Marshalltown senior Pedro Gomez burst onto the scene in 2011 when he upset a state-ranked wrestler at the district tournament and clinched his first state appearance.
The wheels on the Gomez bus fell off last year as he was derailed of a chance to return to Wells Fargo Arena when he became academically eligible.
Now, with one last chance, Gomez hopes his senior season is the year he climbs all the way to the top of the Iowa High School State Wrestling Championships podium when he returns to Des Moines with redemption on his mind.
"He just needs to forget about the past and start over," MHS coach Mike Mann said at the start of the season. "If he just focuses on wrestling and not about what happened last year, everything will work out."
Gomez finished fifth at state his sophomore year and went 21-2 last year before having his season end early.
The Bobcat senior began this season unranked but after capturing the Central Iowa Metropolitan League title and the Class 3A District 8 crown, Gomez heads back to the state tournament ranked at the very top of the 285-pound weight class.
Gomez is 33-3 and is one of the favorites to take the championship.
"I feel like I can win state, but I need to wrestle to my capability and not to the capability of my opponents," Gomez said. "I need to be positive and dominate as soon as possible."
He will face eighth-ranked Zac Gillis (35-4) of Cedar Rapids Washington in the first round Thursday afternoon and with a win would then take on either Webster City's Landon Johnson (32-8) or Waukee's Ryan Glenn (11-3) in the quarterfinals in Friday's first session beginning at 9 a.m. Neither Johnson nor Glenn is ranked.
"It doesn't matter what you are ranked at state," Gomez said. "Anything can happen."
Southeast Polk's Jake Scanlan or Keokuk's Alex Cross (27-0) are possible semifinal matchups if things go in Gomez's favor in the first two rounds. Scanlan (30-3) is ranked No. 3 but is 0-6 in his high school career against Gomez. Cross is ranked ninth.
"I am sure he wants to face me again," Gomez said of Scanlan. "I knew I would have to face him again at some point."
Mann said it is tough to beat an opponent every time you go against him.
"I don't want him to be complacent out there," Mann said. "It is going to be tough to beat Scanlan again."
The toughest competition on the other side of the bracket includes North Scott's Cegan Long, Council Bluffs Lewis Central's Zach Renshaw and Cedar Rapids Prairie's Andrew Netolicky. Long (39-4) is ranked fifth, Renshaw (45-3) sixth and Netolicky (38-5) seventh.
Gomez is 1-1 against Netolicky this year, losing a 4-0 decision in the first meeting and winning a 3-1 decision in the rematch.
"He cannot let guys hang around," Mann said. "He needs to get the matches done quickly. Anything can happen at state. But sometimes it is like pulling teeth with him. I just have a great guy, and I want to ride him all the way to the top."
Making the tournament route to the championship a little bit easier for everyone was the fact that three ranked wrestlers will not be competing this week. Second-ranked Shaquile Wells, fourth-ranked Xavier Quigley and 10th ranked Jacob Oldaker all failed to qualify at their district meets.
Wells lost to Gomez in the championship of the CIML tournament and was 0-2 against the MHS senior this year. Quigley, though, beat Gomez in their only contest this season.
South Tama County senior Erik Lux will try for his second straight state championship when he takes to the mat this week for the Trojans.
Lux, a four-time state qualifier, went 49-3 last year at 160 pounds and earned his first state championship with three decisions and a pin of Denver's Chase Shendenhelm in the championship match.
This season, Lux is undefeated at 45-0 and will be battling for the 170-pound championship. He will face eighth-ranked Jack Leshen of Grinnell in the opening round and then could take on No. 9 Blaine Johnson of Spencer or 10th ranked Matthew Williamson of Atlantic in the quarterfinals.
Second-ranked Adam Drain of Mediapolis could be waiting for Lux in the finals. Those two met last year with Lux winning 8-4 in the quarterfinals.
