, Dale Meyer 12 years, Brian Klaus two years and Jason White, Adam Reth and Brent Lammers one year,” said Voss, “Having past wrestlers come back and give back to the program is very rewarding. Mitch, Brian, Adam and Brent all went through our program as wrestlers and are great ambassadors of what we expect in our program. Our entire staff has one goal — to help our wrestlers become great wrestlers and great men.”
Voss and his staff focused on building and maintaining a positive team culture throughout the season, and the dividends were huge.
“We emphasized holding each other accountable to a high standard in practice and competition. We stressed caring about improvement, making others around them better and how each wrestler’s performance in practice and meets impacts the team,” Voss said. “Our motto was ‘We before Me.’ Our wrestlers really bought into working together toward a common goal.”
Returning 11 starters and five individual state qualifiers for the 2019-20 season, there is reason to believe this year is only the beginning at West Delaware.
“Our team loses six quality wrestlers and individuals off this year’s team — Ryan Phillips, Daniel Woods, Mitchel Mangold, Jordan Bries, Ben Ridenour and Kody Wenger — however, we have 11 quality starters coming back and several JV wrestlers who would have been in the lineup of a lot of other teams,” Voss said. “How good we will be next year depends on the vision each wrestler has for himself. High goals require a work ethic that matches that vision.”
“They need to earn it. They can do that by improving in the weight room, participating in other sports, and finding time to refine their skills on the mat. The more they commit to their vision, the greater the gains we will see before next November, and that will result in a team that can achieve great things.”