Cael Morrow silences Rowdy Neighbor for state title
DES MOINES — Akron-Westfield’s Cael Morrow is a state champion. The junior worked his way through the Class 1A-113 pound bracket at the IHSAA state wrestling tournament to bring home the title.
“It’s just a really great feeling right now because how much work I’ve done,” Morrow said after the title match.
Morrow claims the eighth state title for Akron-Westfield in school history joining John Henrich (3x at 160 in 2017, 2018 and 2019), Joe Sievert (at 160 in 2009), Marshall Koethe (2x at 125 in 2006 and 130 in 2007) and Chris Utesch (at 125 in 2004).
Morrow won his state title bout by a 10-2 major decision score over Rowdy Neighbor of Alburnett. The Westerner scored a takedown 30 seconds into the match and followed with another takedown in the final 10 seconds after Neighbor earned an escape point.
Morrow continued his dominance in the second period, earning a takedown and two back points in the period to extend his lead to 8-1. In the third period, Morrow worked a reversal after Neighbor chose the top position to begin the period. Neighbor got a penalty point later in the period, but never came close to challenging Morrow in the match.
“What’s going through my mind is how dominant I was that match,” said Morrow after the win.
The first place match was a rematch of last year’s quarterfinal round in the 1A-106 bracket and saw a similar outcome. Last year Morrow took down the then-freshman by an 8-1 decision.
“I know he had improved a lot, obviously. He beat a state champion from last year, a No. 1 seed, it was a great match, I saw it,” Morrow said about Neighbor and his semifinal round 2-0 win over defending champion Eli Becerra of Missouri Valley. “But I knew that if I dominated him last year, I knew I’d be able to do the same type thing this year. I knew I would have the advantage being here (finals match) last year and I also knew he hasn’t been there before. I knew what it was like coming in and I knew he had to have been thinking I lost to him 8-1 last year.”
The win brought Morrow a state title a year after losing late in the third period in the first place match a year ago. Last season, Don Bosco senior Caleb Coffin broke a 1-1 tie with a takedown with 22 seconds left in the third period to earn a 3-1 win over Morrow.
It was a dominant tournament for Morrow who finishes with a 38-1 record for the season. Morrow did not lose to an Iowa opponent this year, dropping his only match to Papillion-LaVista’s Jacob Campbell by a 14-5 major decision score in the semifinals of the Sergeant Bluff-Luton Invitational early in the season.
The No. 2 seed opened the state tournament with a bye and then won his first contested match by a 15-0 technical fall score to Cason Fitch of Colfax-Mingo. In Thursday’s semifinal round, Morrow won a 6-0 decision over Gage Samo of WACO. His semifinal round match on Friday was a 6-1 win over Nic Brase of Nashua-Plainfield.
Morrow wrestled just one match per day and said he liked the new format instituted this year at Wells Fargo Arena which featured 24 wrestlers in each bracket with the top eight receiving first round byes.
“Honestly, I liked having the four days. Having the morning session, you win your match, you have the rest of the day to relax, work out,” Morrow said.
The Akron-Westfield wrestler has made the state tournament each of his three years. His freshman season he did not reach the podium, but he has followed up with a runner-up and state champion finish the last two years. He hopes to be able to defend his title next year.
“I know there’s a lot of work still to be done. There’s senior year next year and I’ve got to try to repeat,” Morrow said.