Repeat and First-Time State Champions in Des Moines
By K.J. Pilcher and Josh Christensen, Reporters
DES MOINES – Brock Rathbun had prepared his victory celebration for more than a year.
Despite a failed practice attempt during a warm-up session, he overcame his doubt and executed it perfectly after a near flawless state finals match.
Rathbun stuck the landing on a backflip after becoming Center Point Urbana's first state champion in school history with a fall over Clear Lake's Ryan Leisure for the 113-pound title of the Iowa High School Athletic Association Class 2A state wrestling tournament last night at Wells Fargo Arena.
"I've been planning that since last year," Rathbun said. "It felt pretty awesome."
CPU Coach Scott Slifka has known Rathbun since he was young, coaching his father, Dan, in football at CPU in the 1980s. His number was 33, which is the number of years Slifka has coached. Slifka said they thought it was an omen that Rathbun's hard work made rue.
"It was just exciting," said Slifka. "He trained so hard to be a state champion."
Rathbun (46-0) erased the disappointment from a year ago, where he was pinned in the first period. He avenged that loss in the quarterfinals and gained confidence, cruising to the title. He also felt more comfortable on the big stage compared to last season.
"Last year, with all the people in here, it was intimidating," Rathbun said. "This year, I felt I've been here before. I know what is going to happen."
The same anticipation led to the move that iced his championship run. Rathbun built an impressive 7-0 lead when Leisure tried to escape, turning face-to-face with him. Rathbun returned Leisure's back to the mat and decked him in 4:48.
"He did the same thing in the first period," Rathbun said. "I almost had him in the first period but he slipped out of it. I felt him do it again, so I went right into it."
The first title is just the beginning. Both coach and wrestler expect more in the future. After all, Rathbun has wanted to provide gold to the school for a long time, according to Slifka.
"He achieved that goal," Slifka said. "We have two more ahead of us, yet."
Union Community junior Max Thomsen has three down and one left in front of him to join a select group of Iowa wrestlers. Thomsen captured his third title, beating Clear Lake's Andres Gonzalez, 5-4, for the 138 championship.
He is one title away from becoming the state's 24th four-time state champion.
"It's so indescribable," said Thomsen, improving to 49-0. "I'm so blessed. It's just unreal."
He said there was no pressure, trying to maintain his chances for four titles. Thomsen reset his goals this year, as if he was going for his first. The tough-mind Thomsen will have the same approach next year as he tries to make history.
"It's a fight," Thomsen said. "You have to take each year like a brand new year and go at it and head-butt it."
He was joined by teammate Jacob Holschlag, who won the 160-pound title with a 3-2 win over Mediapolis' top-ranked Drew Foster.
Both titles helped Union place fifth as a team with 70 ½ points.
Mount Vernon's Trey Ryan reached the finals for the second straight year. He dominated BCLUW's Tyler Lutes, posting an 8-0 major decision in the 170-pound championship.
"I just couldn't believe it," Ryan said. "I was full of excitement."
He left nothing to chance, competing in an offensive and aggressive style that he discussed with family and coaches. It worked perfectly.
"I came out and scored," Ryan said. "If you are scoring then the other person can't."
Mount Vernon Coach Vance Light said he was happy for Ryan to cap his career with a victory. He added that Ryan was more relaxed than last year. Ryan (47-4) also wrestled his best at the best time, becoming Mount Vernon's first state champ since Jacob Craig (171) and heavyweight Matt Kroul won in 2004.
"It was a perfect ending," Light said. "He wrestled his best in his last two matches of his career."
Solon's Lance Evans completed an undefeated season, beating Mount Vernon's Josh Cannon, 3-0, in the 220-pounder championship. He finished 31-0 and fulfilled his ultimate goal.
"That was the focus the entire year," Evans said. "(Solon Coach) T.J. Bevans said we have to strive to be perfect."
He used a first period takedown and added an escape to become the first Spartan champion since Cody Kroul took the 189-pound crown in 2004. Kroul actually helps with the Solon staff and has made an impact with Evans.
"It's been great training with the last state champion," Evans said. "It means a lot to do it again."
Evans was fifth last year and seventh as a freshman. He has fought severe injury and even battle mononucleosis throughout the tournament, skipping warm-ups and leaving sessions immediately for the hotel to conserve energy. He willed himself to a title.
"All the hard work I've put in paid off," Evans said. "Everything I had to go through, it's pretty special."
Independence's Kyle Fank (50-1) finished runner-up to BCIG-OA's top-ranked Cash Wilcke, 2-1, at 182.
Read more: http://iowaprepsports.com/2014/02/22/2a-a-year-later-rathbun-gets-to-celebrate/#ixzz2uDFa1aBB