History repeated: Rodriguez becomes Iowa Lakes' second two-time national champion
Since walking on the Iowa Lakes campus two years ago, Freddie Rodriguez had visions of collegiate dominance -- even if the visions weren't completely clear.
Thirty pounds overweight and out of wrestling shape when he first arrived in Estherville, the then-freshman was a pudgy portrait of the three-time Michigan prep champion he once was.
"When I first got here, I was walking around at like 155 pounds. I was out of shape," Rodriguez said after his freshman season. "Honestly, I knew what I wanted to do, but I don't know if I really wanted it. I had that confidence at the start of the season. I knew winning a national title was attainable, but I didn't have a clear vision in front of me."
Weeks into his first collegiate wrestling season, Rodriguez placed a strip of athletic tape on the wall of the Iowa Lakes wrestling room. On it, he wrote his name. Beside his name, he wrote 'National Champion.'
Through a ton of hard work and dedication, Rodriguez eventually achieved his goal. As he stood atop the podium in Spokane, Washington, as the 125-pound champion of the 2014 NJCAA National Wrestling Tournament -- the Lakers' first champ since Victor DeJesus won back-to-back titles in 2010 and 2011 -- Rodriguez savored his national championship, soaking up the spotlight. But soon, he set his focus on a repeat performance.
At the start of this season, a thumb injury set the top-ranked sophomore back a few weeks, but as soon as he was able, Rodriguez hit the mat running.
He suffered just three losses during a dominant regular season run and entered the postseason on fire, winning the 125-pound title at the North Central regional tournament and earning the title of Most Outstanding Wrestler.
That victory springboarded him into the national tournament held in Des Moines this past weekend.
After receiving a bye in the first round, Rodriguez was dominant en route to the finals. He pinned Northwest Kansas Tech's Robbie Hines in 1 minute, 49 seconds, beat North Idaho College's Michael Nguyen by 20-10 major decision, and earned a 22-7 technical fall over North Iowa Area Community College's Paul Mascarenas in 7 minutes.
In his championship match against Ellsworth's Deshun Brown, Rodriguez actually trailed a few times -- a rarity -- but ultimately earned a 10-8 decision to repeat as national champion. He was also named the tournament's Most Outstanding Wrestler.
"Freddie was again on a mission and dominated the tournament," Iowa Lakes coach Cody Alesch said. "He focuses so well and wrestles at such a high pace it is hard for guys to keep with him. His finals match was a great match and one that had some lead changes throughout of which Freddie is not used to. However, he kept his composure and overcame a tough opponent who was at his best to claim his second national title. [Most Outstanding Wrestler] is a big award and something I know he is nearly as proud of as winning his second title."
Gonzalez places third for Lakers, named All-American
Entering the tournament as the top-ranked 141-pounder in the nation, Iowa Lakes freshman Andres Gonzalez handled the pressure well on his way to a third-place finish at the national tournament.
The Fertile, Iowa native pinned Springfield Tech's Josh Fontanez in just 15 seconds to kick off his tournament run. He then earned a 7-1 decision over Muskegon's Tyler Stenberg and a 7-1 decision over Nassau's Mark West.
In the semifinals, however, Gonzalez lost to eventual champion Jason Alfau of Iowa Central by 3-1 sudden victory.
Gonzalez bounced back, though, earning back-to-back convincing wins in the consolation bracket to place third overall. He earned a 11-3 major decision over Pratt's Andrew Beck and a 10-1 major decision over Northeast Oklahoma's Clay Archer.
"Andres wrestled a great tournament and was on his offense all weekend," Alesch said. "In the semifinals, his opponent did a good job at shutting down Andres offensively and getting the takedown in overtime to win. Andres did not hang his head though as he wrestled back strong to ensure he finished as best he could with the third place honors."
Chevelon, Henson narrowly miss All-American honors
Two more Lakers fell just shy of earning All-American honors, as Wouvel Chevelon and Guy Henson were each one win away from advancing to Saturday.
Both wrestlers fell in their opening round matches before earning back-to-back-to-back wins in the consolation bracket.
Unfortunately, both Chevelon and Henson were pinned in the fourth round of the consolation bracket, ending their tournaments.
Also missing out on All-American honors were 149-pounder Trevor Schermer, 165-pounder Andrew Tate and 133-pounder Jacob Kristensen.
Schermer and Tate both went 2-2, while Kristensen went 0-2 in Des Moines.
All-in-all, it was an up-and-down tournament for the Lakers, according to Alesch.
"We did not have the opening round we were capable of. Wouvel and Guy each lost matches they were capable of winning and put themselves in a tough spot in their brackets," Alesch said. "However, they both responded well and nearly fought all the way back through but lost in the round that gets you the All-American honors or sends you home. The guys fought hard and for all of them besides Freddie this was their first trip to the national Tournament. I felt like we could have come home with more than the two All-Americans but on this weekend it wasn't the case."