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Quick falls, hard hits in Frain era at CHS

Published: Thursday, May 15, 2014 12:48 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, May 15, 2014 1:07 a.m. CDT

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There’s the five-second fall in the first round of the John J. Harris Wrestling Tournament last winter — possibly the fastest fall in Iowa history. (Such records are not kept for regular-season matches.)

There’s the fact that he’s quite possibly the career tackles leader in the history of Creston football, having played inside linebacker for nearly four full seasons at first-team all-district level for three years, and first-team all-state for two.

He was the team’s leading tackler for three straight seasons. After getting a taste of varsity play as a freshman with 31 tackles, the next three seasons he steadily rose the chart with totals of 78, 107 and 146.

He was a two-time state placewinner in wrestling and three-time state qualifier. For much of his senior season he was ranked No. 2 in Class 2A, and lost a heartbreaking overtime match in the state semifinals last winter. He ranks second all-time in Creston victories (189) behind four-time state champ Jake Marlin (204) and fifth all-time in falls (99).

He was the varsity starting catcher on the baseball team as an eighth-grader. Then gave up the sport.

As a sophomore, with no experience playing soccer, he switched from track to soccer and became a three-year varsity starter. Now, he’s advanced his skills to the point where he sometimes becomes the third forward scoring threat up front on a Panther team that’s been statewide ranked.

He’ll be an inside linebacker on the South squad in the 2014 Iowa Shrine Bowl July 26 at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls.

In so many ways, Trevor Frain leaves a lasting legacy at Creston High School. On Friday, he was announced as the co-recipient of the school’s Outstanding Male Athlete Award for the class of 2014, sharing it with four-sport standout Brandon Phipps.

The son of Darrell and Kim Frain said he considers it a cherished honor, and is happy to share it with his longtime teammate.

“It means a lot, being the top athlete in the school this year along with Brandon Phipps,” Frain said. “It’s definitely well-deserved for him. My sister (Madison) won it before me, so I thought it would be kind of cool if I won it, too. I remember looking up at the wall (plaque) when I was younger and thinking it would be cool if my name was up there, and I could show my kids later down the road.”

Madison Frain, now a softball pitcher at the University of South Dakota, shared the 2012 female athlete award with Katlin Briley.

Gridiron ‘hitter’

Although he ranks as one of the highest achieving wrestlers to ever wear a Panther singlet, Frain is probably best known as a punishing tackler on the football field, along with his sideline-to-sideline ball pursuit. At 6-foot and 195 pounds, he brought a seemingly heavier load when he arrived to drop opposing ball carriers and quarterbacks.

For example, in the 2013 season opener at Chariton, quarterback Christian Bengston was knocked unconscious after Frain arrived at full speed to level him right after the release of a rollout pass.

“We’ve had a lot of good football players come through here in the last 12 years when I’ve been involved with it,” head coach Brian Morrison said, “and he ranks right up with the best we’ve had. He’s very explosive, a natural hitter. He reads his keys, and — BOOM — he’s gone and shoots across the gap. He’s there when the ball is handed off a lot of times. He’s really tough to block. On offense, his work at the H back (lead blocker) is what made our running game so successful, along with the guys up front.”

Frain said his wrestling experience gave him attributes that improved him as a football player, in addition to the mental toughness built up as a Panther wrestler in one of the state’s elite programs.

“I definitely think wrestling helped,” Frain said. “It helps your balance. In a one-on-one play, I feel like I can make the tackle 10 times out of 10, because basically it’s just shooting a double-leg takedown. I think explosiveness and driving through guys, that’s a benefit from wrestling.”

Frain was the fifth-leading tackler in Class 3A last season with 146 total tackles, including 33 solo stops and 14 for losses. He led the district last fall, ranked third in the district as a junior and was eighth as a sophomore.

As a 5-9, 135-pound eighth-grader, he built up some early toughness by catching for senior pitchers on the 2010 Panther baseball team after starter Alec Paup suffered an injury.

Although he “didn’t really enjoy the sport,” and stopped playing after that year, the experience made him anxious to try varsity level football as soon as he could.

Early debut

He didn’t have to wait long. Again, there was an opening when projected inside linebacker Kolton Thatcher decided to concentrate on off-season soccer.

“The first day in pads, we played the Oklahoma drill,” Frain said. “Coach Morrison grabbed me and put me in the varsity group. I remember I made a play in the backfield. He grabbed my helmet, congratulated me, and hit me on the top of the head. That fired me up.”

Then came a reality check in his first varsity game experience.

“I thought I was probably just going to play special teams in that first game against Chariton,” Frain said. “We were up, so they threw me in there. On the first play, I met a guy in the hole and just got leveled. I was hanging on for dear life to the guy. But then I started picking up on the speed of the game, and it went from there.”

Last fall, there was some question as to whether Frain or Adam Baker would be the feature back, and which would play the H back (fullback) spot. They both got time as ball carriers in the early games.

Eventually, Baker took the reins of the F back position and ended up as one of the leading Class 3A rushers with 1,159 yards. Frain was primarily the H back.

“Early on, we realized him blocking and Adam running was better than the other way around,” Darrell Frain said.

