Kyler Hall didn't have it easy when he joined Ames varsity wrestling two years ago.
Hall entered high school a promising prospect at 220 pounds. But he was following in the footsteps of state qualifier Gabe Greenlee.
The year prior to Hall's arrival, Greenlee had qualified for state at 220. Greenlee then moved up to 285 and went on to place second at state twice. That opened the door for Hall at 220. But he still had to learn the ropes through Greenlee, and sometimes that meant he had to take his licks on the mat.
"There were a couple of occasions where I got ran out of the room," Hall said. "Getting beat up a little bit was good for me. He definitely taught me a lot."
Hall went 15-14 as a freshman. Last year, he made a push for state, but wasn't quite able to get there despite finishing 25-7. Now in his junior year, he's taking the same path as Greenlee and moving up to 285.
With a new weight and refreshed mindset, this February, Hall doesn't just want to make it to Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. He wants to be on top of the podium when all is said and done.
"Winning state has been a lifelong dream," Hall said. "Ever since I was a little kid when I I told my mom I was going to win."
Hall has been wrestling since he was 4 years old. His dad, Sam Hall, wrestled in high school when he lived in Indiana, so it was only natural for Kyler to want to pick up the sport. The physical nature of wrestling intrigued him growing up. All of his friends were into the sport when he was little, but he's outlasted them all.
"My dad wasn't sure about it at first because I wasn't a really big kid," Hall said. "But he said I should at least try it. Ever since I started wrestling, I've always loved it.
"I love competing. Even when you lose, if you had a good match and fought as hard as you could it's a good feeling."
Wrestling has been a year-round endeavor for Hall for most of his life. He placed third in AAU his eighth-grade year and gave freestyle wrestling a try this past summer at the USA Wrestling Junior and 16U Nationals in Fargo, North Dakota.
Weight training has also been a big focus for Hall. Ames head coach Andy Fecht said he's impressed with how much strength Hall has gained since moving up to 285.
"He's put on close to 50 pounds of good muscle weight in the last year," Fecht said. "He's been working hard. We expect big things out of him.
"Kyler won a lot of matches for us last year. We thought he had a shot at qualifying for state and he fell short of that. That's motivated him a little bit and he's hungry to get to state this year."
Fecht said Hall shouldn't have any trouble adjusting to life as a heavyweight.
"He'll be fine," Fecht said. "He's going to be a big heavyweight and I think the style of going from 220 to heavyweight might be advantageous. He can use his strength and size and hopefully good things will happen."
With the loss of Greenlee and Brent Slade — a state qualifier from a year ago who transferred to Southeast Polk — Fecht said Hall is going to be the wrestler setting the tone for Ames this season.
As he begins the back half of his high school career, Hall has the opportunity to garner attention from college coaches across the country. He wants to make sure he does all he can to leave a great first impression.
"I've got to focus on state first," Hall said. "I don't think anybody is gonna want me if I don't win a state championship."
This article originally appeared on Ames Tribune: Ames wrestling hopes heavyweight Kyler Hall can make a run to state