Isaiah Alford action

Lincoln High's Isaiah Alford (left) grapples with Lincoln Southeast's Mason Miller in the 170 pound match on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017, at Lincoln Southeast High School. Alford finished his sophomore season with a 36-10 record and placed sixth at 170 pounds in the Class A state meet.

JOURNAL STAR FILE PHOTO

Two years ago, Isaiah Alford came within a point of gaining a state-meet berth.

Last season, he made it to state and finished sixth in Class A at 170 pounds.

This season, Lincoln High School’s team leader has lofty expectations: a state championship.

State champ back

A number of opponents stand in his way, led by North Platte senior Braiden Ruffin, the state’s defending champion in Class A at 170 pounds.

Alford doesn’t back down from a challenge. He feels that in order to be the best, you need to beat the best. At the head of that list is Ruffin, whose team comes to Lincoln High for an early-season dual meet. Alford, coming off a sophomore season in which he won 36 of 46 matches, will be ready.

Jumping two weight classes, from 145 as a freshman to 170 last season, added strength to his frame and wins to his record. He said he is already getting inquiries from several NCAA Division I schools, including Iowa State University and South Dakota State University, and is excited to start his junior season.

A former starting safety for the Links football team, Alford dropped football this year to focus full time on wrestling.

Greco All-American

Andy Genrich, head coach of the Links wrestling team, said some off-season seasoning strengthened his team leader. Alford was an All-American in Greco competition at Fargo, North Dakota, last summer, placing fifth.

“Look for him to lead us this year,” said Genrich. “His ultimate goal is to win a state title.”

Underclassmen look to the 170-pound junior for team leadership. Alford relishes that role.

He learned from one of the best: Wesley Dawkins, whose 150-11 career mark set a Lincoln High record for wins in four years of high school wrestling, was a Lincoln High senior when Alford was a freshman. Dawkins, who now competes for the University of Nebraska at Kearney, was a state meet place-winner all four years of his high school career and won Class A state titles at 106 and 120 pounds.

A year ago, Alford said: “My goal is not only to qualify for the state meet but to place at state, and to lose fewer than five matches all season.” He went on to achieve two of those three goals.

“My goals this year are to win state and to lose no more than two matches along the way.”

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