DES MOINES — As 204 opponents can attest, Jake Marlin likes to be in control.
So when The Moment came, at 7:43 p.m. Saturday night after his pin, Marlin gestured for everyone in sold-out Wells Fargo Arena to get on his or her feet.
The majority of the crowd already was. But not everyone.
“I saw some people still sitting down, so I had to get them up,” the Creston/Orient-Macksburg senior said with a sly grin.
Top-rated Marlin ended his high school wrestling career in grand fashion, pinning No. 5 Adam Staudt of Charles City in 2:55 at 138 pounds to become Iowa’s 22nd four-time champion. His future roommate and teammate at Iowa, Brandon Sorensen of Denver-Tripoli (145), become the 23rd four-time champ 22 minutes later.
“Brandon’s a great wrestler, so I just feel honored to be winning four state titles with him,” Marlin said.
Marlin’s victory highlighted a 3-for-3 western Iowa performance in the Class 2-A finals. Top-rated Sergeant Bluff-Luton senior Colton McCrystal (132), a Nebraska recruit, won his second championship with a 11-0 major decision over No. 6 Cole Erickson of Mediapolis. Top-rated Creston/O-M senior Keaton Hulett (195) claimed his first with a 2-0 win over No. 4 Riley Denny of Centerville.
Creston finished fifth in the 2-A standings with 70 points. West Delaware won with 151, and was followed by Davenport Assumption (113.5), Mediapolis (100) and Union (81).
Marlin’s pin not only put an exclamation point on a 204-6 career and made him the first athlete in The World-Herald’s coverage area to win four titles, it gave him sole possession of Iowa’s career pins lead with 147. He’d shared the mark with Williamsburg’s Austin Blythe for one day.
“That’s awesome. That’s probably my favorite thing right there,” he said. “I’ve had right around 200 wins, and almost 150 of them were pins. That’s pretty crazy.”
Marlin won titles at 130 as a freshman, 135 as a sophomore and 138 last year when the weight classes were redistributed.
Marlin illustrated that his mentality is different than most wrestlers as a freshman at the state tournament. Facing No. 5 Tanner Schmidt of Charles City in the semifinals, the two were tied 2-2 through the first one-minute overtime.
In the next 30-second period, Marlin scored an escape, a takedown and a three-point near fall. Leading 8-2 with one 30-second OT remaining, most wrestlers would just make sure not to make any mistakes. But Marlin kept his foot on the gas, notching another takedown and three-point near fall for an unusual 13-2 win by major decision in double OT.
Three years later, the senior with the middle name Gable still wasn’t settling for anything short of domination. After a scoreless first minute, he got to work. He recorded a takedown and a pair of two-point near falls to lead 6-1 after one. After a third near fall, Marlin locked his man tight to the mat and the official agreed, slapping confirmation to the crowd of about 16,000.
Now that he’s in Iowa’s most elite club, he was asked why so few athletes have achieved what he’s achieved.
“So much pressure,” he said. “I didn’t really realize how much there was until I got out there. It really is just a huge relief.”
Creston/O-M coach Frain said Marlin handled all the hoopla well.
“You see it every year when people compete for the fourth time,” he said. “The pressure really gets on them, and it has absolutely nothing to do with wrestling. He handled it better as the year went on.”
At 132, Sergeant Bluff’s McCrystal earned his second title in his fourth finals appearance. He finished second as a freshman (103) and sophomore (112) before notching the 126-pound title last year.
On Saturday, he had little trouble getting back to the top step of the podium. McCrystal had a takedown near the edge to go up 2-0 after one period. A two-point near fall helped him take a 6-0 lead into the third, and he expanded it there.
“I think that’s the perfect match to finish on,” he said. “No points given up, no takedowns. I kind of controlled it the whole way through, so I’m happy to end that way.”
McCrystal said his experience on the final night paid off.
“I was extremely mellow and calm,” he said. “The last couple years I’ve been nervous. Tonight some of the guys in the Grand March were asking me if I was nervous. You know, fourth time being here, I just know what to do now.”
Creston’s Hulett finished second last year at the same weight, dropping a heartbreaking 3-2 decision to No. 1 Adam Reth.
Given another chance, Hulett made good on it, but it was far from easy.
The wrestlers entered the third period scoreless. With Hulett in the bottom position, he was nearly turned to his back early in the period. With about a minute remaining, he had one of Denny’s legs but couldn’t quite escape.
Finally, he was able to force Denny out of position and notch the winning reversal with 17 seconds remaining. After time expired, he shot to his feet and pointed to the cheering Panther fans.
“It’s a great feeling,” Hulett said. “It hasn’t really even hit me. It won’t hit me until I go up there and my parents will be crying.
“But it’s not just me. It’s everyone in the room: the team, the coaches. Everyone gets to celebrate tonight, and that’s going to be great.”
Hulett had beaten Kenny 4-0 and 5-1 earlier this year. Frain said Hulett, a Northwest Missouri State football recruit, is a deserving champion.
“I tell people all the time, I probably rank him in the top two of the best kids, not wrestlers, just the best kids that I’ve ever coached,” he said. “He’s just a quality kid. If you ask somebody to lead your practice, lead anything, he’s your guy.”
Sixteen of 29 qualifiers in The World-Herald’s coverage area earned medals.
Elsewhere in Class 2-A, three western Iowa wrestlers ended fourth: Clarinda junior Blake Luna (120), Creston/O-M junior Trevor Frain (160) and OA-BCIG sophomore Cash Wilcke (170).
Fifths went to Harlan senior Chris Hopkins (113) and Sergeant Bluff-Luton teammates Steven Garcia (138) and Tyler Nguyen (220), a junior and senior, respectively. OA-BCIG freshman Jake Wulf (106) and Sergeant Bluff-Luton junior Bret Tomoson (152).
Finishing seventh were Sergeant Bluff-Luton sophomore Devin Phaly (113) and Sioux City Heelan junior Christian Brobst (195). Three others were eighth: Clarinda senior Cole Race (126), Missouri Valley senior Brett Marcum (138) and Atlantic/CAM senior Matthew Williamson (170).
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