The first domino to fall for A-W came at 152 pounds as Class 1A No. 4-ranked John Sievert - on the rebound after suffering only his second loss of the season in the semfinals - defeated A/G-H's Bryce Dean by 16-9 major decision.
Then came arguabely A-W's biggest win of the tournament as seventh-ranked David Hecht pulled out a heartstopping 6-4 overtime decision victory over A/G-H's 2A No. 6-ranked Brian Borchers. The win vaulted the Westerners into first place by 5.5 points and avenged Hecht's only loss of the season - an 8-6 defeat dealt by Borchers at the Aurelia tournament Jan. 6.
Holding the lead for the first time during the two-day event, A-W needed only to avoid losing by fall at heavyweight to secure the team title. Eighth-ranked David Ericson left nothing to chance, scoring an 8-0 major decision win over A/G-H's Adam Dreeszen to give the Westerners both their third champion of the tournament and the team title over runner-up A/G-H 169.5-159.
Screenwriters couldn't have scripted a better finish for the Westerners in what is regarded as one of the premier tournaments in the state of Iowa, according to coach Mark VanOort.
"I have never seen a tournament as big as BCIG come down to the final match at heavyweight to decide the team title. Going into the final round, we were down 6-10 points and to come out on top by 10.5 - it's a really great feeling," said VanOort. "These boys deserve a pat on the back. I have never felt a team pull together the way they did to bring this championship home to Akron. And not only did we hopefully open some eyes in northwest Iowa, but in the whole state."
It most certainly did, considering the fact that A-W bested the 23-team field without No. 1-ranked Marshall Koethe participating in the tournament. Koethe's absence called the Westerners' preseason goal of winning the tournament into question - but only outside their camp.
"At the beginning of the year, out team set a goal to win the BCIG tournament. Withouth Marshall, we had talked about it Thursday in practice and asked if they wanted to reevaluate the goal," said VanOort. "They said, 'Heck no.' We weren't willing to sacrifice our goal for the lack of one person."
So without Koethe, it became even more of a team effort. Of the 13 wrestlers A-W took to the tournament, seven placed while five of the remaining six combined to earn 12 points.
"We had our frontrunners that - for the most part - ended up in the top three. But it didn't boil down to them. They ended up where we thought they'd be," said VanOort. "It was a total team win. Without those 12 points, we don't win this tournament."
A-W's 'frontrunners' included three champions on the day in fourth-ranked Chad Morehead at 160, Hecht and Ericson.
Morehead - the top seed - worked his way into the finals with a pin of Sergeant Bluff-Luton's Bo Solari in 3:05, an 8-3 decision of Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn's Jerod Letsche and a 16-8 major decision of Woodbury Central's Josiah McCoy. In the finals he ran into Battle Creek-Ida Grove/Odebolt-Arthur's Michael Eason and trailed for much of the match, but overcame a late deficit with an escape and takedown before pinning Eason with four seconds left in the match.
"Chad's finals match is what gave us teh spark that propelled us into first place," said VanOort. "It gave us the lead by 1.5 points and sometimes it doesn't matter if you're winning ugly. He didn't wrestle his best match and still came out with a victory."
Hecht's thrilling title-match victory over Borchers soon followed, capping a tournament that also included a pin of Westwood's Derek Frahm (4:57), a major decision of Pocahontas Area's Tom Brinkman (10-2) and a pin of Wall Lake View Auburn's Brandon Aschinger (1:38). It was Hecht's win over Borchers that ultimately set A-W up for the team title.
"Basically we didn't have a lot of points to play with. For David to win that match, we felt pretty dang good going into our final two weights," said VanOort. "And in my opinion, it was the best finals match of the tournament. There were a lot of shots taken and a lot of action."
Ericson capped the team title with his win over Dreeszen at heavyweight, improving on an eighth-place finish at last year's edition of the BCIG tournament. Ericson pinned his way into the finals with falls over Okoboji's Dustin Schwaller (:25), West Lyon's Darrin Koedam (:57) and Woodbury Central's Lucas Ploen (4:21).
Four other wrestlers missed out on capturing titles, but found their way onto the podium for A-W. 10th-ranked Brody Verschoor was the first to place Saturday at 140, recovering from a 10-6 overtime decision loss to Woodbury Central's 1A ninth-ranked Todd Linden in the second round to beat Spirit Lake Park's Jacob Johnson by 8-2 decision in the third-place match.
Joe Sievert reached the finals at 145 with a pin of Rockwell City-Lytton/Southern Cal's 2A No. 7-ranked Kevin Wuebker - who came into the tournament 30-1 - in 5:00, but came up short in his title bid with a 6-2 decision loss to Spirit Lake's 2A No. 3-ranked Mike Sandy. Older brother John Sievert lost by 7-4 decision to Cherokee's 2A No. 8-ranked Nick Loughlin in the semifinals at 152, but bounced back with the first of A-W's three wins over A/G-H opponents in the final round to place third.
