The fuel for state championship ambitions came Saturday night from so many sources.
Painful reminders of past shortcomings pushed Nolan Hellickson and Jake Marnin.
The addicting sensation of success on Iowa high school wrestling’s grandest platform drove Isaiah Patton and Ethan Andersen.
And Bryce Steiert felt an obligation to defend his home turf inside Wells Fargo Arena.
Hellickson, Marnin and Andersen led Southeast Polk’s climb up the all-time charts, Patton doubled his title tally for Dowling Catholic and Waverly-Shell Rock’s Steiert topped Bettendorf’s Dayton Racer, a 2013 Minnesota state champion, in a clash of nationally-ranked 160-pounders.
“We own this as our state,” said Steiert, who scored an overtime takedown to beat Racer 3-1 after tying the bout on a stalling call in the final 35 seconds of regulation. “These are our gold medals.”
Southeast Polk captured the gold trophy for the second time in three years, piling up 193 points — the second-highest total in Class 3-A history — to finish 39 ahead of second-place Bettendorf.
The Rams squeezed the last drips of drama out of the team race Saturday morning when they clinched the title during the medal round. But the finals compensated for the shortage of storylines and suspense on the team front.
• Fredy Stroker became Bettendorf’s first three-time state champion, while teammates Jack Wagner and Jacob Schwarm repeated and five Des Moines metro-area wrestlers captured championships.
• Hellickson handled Oskaloosa’s Skylar DeJong 8-2 to finish 43-0 at 126 pounds. The Harvard-bound senior went 140-3 during three seasons with the Rams, but two of those defeats came in the state semifinals.
“It was awful,” he said. “It was absolutely terrible knowing I could’ve been there, I should’ve been there and I wasn’t. It made me work so much harder to finally achieve this and make it my title.”
• Marnin knew the feeling, too. His coaches provided daily reminders about how his championship dreams crumpled in last year’s championship round. He left no doubt this time around, pinning his way through the heavyweight bracket to finish 36-0 as a senior.
“I was a lot more prepared this year,” he said. “Last year I went in a little too cocky and paid the price.”
• Andersen had been humbled, too, after dropping his first match in two seasons in January. He tumbled to third in the state rankings at 220 pounds, but No. 1 and previously-unbeaten Gannon Gremmel proved to be no match for the defending champion Saturday night.
The Southeast Polk junior struck first with an early takedown and put Gremmel on his back in the second period on his way to a 9-3 victory.
“I wanted to stay great,” Andersen said. “I don’t like people thinking that I’m not the best. I want to say I am the best.”
• Dowling Catholic’s Michael Zachary might’ve been most unlikely champion in 3-A. He struggled with his weight, didn’t want to challenge friend Merrick Purcell for the 138-pound spot in the Dowling lineup and quit the team for nearly two weeks in January.
Eventually, his brother talked him into rejoining the team with a message that hit Michael hard. David Zachary said quitting wasn’t one of their family characteristics and told Michael he was wasting his God-given talents.
They embraced Saturday night after Michael downed Bettendorf’s Paul Glynn 5-2 at 132.
“I almost cried,” Zachary said. “I didn’t want to cry on television, so I held the tears back. I was amazed. I’m shocked. It still hasn’t settled in yet. I don’t know what’s happening.”
• There was nothing surprising about Dowling’s other champion. Patton claimed his second straight title, although it took a little extra work.
The senior was four seconds away from winning the 170-pound title bout when he was called for stalling.
He brushed it off and scored a quick takedown in overtime to beat Western Dubuque’s Max Lyon 5-3.
“It’s a dream for everyone in this stadium who wrestles,” Patton said. “I think anyone would say that winning is addicting, but that out there is something special.”