DES MOINES — The weight of the world was off of his shoulders, and Jake Marlin wanted everyone to share in the celebration.
The Creston/Orient-Macksburg senior set a state pin record while earning the crown jewel of his four state wrestling championships, with a fall in 2:55 against fifth-ranked Adam Staudt of Charles City Saturday night in the Class 2A 138-pound finals.
After hearing the official slap the mat to confirm the 204th victory of his high school career — against only six losses (two in Iowa) — Marlin couldn't contain his excitement. He gestured with both hands, multiple times, for everyone to stand up.
By then, most of the crowd — particularly the wildly-cheering Panther contingent — was already up. Marlin was asked if he had planned that routine.
"No, I didn't think it would be that dramatic," he said, grinning. "It just happened."
It was culmination of a nerve-wracking day spent mulling what was about to take place.
"There's so much pressure," Marlin said. "I didn't really realize until I got out there, and I got done. It really is just a huge relief. It's the anticipation. We weighed in this morning and I had to wait all day. That was the worst part of it."
Marlin had only lost to two Iowans in his entire high school career — Dallas Houchins of Interstate 35 in the second match of his freshman year, and Matt White of Albia in the Central Decatur Tournament his sophomore year. He had not been taken down by anyone in an Iowa match all season. (His lone loss was by fall to Daniel Lewis of Blue Springs, Mo., at the Kansas City Stampede.)
He had beaten his finals opponent 13-3 three days earlier in the state dual tournament. Still, seeds of doubt crept into his head during the hours preceding his final high school match.
"You think about, what if something happens?" he said. "What if I get caught? What if I slam a kid (for disqualification)? There are so many things that can go wrong. So many things have to go right for you to be a four-time champ."
Marlin had breezed through the first three rounds of the state tourney, winning by two first-period falls and a 23-9 major decision. But, that all-out attack wasn't evident in the scoreless opening minute Saturday night.
"I thought he started slow, and it kind of scared me," coach Darrell Frain said. "Then, when he got up 8-1, I thought he better start working for the fall."
Marlin locked up a cradle for his 147th career pin, moving out of a tie with former Williamsburg heavyweight Austin Blythe that he'd reached in the quarterfinals Friday afternoon.
Strategy pays off
Ironically, it was the same hold used against him in his only defeat this season, and one not considered a staple of the Marlin attack.
"He really doesn't use the cradle that much. He's got short arms," said Mario Galanakis, assistant coach and Marlin's workout partner.
Actually, it was something that came up during warm-ups with the coaching staff.
"We had just talked about how he normally does his little chin whip, but the kid clamped down on it," Frain said. "We had just talked in the lockerroom on how he should just go to a cradle. He went right down to it. It's amazing how that worked out."
Marlin said he recognized the chance to snap Staudt into the hold he needed to get the record.
"He just kind of stood up with his head down, and there it was," Marlin said. "I really wanted that (record). That's probably my favorite thing, right there."
Marlin becomes the first four-time champion from southwest Iowa (see related list). The closest to southwest Iowa among the previous winners are from Ogden, Des Moines and Centerville.
In fact, he is just the fifth four-timer west of Interstate 35. The others are Ogden twice, Emmetsburg and Britt. So, there is practically a third of the state that was not represented by a four-time champion until Marlin's triumph.
Northeast Iowa picked up another one 22 minutes after Marlin's triumph. Brandon Sorensen of Denver-Tripoli won a 7-3 decision for his 145-pound crown. They will be roommates next year at the University of Iowa.
"Brandon is a great wrestler, so I just feel honored to be winning four state titles with him," Marlin said. "I saw Brandon's ovation from the side and could see the whole arena what it was like when I was out there. It was pretty cool."
Marlin was named Most Valuable Wrestler in Class 2A. Two days earlier, Sorensen was named 2A Wrestler of the Year. Fitting, perhaps, that the two stars of 2013 wrestling each earned a major award. Sorensen and 1A 126-pound champ Andrew Foutch of Underwood each earned their 208th career victory Saturday, surpassing the previous Iowa mark of 207 by T.J. Sebolt of Centerville.
Marlin won titles at 130 as a freshman, 135 as a sophomore and 138 last year when the weight classes were redistributed. Only current University of Iowa wrestler Nick Moore of Iowa City West started a four-time championship run at a weight as heavy as 130. All the others began as 119-pounders or less, where opponents are more often freshmen and sophomores.
His closest title match was 5-3 as a freshman over Jake Keller of Columbus Junction, the same year he went into double overtime before rolling past Tanner Schmidt of Charles City, 13-2, in the semifinals.
That was a weekend Frain knew he had something special in his talented freshman. The career seemed to pass quickly, and he looked back fondly after draping a gold medal around Marlin's neck for the fourth time Saturday.
"Every coach that's done it has unbelievable credentials, compared to me," Frain said. "And now my name's on that list. It's a pretty amazing feeling to be a part of it."
Likewise, Marlin expressed widespread appreciation.
"I'd just like to thank everybody involved," Marlin said. "My family, my friends, my coaches. Anyone who's ever helped me in the past. I really appreciate it, and it's helped me get to where I am. I couldn't have done it without them."