A-W's final place-winner was Eric Waterbury at 215. Waterbury was bounced from the championship bracket with a 4-2 decision loss to Cherokee's Tim Jones in the second round, but defeated Prairie Valley's Devon Gurnett by 3-1 overtime decision and pinned BCIG's Tim McQuade in 2:24 to stay alive in consolations. He lost to Spirit Lake's Alex Will in the consolation semifinals by fall, then dropped a 1-0 decision to Audubon's Greg Barner in the fifth-place match but was a valuable piece of the puzzle for the Westerners in capturing the team trophy.
"He scored a lot of team points - 11 - and had he not been there this weekend, we lose this tournament by 1/2 point," said VanOort. "He battled to the last second of every period and I'm real happy with what he brought to our team this weekend."
In every regard, it was as rewarding a coaching experience as VanOort has had in his two seasons with the Westerners.
"To go in there a little short-handed from what we could be, it was probably the most gratifying victory for me as a coach. I'm just very proud of what we did."
Kingsley-Pierson coach Alan Goetsche had somewhat less to celebrate with four place-winners and an eighth-place team finish. But that didn't make Goetsch any less proud of what his wrestlers accomplished over the weekend.
"I was really pleased with how the guys did, how they wrestled. Even the guys that didn't place, they wrestled their hearts out and gave it everything they had," said Goetsch. "They can walk away from this tournament with a lot of good stuff to look back on and try to improve with."
The Panthers had a single champion in Isaiah Corbin at 171. Corbin - the No. 1 seed - was forced to wrestle a pigtail Friday and it turned out to be his toughest match of the tournament, downing Okoboji's Matt Tschetter by 12-5 decision. It was pins the rest of the way for the junior as he threw Cherokee's Greg Miller in 3:45, Sergeant Bluff-Luton's Jacob Christiansen in 5:42, Lawton-Bronson's Dakota Miller in 2:23 and A/G-H's Austin Todd in 1:39 of the finals match. By all accounts, it was a dominating effort by Corbin, who only recently made the move from 160 to 171.
"I would say he looked the best he has all year. He's really getting comfortable there (171) now," said Goetsch. "He was real focused - a man on a mission."
K-P also had a pair of third-place finishers in Jeff Engle at 145 and Mike Weaver at heavyweight.
Engle opened with pins of Twin River Valley's Nate Meyers (3:07) and A/G-H's Andrew Perry (3:30), before dropping out of title contention with a 4-3 decision loss to Spirit Lake's Sandy.
"The only thing Sandy had on Jeff was strength. Sandy didn't do a whole lot in the match from the middle of the second period," said Goetsch. "He was pretty defensive and Jeff took most of the shots. Sandy just waited for him to take shots and tried to score defensively, which he did. You can't take that away from him."
Engle came back in the consolations with a pin of West Harrison's Torrey Kuhlman (1:58) and earned an 8-6 decision win over RCLS's Wuebker for third.
Weaver also opened with a pair of pins - throwing SBL's Wes Whitwer in 3:10 and Schaller-Crestland's Brance Frehse in 1:41 - before running into trouble in the semifinals. Weaver lost to A/G-H's Dreeszen by 5-4 decision to miss his title shot, but pinned TRV's Matt Thilges in 3:42 and Frehse by 2:16 for third.
"Even for third place - having not placed last year - it was very good for Weaver," said Goetsch. "He shouldn't be down about the loss to Dreeszen either. It should be a motivator, because he could easily have been in that finals match."
It was the third meeting of the season between Weaver and Dreeszen, with the loss giving Dreeszen a 2-1 edge in the series.
K-P's final place-winner came at 125 where Jon Laddusaw took home seventh. Laddusaw opened with a pin of West Lyon's Logan McMartin in 1:49, then lost in round two by fall to eventual champion and 1A No. 4-ranked Mitch Erdmann of MMC. In the consolation bracket, Laddusaw pinned A-W's Cody Reed in 1:14, then lost to season-long rival Seth Epling of Woodbury Central by 5-1 decision. The loss to Epling left Laddusaw vyiing for seventh and the senior delivered with an 8-7 decision of Storm Lake's Jose Diaz.
1. Akron-Westfield 169.5 2. Aurelia/Galva-Holstein 159 3. Spirit Lake Park 150 4. Twin River Valley 126.5 5. Battle Creek-Ida Grove/Odebolt-Arthur 118 6. Rockwell City-Lytton/Southern Cal 112 7. Woodbury Central 96 8. Kingsley-Pierson 94 9. Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn 93.5 10. Sergeant Bluff-Luton 90 11. West Lyon 85 12. Cherokee 76 13. Prairie Valley 63 14. Woodbine 60.5 15. Schaller-Crestland 57 16. Lawton-Bronson 57 17. Pocahontas Area 52 18. Storm Lake 40 19. Okoboji 40 20. Audubon 40 21. Wall Lake View Auburn 20 22. West Harrison 13 23. Westwood 0.