DES MOINES - Payton Rice's quest for individual gold became another step closer to reality Thursday.
Making his third consecutive state appearance, the Manson Northwest Webster second-ranked junior posted a 9-3 decision over Lake Mills' No. 7 Andy Dahle in a Class 1A opening-round match at 138 pounds.
With the victory, Rice improved to 45-1 on the season and 125-11 in his career.
"I felt a lot more comfortable this year and didn't get scared from the environment," said Rice, who claimed silver here last winter after previously finishing sixth. "I got a little boost of confidence from wrestling (in Wells Fargo Arena) before. Now, I guess I just have to see where the chips may fall."
Awaiting Rice next in the quarterfinal round is Midland's TJ Bowen (46-4), who upset Audubon's ninth-ranked Chase Petersen by a 2-0 final
Senior Connor Alne (145) stayed in medal contention, as well, for the Cougars. Following a 5-1 setback to Caleb Wedeking of North Butler, Alne bounced back with a 1-0 triumph over Ogden's Austin Lentz. Alne (38-7) will hook up with either Evan Hansen ( 44-1) from EHK/Exira or Sigourney-Keota's No. 4 Josh Yoder (35-5).
Harley Janssen (120) went 0-2 for MNW, falling to Jake Hunerdosse of Southeast Warren and South Hamilton's No. 6 JD Rader by scores of 12-0 and 17-2, respectively. Janssen bowed out at 35-11.
Winning their openers for the No. 2 E-Hawks were fifth-ranked Nick Schany (170), No. 1 Andrew Wellik (182), top-ranked Austin McCartan (195) and Tayler Wegner (220).
Schany (30-6) pinned Cole Streigle from Sigourney-Keota in 2:48. Looming next for the senior Schany is a fight against West Marshall's No. 7 Devin Chesler (47-4).
Keeping his perfect season intact, Wellik (38-0) tallied a 13-4 major decision over Seth Kerr of English Valley. Wellik, a senior, moves on to meet St. Albert's No. 7 Jake Lewis (35-1).
McCartan (38-0) needed only :34 to pin Luke Kramer from Maquoketa Valley. He will now see West Hancock's Nate Aitchison (41-6).
Wegner (38-6) also managed a 3:11 fall time against Kevin Tlach of West Hancock. In the quarterfinals, Wegner will clash with Woodbury Central's No. 6
Levi Paulsen (46-4).
Tyler Leuer (132) and fifth-ranked Brady Bailey (152) each split their bouts for Emmetsburg, while Jake Miller (120) finished 0-2.
No. 9 Taylor Lehman (132), fourth-ranked Jake Haberman (160) and No. 8 Mitch Gambrill (285) are each headed to the quarterfinals for the ninth-ranked Cowboys, while No. 5 Joel Haberman (126) remains on the backside.
Lehman (34-7) scored a 9-4 decision over Trey Busick of Pleasantville. He will take on Midland's fifth-ranked Kyle Pegorick (48-2) in his next bout.
Jake Haberman (33-7) delivered a 5:07 fall time against Josh Matusik from Woodbine. Don Bosco's No. 3 Jake Hogan (40-4) will now be his opponent.
The three-time state qualifier Gambrill (23-8) narrowly escaped with an 8-6 overtime victory over Cody Van Dee of Iowa Valley. Gambrill will square off with Graettinger-Terril/Ruthven-Ayrshire's Cody Thompson (36-10) in the quarterfinals.
Despite being pinned (4:26) in his first match by Shane Poppens from Aplington-Parkersbug, Joel Haberman showed his resiliency with an 8-3 decision against Eddyville-Blakesburg's Cody Brown. Haberman (32-8) will now be paired against either No. 4 Lane Nichols (23-7) from Woodbury Central or Highland's Travis Cole (45-3).
Joe Minkler (106), Mitch Brinkman (113), Tyler Hubrich (152) and Jeremy Watson (195) were all ousted with 0-2 marks for the Indians.
Senior Taylor Clough (152) can still make the podium for the Warriors after going 1-1. Clough (35-7) dropped an 8-2 decision to eighth-ranked Kain Queck of Nodaway Valley in his opener, while later rebounding with a 20-3 technical fall over Wilton's Kaleb Schmidt. Clough will next meet either No. 4 Logan Moore (48-2) from West Monona or North Butler's third-ranked Cody Nelson (46-0).
Class 1A quarterfinals will take place at 9 a.m. this morning.