HUXLEY — It’s best not to doubt Joe Hovick.
The Roland-Story senior faced an uphill climb at the Class 2A district wrestling meet in Huxley Saturday. Competing at 113 pounds, Hovick had to face off against fifth-ranked Lincoln Mehlert of Union in the semifinals and sixth-ranked Cole Nelson of Perry, an 8-0 winner over Hovick at sectionals, was waiting on the other side of the bracket.
If Hovick couldn’t get past Mehlert, the odds of him returning to state were very slim.
But he was determined to overcome those odds.
Hovick pulled off one of the day’s big shockers, defeating Mehlert by a 7-6 decision.
“We kept talking about how important that first match was all week long,” Roland-Story head coach Leland Schwartz said. “We were telling him just to believe and he was going to have himself a good shot. He worked so hard this week in practice — I’m just so happy for him.”
Hovick trailed 5-4 in the third period when he scored a three-point nearfall then held off Mehlert for a dramatic victory.
“I had him in a front headlock and I threw him to his back,” Hovick said of the decisive nearfall. “But the thing is I believed in myself and that’s why I won the match.”
Hovick (42-6) lost to Nelson in the finals, but he was more competitive than last week at sectionals — losing by a 3-0 decision. Hovick didn’t have to compete in a wrestleback, allowing him to punch his ticket to state for the second year in a row.
“Everyone doubted me seeing the brackets for sectionals and districts were going to be (some) of the hardest ones in the state,” Hovick said. “But I believed in myself and that’s what really matters.”
Hovick is hoping to learn from last year’s experience at state as he attempts to earn a spot on the medal stand for the first time.
“Last time I was extremely nervous,” Hovick said. “This time I hope I won’t be as nervous — I’ll know the environment now. I’m going to get a medal.”
Hovick will face off against Sheldon-South Obrien’s Osvaldo Ocampo (31-6) in the first round at state next Thursday.
The state wrestling tournament takes place Thursday through Saturday at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. Class 2A competition begins at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday.
Final team scores: 1. Union 101 points, 2. Gilbert 88, 3. North Polk 66, 4. South Tama 65, 5. East Marshall-GMG 54, 6. Perry 50, 7. Woodward-Granger 45, 8. Ballard 36, 9. Nevada 23, 10. BCLUW-South Hardin 23, 11. Roland-Story 12, 12. West Marshall 8.
Individual results - Roland-Story
113 pounds - 2. Joe Hovick, 1-1.