CORNING, Iowa — Tired and dealing with an assortment of illnesses, the Creston-Orient/Macksburg wrestling team still removed any suspense early about whether it would defend its John J. Harris tournament title.
The Panthers ran away with the two-day, 22-team meet Saturday, crowning three individual champions nearly 24 hours after advancing nine to the semifinal round. The fifth-ranked squad in Iowa Class 2-A accumulated 222.5 points in the meet’s 58th edition, well ahead of second-place Clarinda (140), Chariton (108.5) and Tri-Center (108).
“All the way through, they just took care of business and built our lead (Friday) night,” Creston coach Darrell Frain said. “It made it really tough on everyone else today.”
The outcome was impressive given Creston’s physical condition. The squad began two-a-day workouts last week to begin ramping up toward sectionals early next month.
Also fighting the Panthers was an assortment of ailments — from colds to skin infections to plenty of bruises. And yet, 11 earned medals for placing in the top six. Winning their weights were 2-A No. 1 Jake Marlin (138 pounds), No. 5 Trevor Frain (at 160, but wrestled at 170) and No. 1 Keaton Hulett (195).
Trevor Frain was throwing up with flu-like symptoms late in the week. But the senior recovered well enough Saturday to reach the finals, where he beat Atlantic’s Matt Williamson 6-3.
“This is a big deal for southwest Iowa,” Frain said. “This is a tournament where everyone kind of looks up to us. We kind of dominated, and that’s our mindset now.”
Tri-Center and Chariton also enjoyed multiple individual champs. For T-C, Class 1-A No. 3 Darrian Irlbeck (145 pounds) denied Clarinda’s Luke Strong 5-4 in overtime and No. 1 Loren Williams (152) beat Winterset’s Zach Moss 7-1. Chariton’s Devin Harberts (126) and Carter Isley (182) also stood on the top of the podium.
Other top finishers were Red Oak’s Tanner Mertz (106), Bedford/Lenox’s Dusten Reed (113), Clarinda’s Blake Luna (120), Shenandoah’s Joseph Heitshusen (132), Corning’s Kallan Schmelzer (160), Winterset’s Blake Glenn (220) and East Mills’ David Howell (285).
Despite the lack of team drama, eight of the championship matches were in doubt until the final moments. The only finals matchup of ranked wrestlers, at 220, saw 2-A No. 6 Glenn convert a takedown with 25 seconds remaining to top 1-A No. 10 Mark Hall of Southwest Iowa 5-4.
Irlbeck, said the long-running weekend competition is always a good indicator on where area wrestlers stand heading into the postseason. He came through Saturday despite dealing with a back injury and testing positive for mono earlier in the week.
“I definitely did not have my best game today,” Irlbeck said. “But all around it just wasn’t a good week until today.”
Clarinda cruised to runner-up status behind seven place-winners. The Cardinals filled all but the 106-pound spot and snagged their best Harris showing in at least half a decade.
Luna, ranked No. 5 in 2-A, pinned Atlantic’s Dillon Cox in the second period to lead his squad.
“This is a good finish for us this year,” Clarinda coach Josh Porter said. “We got a contribution from everybody. Every guy contributed in one form or another. Our depth is probably what separated us.”
The same proved true for Creston at the top. Along with their ranked wrestlers, the Panthers got big performances from junior Kruz Adamson (second at 113), senior Jacob Johnston (third at 145), junior Gavin Leith (fifth at 152), junior Adam Baker (third at 160) and senior Cole Tanner (third at 200), among others.
“Sometimes we kind of train through this tournament, but for some reason we seemed to peak a little more this time than in past years,” Darrell Frain said. “Hopefully it continues for us.”
Team scoring: 1, Creston-Orient/Macksburg 222.5; 2, Clarinda 140; 3, Chariton 108.5; 4, Tri-Center 108; 5, Riverside 93.5; 6, Atlantic 92; 7, Corning 79.5; 8, Winterset 76; 9, Shenandoah 72; 10, Red Oak 70; 11, Mt. Ayr 67.5; 12, Bedford/Lenox 64; 13, Panorama 63; 14, East Mills 63; 15, Missouri Valley 58; 16, Coon Rapids-Bayard 57.5; 17, Griswold 56.5; 18, Central Decatur 45; 19, Southwest Iowa 42; 20, Nodaway Valley 37; 21, Clarke 26; 22, Wayne 11.
Championship match results: 106: Tanner Mertz, Red Oak, major dec. Logan Wood, Corning, 13-0. 113: Dusten Reed, Bedford/Lenox, dec. Kruz Adamson, Creston, 6-5. 120: Blake Luna, Clarinda, pinned Dillon Cox, Atlantic, 2:35. 126: Devin Harberts, Chariton, dec. Geoff Sellers, Red Oak, 9-8. 132: Joseph Heitshusen, Shenandoah, dec. Erik Freed, Mt. Ayr, 8-6. 138: Jake Marlin, Creston, pinned Brett Marcum, Missouri Valley, 1:32. 145: Darrian Irlbeck, Tri-Center, dec. Luke Strong, Clarinda, 5-4. 152: Loren Williams, Tri-Center, dec. Zach Moss, Winterset, 7-1. 160: Kallan Schmelzer, Corning, dec. Shane Swank, Mt. Ayr, 7-5. 170: Trevor Frain, Creston, dec. Matt Williamson, Atlantic, 6-3. 182: Carter Isley, Chariton, dec. Cole Bonde, Bedford/Lenox, 9-4. 195: Keaton Hulett, Creston, pinned Taylor Hein, Panorama, 3:27. 220: Blake Glenn, Winterset, dec. Mark Hall, Southwest Iowa, 5-4. 285: David Howell, East Mills, pinned Garrett Johnston, Panorama, 5:38.