But Frain also took some direct snaps in a wildcat formation where he followed the lead blocks of Baker and Seth Maitlen in nearly unstoppable short-yardage run plays.

“We call it ‘Tank’ where we direct snap to Trevor with two big guys leading the way,” Morrison said. “We were very confident if it was second-and-short or third-and-short. Sometimes we’d get going with it and just pound teams.”

In fact, one of Frain’s most memorable plays on the football field was such a play against Glenwood last fall, when he took the snap and went 55 yards untouched for a touchdown.

“They played man coverage, we had Brandon out in motion with just me in the backfield, and the middle linebacker chased him,” Frain said. “I had a hole to run through that was as wide as I could put both arms out. It was great.”

Morrison said Frain has been such a mainstay at that blocking position, and in the middle of his defense, that it will be a big adjustment not to see him there handling his business next fall.

“He’s coachable and understands the game of football,” Morrison said. “He goes from point A to point B very fast. He leads by example. His teammates respect him, because he practices and plays hard. It’s outstanding that he gets to have an opportunity to end it by playing in the Shrine Bowl with the best players in the state. I’ll be coaching the offensive line for the South team, and it will be fun to see him there and show what he can do.”

College plans

Morrison said Frain had numerous offers to walk on and play football at NCAA Division I-AA or Division II schools, including national champion Northwest Missouri State. But there wasn’t a scholarship offer, and Frain has decided to attend Northwest and study agriculture business, but not play football.

“I thought for sure there would be some type of athletic scholarship for him at that level,” Morrison said. “I think he’s very capable of playing at that level. Northwest’s need right now is not at linebacker, they have a lot of their scholarship money already tied up at that position. I know the preferred walk-on status is how their starting defensive lineman from Clarinda (Perry Hummel) and the running back from ADM started out. But I just think he came to the realization that football is done for him and he wants to go to Northwest to school.”

He’ll be on the same campus as Phipps, who recently signed to run track for the Bearcats, as well as former teammates Collin Bevins and Keaton Hulett on the football team.

“It will be fun to be down there with those guys, and they have a really good ag business program, probably second only to Iowa State,” Frain said. “I just figured Northwest would offer (a scholarship) by the end of the year. When they said it would be preferred walk-on, there was just something about it that I didn’t like. I guess I felt they were missing out. I’m ready to move on with my life.”

Wrestling heartbreak

Moving on wasn’t so easy toward the end of the wrestling season, however. Seemingly on track for an appearance in the Saturday night finals that Panther fans were anticipating for him, Frain was taken down in overtime during the semifinals in a 4-2 loss to Tyler Lutes of BCLUW (Conrad).

Without the same spark — and a knee injury that required surgery in late March — he dropped two consolation matches the next day to place sixth at 170 pounds. That ended a 52-6 season with 35 pins. He was awarded the 2014 Mike Abel Most Outstanding Wrestler Award.

“I felt like I had the advantage in that match, more takedowns on the edge that didn’t get called,” Frain said. “I still haven’t watched that tape. I can’t. He was really deep on me before I could react (in overtime). Next thing I know I’m on my back.”

Frain paused while trying to explain how he felt at that moment.

“I wouldn’t want to wish that on my worst enemy,” Frain said. “I know it’s just high school wrestling, but it’s something I’d worked my whole life for. All at once, it’s gone.”

“That was probably the most emotional athletic thing I’ve ever gone through,” said Darrell Frain, watching his son’s dream vanish. “We sat in the motel room and cried together. It was horrible. Your ultimate goal is to make kids state champions. Then when it becomes your own, yeah, that’s tough.”

Frain was fourth at 160 pounds as a junior, and a starter on four state dual teams.

Soccer career

When his torn meniscus was shredded so badly that it couldn’t be repaired, like that of CHS junior athlete Brenna Baker at the same time, it was clipped and he was told by the surgeon he could return to sports without a lengthy rehabilitation. It was good news, because he could end his high school career on the soccer field, rather than that feeling of defeat at state wrestling.

He had new life.

“I thought we were going to lose him with the injury,” soccer coach Jesus Rodriguez said. “When he told me he was coming back, that was one reason why I thought we could be very good this year. He’s so athletic, and he started liking the fact that it can be a physical sport. To have somebody quick and strong like that really helps our team.”

“It’s been fun,” Frain said. “Coach Rodriguez is wonderful. He knows what he’s talking about. I soak it all in as much as I can.”

Trevor Frain may not have reached the UNI-Dome in football like he dreamed, nor the top rung of the medal stand at state wrestling, but it was a stellar career, and now there’s one goal that hasn’t been denied yet — the school’s first state soccer qualification.

“It’s been fun to follow him in soccer,” said Darrell Frain, a spectator instead of one of Trevor’s coaches in the spring sport. “He likes it and they compete really well.”

For the last four-plus years at Creston High School, any team that included Trevor Frain had a hard-nosed competitor, and it’s no different this spring.

That’s the legacy attached to the latest name on that CHS wall plaque that a young Trevor Frain once stopped and looked at as a kid, dreaming about someday.

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