The only time Max Thomsen was out of the spotlight during the Class 2-A state wrestling tournament was when he got on the mat.
A black protective facemask helped cover fresh stitches over his eyebrow, only giving the fawning Wells Fargo Arena crowd a glance at his face during timeouts or celebrations.
Saturday night’s championship round was his time to be seen.
Thomsen, Union of LaPorte City’s 145-pound star, received a pair of standing ovations after winning his state-record 210th match, the 199th in a row and, most importantly, his fourth state championship.
“Mission accomplished,” Thomsen said after his 3-0 decision over Bondurant-Farrar’s Caleb Coleman. “It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had in my life.
“I knew that was my last ride, and you only get to live in those moments some times, so I just lived it up.”
The Northern Iowa recruit was the star of a dramatic 2-A show, and he served as the lead in Union’s quest for a team title.
STATE WRESTLING TOURNAMENT: Brackets
It was not to be, despite teammate Jacob Holschlag’s second state crown and a crowded race that was in question until the tournament’s final minutes.
Mediapolis won its first state team title, thanks to 195-pound senior Steven Holloway, who shrugged off a tight deficit to defend his championship.
“We had disappointments the whole tournament and underperformed in places, but today was fantastic,” Mediapolis coach Dan Cummings said. “The kids won when we needed it. And to me, Holloway in the finals in money in the bank.
“This is unbelievable. Somebody pinch me.”
Heading into Holloway’s match, Union and Creston/Orient-Macksburg were tied above Mediapolis’ 85 team points with 86 each. Five other Bulldogs medaled in Friday’s early consolation matches.
“Putting it on my shoulders, I love that,” Holloway said. “Big time guys come out in big time situations, so I’m glad I could do it for the team.”
Union won two titles with three finalists, as 113-pound sophomore Derek Holschlag finished as runner-up. Done after 170, the top-ranked Knights could only watch Holloway and hope for the first split team title since Cresco and New Hampton tied in 1933.
“Our seniors know the routine and knew how to prepare,” Union coach Pat Hogan said. “It’s tough sitting in that corner sometimes. But when you’ve got guys like this, it’s as good as you can hope for.”
Creston finished with five medalists and one champion, unbeaten 160-pound sophomore Chase Shiltz. Once he picked up an 11-3 major decision over ADM of Adel’s Zach Johnston, the Panthers paced Wells Fargo Arena’s tunnels.
“We knew both Union and Mediapolis were favored in those, and you can’t root against kids, but we were watching thinking something might happen,” Creston coach Darrell Frain said.
“We were in a position to win it. Who would have thought that? Nobody outside our wrestling room. Our depth gave us kids that all had a chance to get a win or two and every single one helped us.”
Crestwood was in the thick of the 2-A team race without a chance to win on Friday night. Four lightweight wrestlers placed in the consolation session and 106-pound freshman Michael Millage opened the championship round with a second-period pin, but they were done with 83.5 points, good for fourth place in the end.
Mediapolis held the cards, with Holloway on the back end.
“I knew every second what (team scoring) was,” Cummings said.
Affable Ballard heavyweight Alex Silberstein won the final match of the tournament in overtime to become the school’s first individual champion in three years.
PCM of Monroe senior Tristan Clark scrapped in a grinding 126-pound title match, but fell short to Clear Lake’s top-ranked Ryan Leisure. Clear Lake’s Brennano Doebel won a few minutes earlier at 113.
“Me and Brennan put in a ton of work. I’m ecstatic that it worked out,” Leisure said.
Center Point-Urbana’s Brock Rathbun won his second straight title, this time at 120 after smothering 113 last year.
At 132 and 182, Centerville’s Brad Irwin and Algona’s Joe Teague beat top-ranked and undefeated opponents to win titles. Albia junior Carter Isley held on to his unbeaten mark with the 220-pound championship.
But the night — and the 2-A honors — belonged to Thomsen. The packed crowd and even wrestlers behind the scenes showed their agreement with applause.
“I’m so blessed,” he said.
FOUR-TIME STATE CHAMPIONS
Bob Steenlage of Britt was the first four-time state champion in Iowa, winning titles from 1959 through 1962.