ST. JOHNS – Ian Parker didn’t need outside motivation this season.
Growing up in the St. Johns wrestling program, the senior has always understood the high standards the Division 2 powerhouse has held over the years.
But for Parker, this year was about pushing himself. And after winning his first individual state championship as a junior at 125 pounds, the 140-pound Iowa State commit manhandled his way back to the top and became the 45th state champion in school history.
“My freshman and sophomore years I felt the pressure the most (to thrive at St. Johns), because I was young on a team full of seniors and juniors – everyone else is pretty much better than you,” said Parker, the State Journal wrestler of the year. “Now, my senior year, I felt like some of that pressure was off. I put pressure on myself to win.”
Parker capped his high school career with a 53-2 record and picked up both regional and district titles on his way to the state tournament. This year, Parker said he set out to challenge himself by finding the toughest competition. Not only to better prepare himself for the next level, but to make the sport “more fun.”
“Sometimes you see guys who are just way above the high school competition level, and I feel they get worse their senior year because they’re not wrestling guys as good as them,” Parker said. “I was really trying to find the highest level of competition that I could.”
Considered the state’s top-ranked wrestler in his weight class, Parker also helped the Redwings get back to the team state finals after missing out last season. St. Johns, which has won four Division 2 state titles since 2010, finished second this season after losing to Lowell, 37-22.
Despite having championship dreams at the beginning of the year, Parker said his team’s success surprised him because of the “roller coaster” season his team endured.
“At the beginning of the year, with our lineup, I thought we could make a great run for a state championship,” he added. “Then some guys fell off – whether it was getting in trouble, getting injured or whatever it was. We had Derek Droste get a concussion in the middle of the year, and that was pretty heartbreaking to be honest because he was looking to have a great (senior) year.
“Right before districts, we had a guy with ringworm and I didn’t think we were going to win. Then Droste got cleared that day. It was a roller coaster of emotions. We barely won districts, we barely won regionals. …We did extremely well at the state tournament.”
Contact James L. Edwards III at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JLEdwardsIII.