It had never been accomplished before by anyone in southwest Iowa.
Let that sentence resonate for a moment.
There have now been 23 four-time wrestling champions in the state of Iowa. But, until Saturday night, you could draw a (somewhat jagged) curved line connecting Emmetsburg, Ogden, Des Moines, Centerville to the Missouri border, and NOBODY EVER had done it who went to school on the western side of that line.
That’s nearly a third of the state.
That’s why this crusty old-timer, who can appear unimpressed by practically anything after 33 years on the job, entered the tunnel of Wells Fargo Arena Saturday night with goosebumps forming. Why?
Southwest Iowa history is going to change tonight.
That’s what was on my mind as Marlin prepared for an opponent I had watched lose to him 13-3 just three days earlier in the state duals. So, barring some of the “what ifs” that were starting to creep into the back of Marlin’s restless mind since weigh-in that morning, I figured I was going to witness something special.
When you’re the one charged with recording that history for the hometown media outlet, it’s something to be taken seriously. Thank goodness Scott Vicker came along to videotape this landmark occasion, so I could concentrate on photos and interviews for the article.
To add icing on the cake, 195-pound senior Keaton Hulett, who suffered an agonizing 3-2 defeat in the 2012 finals, got redemption with a dramatic 2-0 title-match victory on a reversal with 18 seconds left. With one good working eye!
As you can see in the before/after photos, his left eye was completely swollen shut after his semifinal victory Friday night. Trainer Chris Leonard, and a healthy supply of ice, got it reduced to allow functional vision Saturday night.
That just made it even a better story. Hulett allowed one point scored against him the entire state tournament. He’s the master of 1-0, 2-0 and 3-1 victories that keep your heart racing for six minutes if you’re a Panther fan.
It marked the sixth year in state tournament history that Creston had multiple champions.
Add to that a fourth-place finish by junior Trevor Frain, who battled through nine matches in four days, and it made for a busy tournament tracking the Creston/O-M wrestlers. Not to mention the area kids, led by sixth-place Bryson Kinyon of East Union and Kain Queck of Nodaway Valley.
I hadn’t seen Marlin smile much in my time covering him. Usually a pretty serious dude during meets. You can’t afford lapses when you’re chasing a fourth state title and a state record for career pins.
But it was great to see that ear-to-ear grin as he stood atop the medal stand for the fourth time, with all that pressure lifted off his shoulders. An arena filled with knowledgeable wrestling fans gave him a standing ovation, just as they did for Denver-Tripoli’s Brandon Sorensen a few minutes later.
Just think, there will be eight state titles in their dorm room next winter at the University of Iowa!
When you watch that ovation, or the emotional embrace between Hulett and his family, you understand why there were goosebumps.
I’ve covered a lot of great moments, including a state basketball championship with Creston fans creating a sea red across Veterans Auditorium, and car lights lining Cherry Street Road to welcome home the champs. But this night ranks right there with the best.
First time in southwest Iowa.
Doesn’t get much bigger than that around here.
Marlin and Hulett both came to the tournament with one loss, courtesy of defeats against nationally-ranked kids from other states at the Kansas City Stampede. Hulett said it’s OK to come to state with a blemish on your record.
“Nobody took me down all year, except the kid in Kansas City who beat me 3-0,” Hulett said. “Kansas City gets you ready for this. Trevor, his placing match was his ninth match in four days. In Kansas City, you have eight matches in two days against great competition. That’s why we go.”
Sometimes people ask about the tattoo on Marlin’s right tricep. From a distance, it looks kind of like “collector.” But, it’s not even in English.
“It’s Latin for wrestle,” Marlin explained.
It was interesting to be at the state dual tournament on the day the news broke that the International Olympic Committee voted to eliminate wrestling starting in 2020. That would be the year Marlin would be in his 20s, perhaps primed for a run. It’s a dream-breaker.
“I’ve got that written down as one of my goals,” Marlin said. “It is a dream. I imagine you’ll still have world championships, but the Olympics is the only way you can legitimately be the best wrestler. It really hurts a lot of people.
“People watch those guys, and say I want to be the best wrestler,” Marlin added. “I watched Cael (Sanderson) win it. Hopefully we’ll still be able to wrestle there. If not, it is heartbreaking.”
Baffling as it seems, wrestling was voted out from a final group that included modern pentathlon, taekwondo and field hockey. The final vote is in September.
Columnist Bryce Miller announced the Des Moines Register is launching a project called “Wrestling’s Olympic Fight” at DesMoinesRegister.com until the September vote. He’s covered wrestling at three Olympics — 2004 (Athens), 2008 (Beijing) and 2012 (London).
There’s also a site called letskeepwrestling.com announced by Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad during the tournament. Overturning the IOC is like moving a glacier, but if anyone has a fighting chance, it’s a bunch of fired up wrestlers!
Des Moines is gearing up to host the NCAA Wrestling Tournament next week, and a Creston native is in the eye of the storm.
Tiffany (Abell) Tauscheck, 33, went on to Drake and later worked as a news broadcaster at KDSM. Her husband Mark was formerly a reporter at WHO-TV and now appears on KCCI-TV on special assignments.
Tiffany is vice president of marketing for the Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau. She was busy hosting the nation’s media during the 2012 Iowa Caucus season, and was named 2011 Juice Young Professional of the Year in the Des Moines metro area.
Now she’s busy helping Des Moines serve as host for the wrestling championships. People who don’t get tickets can still be part of the fun. Hy-Vee Hall across the street will host the NCAA Fan Festival, which will feature live footage of all eight mats, food and exhibits. Admission is free.
Tauscheck told the Des Moines Register that she expects 20,000 to 25,000 visitors to greater Des Moines that weekend. She said volunteers for the March 21-23 event are still needed. Contact www.wrestlingdm.com.
I thought this edition would carry coverage of the much-anticipated district championship game between Creston and Atlantic. But winter storm “Q” got in the way.
Three of the four teams still left in the substate are from the Hawkeye 10, so nobody has any secrets anymore. It’s a matter of getting out there and playing well.
Good luck to a bunch of kids I helped coach in middle school. I knew then that they had this in their sights, and now we’re here. It should be a raucous environment, because Atlantic’s senior-laden team has the same dream!
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