DES MOINES —
Karsten Van Velsor had the look of a wrestler who wasn’t about to let this last opportunity slip away.
Kevin Childs had the look of someone who couldn’t believe the opportunity he had earned.
The two Ottumwa Bulldog state qualifying senior certainly took much different roads to this one last trip to Des Moines. Unfortunately for Childs, Thursday’s first day of Class 3A state wrestling action also took a different direction compared to his OHS teammate.
While Van Velsor won with surprising ease against ninth-ranked Council Bluffs Thomas Jefferson sophomore Jason Wallace, Childs couldn’t add a state win to his resume as the Bulldog heavyweight saw his season end with two tough losses on Wednesday afternoon in Des Moines.
Childs battled fifth-ranked North Scott senior Cegan Long to a stalemate in his opening match through two periods. After giving up an early third-period escape, Childs last chance for a match-winning takedown was blunted by Long who scored a takedown of his own in a 3-0 win.
Childs couldn’t overcome Newton senior Derrick Hurt in the consolation round. An early takedown set the state for a pin in 70 seconds, bringing the Bulldog grappler’s season and prep career to an end.
“I know I gave everything I had out there, but certainly I would have liked to have won one of those matches,” Childs said. “It feels good that I made it up here, but sad that it had to come to an end. I feel satisfied that I made it here, but unsatisfied that I couldn’t go any further.”
Van Velsor showed no fear in his first state match since his freshman season. The Bulldog senior set the tone early with a takedown in the opening 12 seconds, the first of four on the way to a dominant 11-2 major decision over the ninth-ranked sophomore from Council Bluffs Thomas Jefferson.
“I just tried to keep the momentum on my side,” Van Velsor said. “I just kept shooting. If you keep shooting, it’s hard to lose.”
According to Ottumwa head wrestling coach Kevin Cochran, Van Velsor could have had an even more impressive performance.
“As a coaching staff we didn’t feel like he completely on top of his game,” Ottumwa head wrestling coach Kevin Cochran said of Van Velsor. “As easy as he was taking him down, we felt he could have widened the gap even more.
“At this point, though, we’re not worried about scoring tech falls. We’re not worried about pins. We’re worried about wins and we just take it one day at a time.”
Van Velsor’s 42nd win of the season sets up a much tougher test Friday morning in the 138-pound quarterfinals. The OHS senior draws, not unexpectedly, third-ranked 40-1 Waverly-Shell Rock senior Adam Walther after Walther pinned Mason City’s Will Silgin, the only wrestler in the bracket with a losing record, early in the second period.
“This match is definitely going to be tough, but I’ll be ready for it,” Van Velsor said.
“Karsten’s overcome a lot of things to make it back here,” Cochran added. “Once you get here once, you get a real taste for it. Karsten understands this is his last shot. Hopefully, he’ll lay it all on the line.”
While one Bulldog career came to an end in a sudden fashion, the stage Childs put himself at on Thursday would hardly have been believed for a young man who struggled to win battles with his weight before struggling to earn wins on the mat.
“Kevin couldn’t hardly make it out there on the mat because of his weight, then he finally made it last year and won all of two matches all last season,” Cochran said.
Childs certainly soaked in the incredible atmosphere of the state wrestling meet, taking in Wells Fargo Arena for the first time in the hour leading up to the start of the 3A session.
“I still don’t think it’s real,” Childs said. “It’s something I know I’ll never forget.”
“He was disappointed at going 0-2, and everyone is when that happens, but when you understand what Kevin’s went through to get to this point is remarkable. I don’t know if the atmosphere might have got the best of him, but for him to even experience this atmosphere for a day is amazing,” Cochran added.