“It was unbelievable,” Creston/Orient-Macksburg assistant wrestling coach Mario Galanakis said. “There’s no way to explain it, just after he got that pin, it was like a shock went through my whole body. It was awesome, unbelievable. I don’t know how to explain it.”
Creston/O-M senior Jake Marlin helped put it into perspective a little better.
“Coolest feeling in the world,” he said. “It was the most unrealistic feeling in the world.”
That’s how he described the feeling after he earned the standing ovation reserved for the most elite of athletes — four-time state wrestling champions in Iowa.
Three years ago, Marlin didn’t have any doubts he would make it to this point — earning that standing ovation from the Wells Fargo Arena crowd after being crowned Iowa’s 22nd four-time state wrestling champion, and doing it in style by breaking the all-time career pins record with his 147th pin out of 204 career wins.
In just his second match as a freshman, Marlin suffered a 14-10 decision loss to Interstate 35’s Dallas Houchins.
“You’re in your second match as a freshman, and we bump you up two weight classes to wrestle the No. 1 kid in the state, and Jake gave him everything he had, so I had no worry there,” Creston/O-M head coach Darrell Frain said. “I don’t know if, in my mind, if I thought he was a four-time state champ at that time, but I knew he was going to have a good chance. As the year went on, I believed it more and more. I think he always believed it.”
That loss didn’t sting Marlin’s confidence at all.
“In my mind, I was this little cocky 15-year-old that thinks I’m a freaking world-beater, that can beat anybody in the state,” Marlin said. “I bumped up two weights to wrestle the No. 1 kid in the state, so I don’t think that really hurt my confidence at all.”
Marlin only lost one more match in the state of Iowa the rest of his career. The other defeat came to Albia’s Matt White in his sophomore season at the Central Decatur Tournament.
Marlin said about halfway through his freshman season, he started to wrestle differently.
That transformation, which came as a result of working with Galanakis every day in the wrestling room, is what Marlin credits with getting him to the point of winning four state championships.
“I was improving at an extremely fast rate,” Marlin said. “I would say just wrestling with Mario every day is what got me that first state title, definitely.”
According to Galanakis, who wrestled at the University of Iowa, Marlin started to shy away from using what Galanakis calls “junk moves” and started to rely more on taking shots.
“He tried that stuff on me, and I kind of put him in his place,” Galanakis said. “I told him he’s gotta back away from that stuff. It’s a good thing to have when you need it, but you can’t rely on it. He’s still got it up his sleeve if he needs it, but now he doesn’t go out there looking for it.”
For Frain, the turning point came in Kansas City during Marlin’s freshman year.
“He used to be, he had no problem rolling across his back, because he always got out of it,” Frain said. “Then we went down there (Kansas City) and he got pinned, and that kind of was a turning point. He realized when you wrestle top-notch kids, you’ve got to be a little more conservative in the things that you do and be a little more solid.
“That’s actually a trademark of Creston, and he started buying in,” Frain continued. “Mario has kind of beat it into him sometimes, and he is where he is now. It’s kind of amazing.”
Marlin said the transformation was all about changing styles.
“When I was in junior high, I was a little bit crazier,” he said. “I kind of tried to throw some people a little bit more, but as I grew up a little bit more, I started hitting shots, staying low in my stance, just wrestling meaner all around.”
Another larger part of getting to where he is now is his work ethic.
Marlin spent countless hours in the wrestling room, training, and mentally preparing.
The amount of time he put into his goal of becoming a four-time state champion is hard to comprehend for someone who hasn’t gone through it or through something similar.
“I think you really have to do it to understand it,” Marlin said. “There’s kids at my school, I don’t think they realize how hard I work, and I think they just don’t understand because they haven’t been in that position before. I don’t know if they’ve really worked toward a goal like that.”
Galanakis said the work Marlin has put into his goal goes beyond just working in the wrestling room.
“There’s no way to explain it unless you’ve done it, you’ve been a wrestler or you’ve coached a wrestler,” Galanakis said. “It’s the countless hours, not just the workouts, but mentally and physically, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle and weight.”
Frain said he knows people don’t understand how much time and effort Marlin has put into becoming what he is now.
“You go to ballgames and I think people take for granted when you have an elite athlete, competing at a high level, to be able to go Division I, that’s an incredible feat for a kid,” Frain said. “You can’t even imagine the hours they put in. People don’t even have a clue about the mental grind on them. It’s mentally tough.”
The endless traveling and countless camps and tournaments take a toll, as well.
“We put a lot of traveling in, gone a lot of places all for wrestling, getting him better and just for the fun of it, basically,” Marlin’s father Randy, himself a Creston state wrestling champion, said. “He’s put in his time.”
Randy Marlin, who won a state championship at 132 pounds in 1986, looked like a proud father in the stands, grinning from ear to ear.
“That’s pretty amazing,” he said of his son’s fourth state title. “I was hoping he’d win one or two, but he did four, so that’s pretty amazing. That’s really an accomplishment when you get 200 wins and that many pins.”
During the match, though, Randy felt nervous, noting he’d rather be down on the mat than up in the stands.
“I think it’s probably easier wrestling than it is watching,” he said. “I’d rather be doing it than watching Jake. Have a little more control. It’s exciting.”
And if the two state-championship winning Marlins were to square off on the mat?
“I’ve got the first 10 seconds,” Randy said. “After that, it’s probably him.”