The only other returning state qualifier from the area in Class 2A was East Marshall/GMG senior Jay Reisetter, who went 0-2 last year at 170.
Reisetter is ranked seventh at 182 this year. And his toughest matchup before the championship match could happen in the first round. His opponent is third-ranked Steven Holloway of Mediapolis. Holloway comes into the tourney at 42-3 but placed second at districts.
The other four area wrestlers in the 2A field are all first-timers in EM/GMG junior Zach Underhill, South Tama County's Levi Kaufman and Kolten Smith and South Hardin-BCLUW sophomore Blake Cooper.
Underhill comes into the tournament ranked No. 9 with a 42-6 record at 120. He has a tough matchup in round one as he will face top-ranked Leighton Gaul of New Hampton. Gaul boasts a 42-0 mark.
Kaufman enters the tournament with a 34-7 record at 152. His opening matchup Thursday also will be challenging as he drew fourth-ranked Jake Voss of West Delaware. Voss is 42-3.
The 152-pound field also includes top-ranked Nick Georgean of Davenport Assumption. Georgean is the defending champion at 152 and is 32-0 on the year.
The good news for STC's Smith (30-11) is that he drew another unranked opponent in at 160 pounds as he will take on Saydel's Jake Sherman, who enters with a 29-5 mark.
Cooper enters the state tournament with a losing record at 17-19 and will face No. 6 Alex Macki of Ballard in Round 1.
The time to win a state championship for West Marshall senior Kyle Blocker is now.
Blocker has one more chance to climb to the top of the podium after reaching the medal stand in his first two high school seasons at East Marshall/GMG.
Blocker was seventh as a freshman and third as a sophomore but enters the 2013 state tournament ranked No. 1 and undefeated at 138 pounds.
West Marshall brings five wrestlers to Wells Fargo Arena as all five top 10-ranked grapplers advanced.
The other area wrestler competing in Class 1A is AGWSR's Clay Meinders, who is ranked No. 10 at 195.
The Class 1A session will kick the state tournament off at 9 a.m. Thursday.
Blocker, who is 50-0 on the season, will face unranked Jason Kenny (35-12) of Ridge View in the first round.
The first Trojan to hit the mat Thursday will be freshman Cole Needham, who is fifth ranked and 43-6 on the year at 113.
Needham drew second-ranked Zach Ulven of Westwood. Ulven's only loss this year was at districts as he enters with a 36-1 mark. Needham's second match will come against either Ryan Cale of Cardinal or Grant Barren of Don Bosco. Both of those wrestlers are unranked.
Tanner Arnold and Dale Hilleman both return to the state tournament after going 0-2 a season ago.
Arnold, now a senior, is ranked No. 5 at 152 and will first battle East Mills' Josh Hopkins (43-11) on Thursday.
Hilleman will take to the mat shortly after Arnold at 160. He enters the meet at 41-4 and will face unranked Schuyler Rilling of Woodbury Central in Round 1.
It will be the first state tournament appearance for Chesler and Meinders.
Seventh-ranked Chesler (46-4) will face No. 8 Zach Hoyle of Alburnett in the opening round. Hoyle enters with a 33-8 mark. The winner of that first-round battle will likely face No. 5 Nick Schany (29-6) of Emmetsburg in the quarterfinals.
Meinders has a favorable draw at 195. The 10th ranked Cougar will face unranked Taylor Hein of Panorama in round one and a win would likely pit him up against No. 7 Trey Sander of Exira/Elk Horn-Kimbalton in the quarters. Hein is 37-10 on the year, while Sander is 26-1.
The favorite to win the Class 1A team title is top-ranked Alburnett, which brings nine wrestlers to Wells Fargo Arena. Also in the running for the championship could be No. 3 Woodbury Central and No. 2 Emmetsburg, who take eight and seven wrestlers, respectively. No. 4 Fort Dodge St. Edmond and No. 5 West Marshall both have five state entrants.