DES MOINES — Joe Hovick is a man of his word.
The Roland-Story senior said his goal entering the state wrestling tournament was to get a spot on the podium. That’s exactly what he did, picking up two victories to place eighth at 113 pounds in Class 2A.
“I’m so glad I came out for wrestling my freshman year,” Hovick said. “It’s unbelievable. It feels good to be a state place-winner. Not too many people can do it.”
Hovick opened the tournament by making a big statement. After going 0-2 at state last year, he earned his first state victory in convincing fashion Thursday, whipping Sheldon-South O’brien’s Osvaldo Ocampo by technical fall, 18-2.
“I felt like I won the match after that first takedown,” Hovick said. “I had confidence. I had been here before so I knew what it felt like. All my takedowns were working for me. My shots were working. Really everything was working for me.”
On Friday Hovick faced off against top-ranked Carter Fousek of Crestwood-Cresco in the quarterfinals. He put up a good fight before falling by major decision, 10-2.
“I thought I could’ve done better,” Hovick said. “I just couldn’t get to my shots and he’d just score on me — he had a really good duck-under.”
But he came back in a big way during the consolation second round. Hovick upset ninth-ranked Aybren Moore of Atlantic-CAM by an 8-6 decision to secure his spot on the podium.
Hovick trailed Moore 4-2 early in the second period after giving up a takedown 20 seconds into the period. Moore continued to control the match for the rest of the period and nearly a minute into the third.
But Hovick prevented Moore from ever turning him to get back points. When Hovick got on his feet he was able to take Moore down to tie score then immediately pick up two back points.
“We knew when we were on our feet we were the better wrestler,” Roland-Story head coach Leland Schwartz said. “To have taken him down to his back was definitely the key for that, instead of getting the takedown. I was so excited, but then I saw the time left and knew we needed to keep wrestling there.”
It didn’t take long for Moore to get an escape. But Hovick managed to counter with another takedown.
Moore escaped again, but was unable to get in any more offense.
“I was really scared he was going to reverse me,” Hovick said. “He came pretty close, but I fended him off. I just remember digging deep and pushing through my pain.”
Hovick wrapped up a busy Friday with a third-round consolation match against sixth-ranked Cole Nelson of Perry. Hovick had lost to Nelson at both sectionals and districts and he couldn’t turn the tide at state, losing 7-2.
The loss to Nelson put Hovick in the seventh-place match against Carter Littlefield of Jesup. Hovick struggled with the strong mat wrestling of Nelson, who used a nifty tilt move to pick up constant back points, in suffering a 16-1 loss by technical fall to finish the season with a 44-9 record.
“The tilts killed us,” Schwartz said. “He got hand control on top and we weren’t able to get our arms free and that was the difference right there.”
But the loss took nothing away from Hovick’s tremendous run at state that earned him a medal and gave the entire Norse wrestling program a big shot of momentum.
“We have some really good kids coming up that are underclassmen and in junior high,” Schwartz said. “We’re definitely looking forward to some good things from them. This was a good example for them.”